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Continued Action Needed to Address Incarceration Challenges and Offendors' Reentry

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United States Government Accountability Office

Testimony
Before the Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform, House of
Representatives
For Release on Delivery Expected
at 10:00 a.m. ET
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE
Continued Action Needed
to Address Incarceration
Challenges and Offenders'
Reentry
Statement of Diana Maurer, Director, Homeland Security
and Justice

GAO-18-275T

December 13, 2017

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Continued Action Needed To Address Incarceration
Challenges and Offenders’ Reentry
Highlights of GAO-18-275T, a testimony
before the Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform, House of
Representatives

Why GAO Did This Study

What GAO Found

BOP’s rising costs and offender
recidivism present incarceration
challenges to both DOJ and the nation.
For example, BOP’s operating costs
have generally increased over time,
and in fiscal year 2017 amounted to
more than $6.9 billion, or 24 percent of
DOJ’s total discretionary budget. In
addition, from 1980 through 2013,
BOP’s prison population increased by
almost 800 percent, from 24,640 to
219,298. While the prison population
began to decline in 2013, DOJ has
continued to identify prison crowding
as a critical issue. GAO has examined
a number of DOJ efforts to slow the
growth of the prison population and to
reduce recidivism through the use of
reentry programs to help offenders
successfully return to the community.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has fully addressed two of six GAO
recommendations related to its incarceration reduction initiatives. In June
2015 and June 2016, GAO reported that to help address challenges associated
with incarceration, DOJ had, among other things, taken steps to reduce the
prison population by pursuing initiatives to use alternatives to incarceration for
low-level nonviolent crimes. GAO made six recommendations to DOJ related to
these efforts. As of December 2017, DOJ has implemented two of the six
recommendations and has not fully addressed the remaining four. Specifically,
to enhance efforts to measure program outcomes, DOJ issued guidance on
proper data entry and began tracking data on different types of pretrial diversion
programs that allow certain offenders to avoid incarceration if they satisfy
program requirements. In addition, as of December 2017, DOJ has taken steps
to partially implement GAO’s recommendation to address unnecessary delays in
reviewing inmates’ petitions to commute their sentences.

This statement summarizes findings
and recommendations from recent
GAO reports that address (1) DOJ’s
incarceration reduction initiatives, and
(2) BOP reentry programs.
This statement is based on prior GAO
products issued from February 2012
through June 2016, along with updates
on the status of recommendations
obtained as of December 2017. For the
updates on DOJ’s progress in
implementing recommendations, GAO
analyzed information provided by DOJ
officials on actions taken and planned.

What GAO Recommends
GAO has made 10 recommendations
to DOJ in prior reports to help improve
performance measurement and
resource management. DOJ generally
concurred and has addressed or taken
steps to address several. GAO
continues to believe all of these
recommendations should be fully
implemented.
View GAO-18-275T. For more information,
contact Diana Maurer at (202) 512-8777 or
maurerd@gao.gov.

DOJ has not taken action to address recommendations to better assess the
results of pretrial diversion programs or another effort to prioritize prosecutions
and reform sentencing to eliminate unfair disparities, among other goals. Further,
in December 2017, DOJ noted there had been policy changes since GAO made
a recommendation related to enhancing measures to monitor prioritizing
prosecution and sentencing reform. Although DOJ reported taking some actions
to implement GAO’s recommendation, these actions did not include establishing
measures that incorporate key elements of successful performance
measurement systems.
DOJ has addressed two of four GAO recommendations related to its
reentry programs. As part of its mission to protect public safety, DOJ’s Federal
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) provides reentry programming that aims to facilitate
offenders’ successful return to the community and reduce recidivism (a return to
prison or criminal behavior). These reentry efforts include programs offered in
BOP facilities as well as contractor-managed residential reentry centers (RRC)—
also known as halfway houses—and home confinement services that allow
inmates to serve the final months of their sentences in the community. GAO
issued three reports in February 2012, June 2015, and June 2016 and made four
recommendations to BOP in this area.
As of December 2017, DOJ has implemented two of the four recommendations
and has begun to take action to address one of the remaining two. Specifically,
to implement one of GAO’s recommendations, DOJ established a plan to
evaluate the effectiveness of all the 18 reentry programs it offers to inmates in
BOP facilities. To implement another GAO recommendation to improve cost
management, DOJ began requiring contractors to submit separate prices for
RRC beds and home confinement services. As of December 2017, DOJ noted it
has taken initial steps to address a recommendation to track outcome data for its
RRC and home confinement programs; however, it has not taken action to
develop measures to assess the performance of these programs.
United States Government Accountability Office

