NEWS: Sen. Ossoff’s Bipartisan Bill to Overhaul Federal Prison Oversight Passes Key U.S. House Committee

Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan 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

Bipartisan bill comes after Sen. Ossoff led multiple investigations into U.S. prison system

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff’s bipartisan bill to strengthen Federal prison oversight has passed a key House Committee.

Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act, which would establish new, independent oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), yesterday passed the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, sending it to the full U.S. House for consideration.

Sen. Ossoff introduced the bipartisan bill last year after leading multiple bipartisan investigations into corruption, abuse, and misconduct within the Federal prison system, uncovering a lack of oversight of the Federal prison system that led to long-term failures likely contributing to loss of life; jeopardizing the health and safety of incarcerated people and staff; and undermining public safety and civil rights.

“My bipartisan investigations of corruption, abuse, and misconduct in the Federal prison system revealed an urgent need to overhaul Federal prison oversight,” Sen. Ossoff said. “That’s why I wrote this bipartisan bill, and I thank Congresswoman McBath and Congressman Armstrong for their leadership moving it through the House.”

Sen. Ossoff’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Mike Braun (R-IN); Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee; Joe Manchin (D-WV); Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV); and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Congresswoman Lucy McBath (GA-07) and Congressman Kelly Armstrong (ND-AL) introduced the companion bipartisan bill in the House.

“Our Federal prisons must serve as institutions that rehabilitate and prepare Americans for re-entry into society. That can’t happen without putting meaningful accountability measures in place. Incarcerated Americans should not fear death when they enter our Federal prison system, and correctional officers should not fear for their safety in their workplace,” McBath said. “The measures included in our bill modernize the Federal prison system, bolster public safety, and provide a mechanism for incarcerated individuals and their loved ones to protect their civil rights. I am proud to see our bipartisan legislation approved by the Committee today and get one step closer to becoming law.”

“With the Federal Prison Oversight Act, we have a chance to hold the federal prison system accountable,” said Rep. Armstrong. “This bill will improve the health and safety of incarcerated individuals, employees, and visitors in its facilities, in addition to saving money through increasing the system’s efficiency. I am encouraged that this legislation passed out of the Oversight Committee with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.”

Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act requires the Department of Justice’s Inspector General (IG) 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 the BOP must respond to all inspection reports within 60 days with a corrective action plan.

The bipartisan bill would also establish an independent 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.

The bipartisan bill is supported by civil rights, prison union, and public safety organizations, including the Council of Prison Locals (CPL), Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Justice Action Network, Due Process Institute, Right on Crime, and Niskanen Center.

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