Published on:

Study Looks at Administrative Remedy Program and Prison Violence

David Bierie, Ph.D., an instructor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, has published a new paper concerning the BOP’s administrative remedy process in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, “Procedural Justice and Prison Violence: Examining complaints among federal inmates (2000 – 2007)”:


Prisons in the United States generally contain an internal administrative system for processing and responding to inmate complaints. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) launched a formal grievance system in 1975 with explicit goals of monitoring prison performance and alleviating inmate tension by resolving problems in a timely and just manner. These systems play an important role in prison administration and the lived experience of inmates, yet little is known about them. Little has been published in terms of basic descriptions of these systems (e.g., volume, outcomes, and processes), and the field knows even less about empirical relationships between outcome or process aspects of these systems and the inmate violence they were expected to reduce. This study draws on monthly panel data covering a 7-year period from all federal prisons—recording complaints, responses and misconduct for each prison. Drawing on a prison fixed-effects framework, the data show distributive outcomes (denial/grant) do not predict inmate violence within a given prison. However, violence within a given prison does increase significantly with the volume of late replies as well as substantive rejections of complaints. This latter finding is consistent with a procedural justice paradigm. Finally, an unexpected finding was that violence grew as the number of support staff per inmate (e.g., teachers, counselors) declined within a given prison. However, the opposite effect was found with respect to custody staff per inmate within a given prison.