Letter

Letter

Chairman Gowdy, Ranking Member Cummings, and Members of the
Committee:
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today’s hearing to discuss our
prior work on ways in which the Department of Justice (DOJ) can better
assess incarceration reduction initiatives and reentry efforts. This
statement reflects prior GAO products issued from February 2012 through
June 2016, along with recent updates on the status of our
recommendations.
As of December 2017, DOJ’s Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was
responsible for about 184,000 federal inmates and operating 122
institutions (prisons) across the country. BOP’s rising costs and offender
recidivism present incarceration challenges to both DOJ and the nation.
For example, BOP’s operating costs have generally increased over time,
and in fiscal year 2017 amounted to more than $6.9 billion, or 24 percent
of DOJ’s total discretionary budget. In addition, from 1980 through 2013,
BOP’s prison population increased by almost 800 percent, from 24,640 to
219,298. While the prison population began to decline in 2013, DOJ has
continued to identify prison crowding as a critical issue, particularly in high
security institutions. Further, while BOP reports that recidivism rates have
declined over the past two decades, the U.S. Sentencing Commission
found that of federal offenders released in 2005, 49 percent were
rearrested, 32 percent were reconvicted, and 25 percent were
reincarcerated during the eight year follow-up period. 1
During the course of our prior work, DOJ was taking steps to slow the
growth of the federal prison population by pursuing alternatives to
incarceration at various stages of the criminal justice process for
nonviolent, low-level offenders, in part to help reduce the size and related
costs of the federal prison population. 2 Knowing the outcomes of these
efforts can help BOP adjust its policies and procedures, and ultimately
optimize their benefits.
My testimony today is based on our work examining DOJ’s efforts to
manage the federal prison system. This statement addresses two key
1

United States Sentencing Commission, Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A
Comprehensive Overview (Washington, D.C.: March 2016).

2

Low-level offenses include offenses below thresholds established for specific offenses,
such as fraud-related offenses under a certain amount of money and drug offenses that
did not involve violence, firearms, or large scale trafficking conspiracies.

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GAO-18-275T

areas in which we have issued reports and highlights our
recommendations to DOJ to enhance program performance
measurement and resource management. Specifically, this statement
addresses (1) DOJ’s incarceration reduction initiatives and (2) BOP’s
reentry programs.
This statement is based on several reports we issued from February 2012
through June 2016, and includes updates on selected aspects of these
reports as of December 2017. 3 For our prior work, we reviewed relevant
laws and DOJ and BOP policies, and analyzed documentation and data
on the use of incarceration alternatives at or before sentencing. In
addition, we interviewed DOJ and BOP headquarters and district officials,
and conducted site visits to selected BOP institutions (which were chosen
to cover a range of characteristics, including but not limited to inmate
gender and presence of relevant BOP programs). More information about
the scope and methodology of our prior work can be found in those
reports.
To update the status of DOJ’s efforts to address the recommendations we
made in these reports, we collected and analyzed information from DOJ
and BOP program officials on actions they have taken or planned in
response. We conducted our work in accordance with generally accepted
government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan
and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide
a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit
objectives. We believe the evidence obtained provides a reasonable
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Background
Key Stakeholders in the
Federal Criminal Justice
Process

Various DOJ and federal judiciary stakeholders play key roles in the
federal criminal justice process, and as such, they can also have key
roles in considering whether to use incarceration alternatives for a given
3

GAO, Federal Prison System: Justice Has Used Alternatives to Incarceration, But Could
Better Measure Program Outcomes, GAO-16-516 (Washington, D.C.: June 23, 2016);
Federal Prison System: Justice Could Better Measure Progress Addressing Incarceration
Challenges, GAO-15-454 (Washington, D.C.: June 19, 2015); and Bureau of Prisons:
Eligibility and Capacity Impact Use of Flexibilities to Reduce Inmates’ Time in Prison,
GAO-12-320 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 7, 2012).

