Articles Posted in Contract Facilities

In 2002, the Bureau of Prisons, in response to an opinion by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, changed its halfway house policy, limiting placements to the final 10% of a prisoner’s sentence. As discussed here, this was a dramatic shift from the agency’s historic practices, which placed certain nonviolent offenders serving short sentences directly into halfway houses and made use of these prison facilities on the back-end of sentences to effectuate successful community re-integration. Following years of litigation, the Second Chance Act served to end the Bureau’s unlawful policy change, and, during the Obama administration, the Bureau began to make broader use of pre-release options, that is, both halfway houses and home confinement. (See here p. 38).

Over the last two years, there has been a growing body of anecdotal evidence that the Bureau has renewed efforts to restrict pre-release placements. Today, Justin George at The Marshal Project has published an excellent piece detailing the tensions between the President’s claimed interest in prison reform and the Attorney General’s interest in more severe penalties for criminal offenders:

Under the Obama administration, the number of federal prisoners in halfway houses and other transitional programs boomed. The federal government required the privately-run residences to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, and the Department of Justice also increased access to ankle monitors so more prisoners could finish sentences in their own homes.

Over at, Cristina Costantini and Jorge Rivas offer a scathing critique of the Bureau of Prisons’ housing and management of non-U.S. citizens, which has largely been handed over to private prison corporations headed by individuals with ties to the BOP and the Department of Justice.

A Fusion investigation found that without a single vote in Congress, officials across three administrations: created a new classification of federal prisons only for immigrants; decided that private companies would run the facilities; and filled them by changing immigration enforcement practices.[…]  Most of the roughly 23,000 immigrants held each night in CAR prisons have committed immigration infractions — crimes that a decade ago would have resulted in little more than a bus trip back home. And now, some of the very same officials who oversaw agencies that created and fueled the system have gone on to work for the private prison companies that benefited most.

The low-security facilities are often squalid, rife with abuse, and use solitary confinement excessively, according to advocates.

Appearing to build off last fall’s report from the General Accounting Office, The Congressional Research Service(a.k.a., “Congress’s think tank”) has issued an excellent new report, “The Federal Prison Population Buildup: Overview, Policy Changes, Issues, and Options,” the Summary of which reads:

Since the early 1980s, there has been a historically unprecedented increase in the federal prison population. Some of the growth is attributable to changes in federal criminal justice policy during the previous three decades. An issue before Congress is whether policymakers consider the rate of growth in the federal prison population sustainable, and if not, what changes could be made to federal criminal justice policy to reduce the prison population while maintaining public safety.


This report explores the issues related to the growing federal prison population. The number of inmates under the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) jurisdiction has increased from approximately 25,000 in FY1980 to nearly 219,000 in FY2012. Since FY1980, the federal prison population has increased, on average, by approximately 6,100 inmates each year. Data show that a growing proportion of inmates are being incarcerated for immigration- and weapons-related offenses, but the largest portion of newly admitted inmates are being incarcerated for drug offenses. Data also show that approximately 7 in 10 inmates are sentenced for five years or less.


In 2004, Arjang Panah was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for his involvement in a methamphetamine conspiracy. Panah was originally housed in New York before the Bureau of Prisons transferred him to the Taft (CA) Correctional Institution, a BOP contract facility, where he contracted Coccidioidomycosis(a.k.a., cocci or Valley Fever). Panah filed suit and, last August, survived the government’s motion for summary judgment.

Panah’s lawyers, Ian Wallach and Jason K. Feldman of Feldman & Wallach, argued that prison officials were negligent in failing to educate Panah about the symptoms and ways to prevent Valley fever, even though the disease had stricken more than 80 inmates in the two years before Panah arrived at Taft, according to court documents. They also alleged that prison authorities failed to limit inmates’ exposure through basic safeguards like paving over dirt areas or prohibiting outdoor activities on dusty days.


“[The prison] had an obligation under California law to provide a safe environment for inmates and knew there was a risk,” Wallach said in an interview. “Inmates are extremely vulnerable.”
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