FACT SHEET: GAO REPORT REVEALS THEBOP’S UNDERUTILIZATION OF COST-SAVING PROGRAMS
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has performed an important service in itsstudy on the Bureau of Prisons’ ability to reduce incarceration costs. The report can be used as astarting point for identifying ways to reduce prison over-crowding, reduce the risk of futurerecidivism, and save millions of taxpayer dollars every year. The BOP’s underutilization of available programs that would reduce over-incarceration and future recidivism falls into severalgeneral categories.First, the GAO identified three statutory programs that, if fully implemented, would savetaxpayer dollars that are now being wasted on unnecessary incarceration:
The BOP underutilizes the residential drug abuse program (RDAP) incentive for nonviolent offenders. If inmates had received the full 12-month reduction from2009 to 2011, the BOP would have saved up to $144 million. Much more would be saved if all statutorily eligible prisoners were allowed to participate.
The BOP underutilizes available community corrections so that inmates serve anaverage of only 4 months of the available 12 months authorized by the Second Chance Act. Just by increasing home confinement by three months, the BOPcould save up to $111.4 million each year.
The BOP underutilizes available sentence modification authority for “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” depriving sentencing judges of theopportunity to reduce over-incarceration of deserving prisoners whose continued imprisonment involves some of the highest prison costs.Second, the GAO confirmed that amending the good time credit statute to require thatinmates serve no more than 85% of the sentence would better calibrate actual time served withthe assumptions underlying the sentencing guidelines consulted at sentencing. Both theDepartment of Justice and the BOP favor the amendment. After the release of about 3,900inmates in the first fiscal year, the BOP would continue to save about $40 million a year once theamendment was enacted.Third, the GAO identifies cost savings that the BOP could realize simply by usingavailable rules for executing and calculating sentences. For example, the BOP unilaterallyabolished the shock incarceration program, spending unnecessary millions by replacing sentencereductions and increased home detention with prison time for nonviolent offenders with minimalcriminal history. The BOP also fails to treat defendants’ time in immigration custody as “officialdetention,” an unnecessary policy that increases custody costs by creating dead time. The BOPshould act immediately to end these and other unnecessary and wasteful policies.