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GAO-18-275T

offender or inmate. For example, in the course of the federal criminal
justice process, a U.S. attorney is involved in the process of investigating,
charging and prosecuting an offender, among other responsibilities.
Federal defenders are called upon to represent defendants who are
unable to financially retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings. The
U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office (PPSO), an office within the
judiciary, also has responsibilities including supervising an offender
pretrial or after conviction. Federal judges are responsible for determining
an offender’s sentence, and, in the case of incarceration, BOP is
responsible for caring for the inmate while in custody.

Federal Criminal Justice
Process

Federal laws and guidelines determine what, if any, incarceration is
appropriate for offenders. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984
established the independent U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) within
the judicial branch and charged it with, among other things, developing
federal sentencing guidelines. 4 The guidelines specify sentencing
guideline ranges—a range of time (in months) that offenders should serve
given the nature of their offense and other factors—but also permit
sentences to depart upward or downward from guideline ranges because
of aggravating or mitigating circumstances. In 2005, the Supreme Court
found the sentencing guidelines, which had previously been binding for
federal judges to follow in sentencing criminal defendants, to be advisory
in nature. 5 Regardless of the guidelines’ advisory nature, judges are still
required to calculate sentences properly and to consider the guideline
ranges as well as the nature and circumstances of the offense, the
defendant’s history, and the need for deterrence, among other sentencing
goals. 6
As we reported in June 2016, alternatives to incarceration were available
at various steps in the federal criminal justice process, from charging and
prosecution through incarceration (see figure 1). 7

4

Pub. L. No. 98-473, § 217, 98 Stat. 1987, 2017.

5

See United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005).

6

18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

7
We scoped the review (GAO-16-516) to focus on alternatives available once the case is
considered by a U.S. Attorney’s Office; therefore, we did not review alternatives prearrest, or those used by law enforcement.

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GAO-18-275T

Figure 1: Steps in the Federal Criminal Justice System Process with Alternatives to Incarceration

Note: Alternatives to incarceration are shown in the bottom row. Except for the referral to state and
local prosecutors, defendants can still be incarcerated federally after being provided these
alternatives if they fail to meet the specific terms and conditions of the alternative.

For instance, at the front-end of the criminal justice process, there are
pretrial diversion programs that can provide offenders an opportunity to
avoid prosecution or incarceration if they satisfy program requirements. In
addition, toward the end of inmates’ periods of incarceration, BOP may
place inmates in residential reentry centers (RRC, also known as halfway
houses), in which inmates are housed outside of a prison environment
prior to their release in the community. During their time in RRCs, inmates
are authorized to leave for approved activities, such as work; are
monitored 24 hours a day, such as through sign-out procedures; are
required to work or be actively seeking work; and are required to pay a
percentage of their salaries as a subsistence fee to cover some of their
expenses at the RRC.
In addition, BOP may place inmates in home confinement toward the end
of their sentences. While in home confinement, inmates are required to
remain in their homes when not involved in approved activities, such as
employment, and are supervised and monitored, such as through

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curfews, random staff visits, or electronic monitoring. 8 RRC staff may
provide the supervision of inmates in home confinement. Through an
interagency agreement, BOP and the PPSO also established the Federal
Location Monitoring Program, through which PPSO officers provide
supervision for BOP inmates on home confinement under certain
conditions. Among other things, to qualify inmates ordinarily must be
classified as minimum security level; seek and maintain employment; and
pay for all or part of the costs of the Federal Location Monitoring
Program.

Overview of BOP’s
Institutions and Role in
Transitioning Offenders
into Society

BOP is responsible for the custody and care of federal inmates. As of
December 2017, there were a total of about 184,000 federal inmates,
according to BOP. According to BOP data, 83 percent of these inmates
are in the 122 institutions managed by BOP. The remainder are confined
in secure privately managed or community-based facilities, local jails, or
in home confinement.
BOP has a role to help ensure that offenders properly transition into
society and avoid a return to prison or criminal behavior (recidivism) after
they have completed their terms of incarceration. Among other activities,
BOP provides reentry services to inmates within federal prisons that may
include drug treatment programs, education and vocational training, and
psychology services. BOP also is to facilitate the transfer of inmates into
RRCs, which provide assistance as inmates transition into communities,
to include home confinement. RRCs provide employment counseling and
job placement assistance, financial management assistance, and
substance abuse treatment or counseling as well as other services, which
may vary by facility. According to BOP, approximately 180 RRCs provide
housing for over 7,500 federal offenders prior to release into their
communities.

