Chair Ossoff led 10-month bipartisan investigation into corruption, abuse, and misconduct at U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta, uncovering lack of meaningful oversight over Federal prison system
Chair Ossoff’s new bipartisan legislation would overhaul Federal prison oversight
Bill requires DOJ Inspector General to conduct vigorous oversight & creates a new independent Ombudsman to investigate health & safety of staff & incarcerated people in Federal prisons
Chair Ossoff’s bill endorsed by Council of Prison Locals & leading civil rights and public safety organizations
Washington, D.C. — Following his 10-month bipartisan investigation into the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), U.S. Senator and Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chair Jon Ossoff today introduced major bipartisan legislation to overhaul Federal prison oversight.
In July, Chair Ossoff unveiled the results of his 10-month bipartisan investigation into corruption, abuse, and misconduct at U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta and within the BOP. His bipartisan investigation uncovered a lack of oversight of the Federal prison system that led to long-term failures that likely contributed to loss of life; jeopardized the health and safety of incarcerated people and staff; and undermined public safety and civil rights.
Today, in response to his bipartisan investigation’s findings, Chair Ossoff introduced the bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act alongside Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee — the three founding members of the Senate Bipartisan Prison Policy Working Group.
Chair Ossoff’s bipartisan bill will require the Department of Justice’s Inspector General to conduct comprehensive, risk-based inspections of the BOP’s 122 correctional facilities, provide recommendations to fix problems, and assign each facility a risk score, with higher-risk facilities required to be inspected more often.
The IG must also report its findings and recommendations to Congress and the public, and BOP must respond to all inspection reports within 60 days with a corrective action plan.
The bipartisan bill will also establish an independent DOJ Ombudsman to investigate the health, safety, welfare, and rights of incarcerated people and staff. The Ombudsman would create a secure hotline and online form for family members, friends, and representatives of incarcerated people to submit complaints and inquiries.
“My 10-month bipartisan investigation of corruption, abuse, and misconduct in the Federal prison system revealed an urgent need to overhaul federal prison oversight,” Sen. Ossoff said. “I am bringing Democrats and Republicans together to crack down on corruption, strengthen public safety, and protect civil rights.”
“More transparency and accountability will help create a safer environment for the correctional officers and staff who work in our federal prisons, and will help crack down on violence against corrections officers and contraband that endangers the health and safety of prison staff. This bill does not allow the Department of Justice to intervene into the affairs of state and local jails, and will help to improve working conditions and keep our federal corrections officers safe,” Sen. Braun said.
“It’s no secret that BOP has been plagued by misconduct. One investigation after another has revealed a culture of abuse, mismanagement, corruption, torture, and death that reaches to the highest levels. And yet it still operates without any meaningful independent oversight. The result has been catastrophic for both incarcerated people and staff,” Sen. Durbin said. “Our bipartisan bill addresses this lack of meaningful oversight and aims to improve the safety and accountability of our federal prison system. It is common sense legislation that I hope our colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support.”
Representatives Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and Lucy McBath (D-GA-06) introduced companion bipartisan legislation in the House.
“BOP has an obligation to ensure the health and safety of incarcerated individuals, employees, and visitors in its facilities,” Congressman Armstrong said. “Our bipartisan bill will provide oversight of the Federal prison system and allow us to hold it accountable. I appreciate the chance to work on this commonsense legislation that will make federal prisons better prepared to rehabilitate incarcerated individuals and ultimately make our communities safer.”
“Incarcerated Americans should not fear death when they enter our federal prison system, and correctional officers should not fear for their safety at work,” Congresswoman McBath said. “Our federal prisons must serve as an institution that rehabilitates individuals and prepares them for reentry into society—that cannot happen without putting meaningful accountability measures in place. I am proud to be a champion for this bipartisan legislation that will strengthen our federal prison system, bolster public safety, and provide a mechanism for incarcerated individuals and their loved ones to protect their civil rights.”
The bill is supported by civil rights, prison union, and public safety organizations, including Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the Council of Prison Locals (CPL) — representing 30,000 correctional officers — Justice Action Network, Right on Crime, the American Conservative Union, and Americans for Prosperity.
“The National Prison Council fully supports the Federal Prison Oversight Act. We appreciate Senator Ossoff and Senator Braun’s focused efforts in developing an additional layer of oversight focused on the safety of our officers and employees and the conditions in which they work,” said Council of Prison Locals National President Shane Fausey. “By improving our working conditions and institutional environments, the conditions of confinement for all offenders entrusted to our care will improve exponentially. Independent oversight and transparency with the Bureau of Prisons has become both essential and necessary. This is a big step in the right direction for everyone, and the American people deserve nothing less.”
“It’s been said that sunlight is the best disinfectant — and yet our prisons are the darkest places in the nation,” said Families Against Mandatory Minimums President Kevin Ring. “With no meaningful oversight, incarcerated people and correctional officers are not safe, and our elected leaders are not even aware of the problems that need to be fixed. Families with incarcerated loved ones for years have been calling for greater transparency, safety, and accountability from our federal prisons. The bipartisan bill introduced today answers their calls.”
Click here to read the bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act.