8

For additional information on the technologies and systems used to track individuals
through electronic monitoring, see GAO, Electronic Monitoring: Draft National Standard for
Offender Tracking Systems Addresses Common Stakeholder Needs, GAO-16-10
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 26, 2015).

Page 5

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Federal Collateral
Consequences Can Affect
Reentry

As we reported in September 2017, individuals convicted of a crime may
have limitations placed upon them that can affect their reentry. 9
Individuals convicted of a crime generally face a sentence, which can
include fines, probation, and incarceration in jail or prison. In addition to
the sentence, individuals may also face collateral consequences—
penalties and disadvantages, other than those associated with a
sentence, which can be imposed upon an individual as a result of a
conviction. For example, collateral consequences may prohibit people
who committed crimes involving a sex offense or offense involving a child
victim from working in a child care facility. Collateral consequences can
be contained in federal and state laws and regulations. Notably, federal
collateral consequences can serve various functions, such as enhancing
public safety or protecting government interests. In 2012, the American
Bar Association began compiling the first nationwide inventory of
collateral consequences, known as the National Inventory of the
Collateral Consequences of Conviction (NICCC). As of December 31,
2016, the NICCC contained roughly 46,000 collateral consequences
established through federal and state laws and regulations.
We reported on collateral consequences contained in federal laws and
regulations (i.e., federal collateral consequences) that can be imposed
upon individuals with nonviolent drug convictions (NVDC). 10 Our review of
the NICCC found that, as of December 31, 2016, there were 641
collateral consequences in federal laws and regulations that can be
triggered by NVDC. The NICCC data indicated that these 641 collateral
consequences can limit many aspects of an individual’s life, such as
employment, business licenses, education, and government benefits. For
example, individuals may be ineligible for certain professional licenses,
federal education loans, or federal food assistance. Moreover, we found
that the NICCC identified that 78 percent of these 641 collateral
consequences can potentially last a lifetime.

9

GAO, Nonviolent Drug Convictions: Stakeholders’ Views on Potential Actions to Address
Collateral Consequences, GAO-17-691 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 7, 2017).
10

For the purposes of our 2017 report, we defined NVDC as violations of laws prohibiting
or regulating the possession, use, distribution, or manufacture of illegal drugs which do not
include (a) offenses that have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of
physical force against the person or property of another, or (b) any other offense that by
its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of
another may be used in the course of committing the offense. See GAO-17-691.

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We also reported on selected stakeholders’ views. We spoke to 14
individuals who were leaders of organizations representing judges,
victims of crime, and states, among others—on actions the federal
government could consider to mitigate these collateral consequences.
Most of the stakeholders that we interviewed—13 of 14—said it was
important for the federal government to take action to mitigate federal
collateral consequences for NVDC. Thirteen stakeholders said that
mitigating federal collateral consequences could potentially reduce the
likelihood that individuals with NVDC reoffend. Similarly, 11 stakeholders
said that mitigation could potentially increase the likelihood that
individuals with NVDC successfully reenter the community after jail or
prison. The text box below identifies some of the statements made by
stakeholders during our interviews from our prior work regarding federal
collateral consequences for NVDC.
Stakeholder Perspectives on Federal Collateral Consequences for Nonviolent Drug Convictions, as Reported in GAO-17-691
•

•

•
•

•

“The breadth of federal collateral consequences for nonviolent drug convictions is so massive and affects so many aspects of a
person’s life, such as family life, immigration, jury service, housing, employment, and voting, that they contribute to an underclass
of people.”
“Many instances wherein the federal collateral consequences for nonviolent drug convictions end up making it hard for people to
live a law abiding life. For example, they may not be able to live in public housing or may be barred from getting an occupational
license or doing a particular job. This may push them to turn back to committing crimes to make some money.”
“…some federal collateral consequences for nonviolent drug convictions are sensible and appropriate. If we abolish [all that] exist
you could imperil public safety…”
“We can’t just say we’re going to err on the side of public safety and implement a wide range of collateral consequences strictly
across the board. The problem is that public safety is undermined by making it impossible for individuals to move on from the
criminal offense.”
“It is important not to assume that nonviolent means that there is no victim.”

Source: Selected stakeholders interviewed by GAO. | GAO-18-275T

DOJ Has Fully
Addressed Two of Six
GAO
Recommendations
Related to Its
Incarceration
Reduction Initiatives

Since 1980, the federal prison population increased from about 25,000 to
about 184,000, as of December 2017. In June 2015 and June 2016, we
reported that in part to help address challenges associated with
overcrowding in certain institutions and related costs of incarceration,
DOJ had taken steps to reduce the prison population by pursuing
initiatives to: use alternatives to incarceration for low-level nonviolent
crimes; prioritize prosecutions to focus on serious cases; and commute,
or reduce, sentences of qualified federal inmates. In these reports, we
highlighted potential areas for continued oversight of these initiatives and
made six recommendations. DOJ concurred with five of these
recommendations and partially concurred with the other. As of December
2017, DOJ has implemented two of the six recommendations and had not
fully addressed the remaining four.

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DOJ could better measure effectiveness of pretrial diversion
alternatives. In June 2016, we reported that DOJ had taken steps to
pursue alternatives to incarceration for certain offenders, but could
improve data collection and efforts to measure outcomes resulting from
the use of pretrial diversion alternatives. 11 Our review examined two
pretrial diversion programs on the front-end of the criminal justice process
that provided offenders an opportunity to avoid incarceration if they satisfy
program requirements. Title 9 of the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual permits U.S.
Attorneys’ Offices to divert, at the discretion of a U.S. Attorney, certain
federal offenders from prosecution into a program of supervision and
services administered by the PPSO. Under the Title 9 diversion program,
if the offender fulfills the terms of the program, the offender will not be
prosecuted, or, if the offender has already been charged, the charges will
be dismissed.
In addition to the Title 9 Pretrial Diversion Program, federal criminal
justice stakeholders within some judicial districts have voluntarily
established court-involved pretrial diversion practices. Court-involved
pretrial diversion allows certain federal offenders the opportunity to
participate in supervised programs or services, such as a drug court to
address criminal behavior that may be linked to addiction to drugs or
alcohol. Program participants are to meet regularly with court officials
including a judge and pretrial services officer to discuss their progress in
the program. If the offender satisfies program requirements, the offender
may not be prosecuted, charges may be dismissed, or the participant
may receive a reduced sentence.
While DOJ had collected some data on the use of pretrial diversion, we
found that the data were of limited usefulness and reliability because its
case management system did not distinguish between the different types
of diversion and DOJ had not provided guidance to U.S. Attorneys’
Offices as to when and how pretrial diversion cases are to be entered into
the system. In addition, we found that DOJ had not measured the
outcomes or identified the cost implications of its pretrial diversion
programs. To address these deficiencies, we made four
recommendations to DOJ. The first two relate to tracking and entering
pretrial diversion data, while the second two relate to assessing outcomes
based on the data. Specifically, we recommended that DOJ (1) separately
identify and track the different types of pretrial diversion programs, (2)
11

GAO-16-516.

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provide guidance to its attorneys on the appropriate way to enter data, (3)
identify, obtain, and track data on the outcomes and costs of pretrial
diversion programs, and (4) develop performance measures to assess
diversion program outcomes. DOJ concurred with all four of our
recommendations.
In October 2016, DOJ took actions to fully implement the first two
recommendations. Specifically, in September 2016, DOJ provided
guidance to staff in its U.S. Attorneys’ Offices that outlines (1) the use of
two new pretrial diversion codes—one for Title 9 pretrial diversion and
another for court-involved diversion and (2) the appropriate entries to
create and dispose of each type of pretrial diversion. Attorneys were
instructed to use the codes starting on October 1, 2016. However, as of
December 2017, DOJ has not implemented the third and fourth
recommendations. We continue to believe that by obtaining data on the
costs and outcomes of pretrial diversion programs and establishing
performance measures, DOJ would gain multiple advantages in its ability
to manage these programs and optimize their outcomes and cost
implications.
DOJ could better assess initiatives to address prison overcrowding
and costs. In June 2015, we reported that DOJ could better measure the
efficacy of two incarceration initiatives designed to address challenges
related to overcrowding and rising costs. 12 One of these was the Smart on
Crime initiative, announced in August 2013 as a comprehensive effort to:
•

prioritize prosecutions to focus on the most serious cases;

•

reform sentencing to eliminate unfair disparities and reduce
overburdened prisons;

•

pursue alternatives to incarceration for low-level nonviolent crimes;

•

improve reentry to curb repeat offenses and re-victimization; and

•

surge resources to prevent violence and protecting most vulnerable
populations.

In our report, we found that DOJ had established indicators that were
well-linked to these goals; however, the indicators lacked other key
elements of successful performance measurement systems, such as
clarity, a measurable target, or context. For example, none of the
12

GAO-15-454.

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indicators had numerical targets by which to assess whether overall goals
and objectives are achieved. To address this deficiency, we
recommended that DOJ modify its Smart on Crime indicators to
incorporate key elements of successful performance measurement
systems. DOJ partially concurred with the recommendation, and agreed
to continually refine and enhance the indicators to improve their clarity
and context. However, DOJ did not agree that establishing measurable
targets for its indicators was appropriate. We recognized that it might not
be appropriate to create targets for every indicator. Nevertheless, we
maintained that measurable performance targets that are properly
developed, communicated, and managed, can aid Department leadership
in the admittedly challenging task of assessing progress in the Smart on
Crime Initiative.
In March 2017, DOJ noted that, due to a change in administration, the
status of the Smart on Crime Initiative was uncertain. In May 2017, the
Attorney General issued a new charging and sentencing policy to all
federal prosecutors that effectively rescinded any previous policy of DOJ
that is inconsistent with the new charging and sentencing policy, including
certain aspects of the Smart on Crime Initiative. 13 In December 2017,
DOJ stated it would start to collect data on and monitor the
implementation of this new policy. However, DOJ did not provide
information on how it plans to modify its indicators to incorporate key
elements of successful performance measurement systems. To the
extent that DOJ continues to implement other aspects of the Smart on
Crime initiative, such as improving reentry and surging resources to
prevent violence we continue to believe this recommendation is valid.
The second initiative we addressed in our June 2015 report was the
Clemency Initiative, which encourages nonviolent, low-level federal
offenders to petition to have their sentences commuted, or reduced, by
the President. Commutation of sentence, as we reported, has long been
considered to be an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted.
According to DOJ, in 2013, then-President Obama expressed a desire to
review more petitions, and DOJ pledged to expedite the review of such
13

See Memorandum For All Federal Prosecutors, Attorney General Jefferson B. Session
III, Department Charging and Sentencing Policy (May 10, 2017) (available as of
December 1, 2017 at https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/965896/download).
The new policy directed prosecutors to return to the practice of charging the “most serious
readily provable offense.” It also provided for exceptions under some circumstances with
supervisory approval.

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petitions in order to provide them to the President for consideration.
However, we found that DOJ had not adequately assessed the extent to
which the Clemency Initiative is expeditiously identifying meritorious
petitions because it had not tracked how long it takes for petitions to clear
each step in its review process or identified and addressed any processes
that may contribute to unnecessary delays. We made a recommendation
to DOJ to address this deficiency. DOJ concurred, but in March 2017
DOJ stated that it had no standard review process to evaluate. In
December 2017, DOJ reported to us that it has taken steps to accelerate
the review of commutation cases, such as assigning two attorneys to
spend additional time on commutation cases. Although DOJ’s actions are
consistent with our recommendation, DOJ has not tracked how long it
takes for petitions to clear each step in its review process. This makes it
unclear whether DOJ’s actions are addressing the processes that
contribute to unnecessary delays.

DOJ Has Addressed
Two of Four GAO
Recommendations
Related to its Reentry
Programs

As part of its mission to protect public safety, BOP provides reentry
programming that aims to facilitate offenders’ successful return to the
community and reduce recidivism. These reentry efforts include programs
offered in BOP facilities, as well as RRC and home confinement services
that allow inmates to serve the final months of their sentences in the
community. In our February 2012, June 2015, and June 2016 reports we
highlighted potential areas for continued oversight and made four
recommendations to BOP. As of December 2017, BOP has implemented
two of the four recommendations and has taken action to address one
other recommendation.
BOP has developed a plan to evaluate its reentry programs. In June
2015, we reported that BOP had 18 reentry programs available to
inmates in BOP institutions in the areas of inmate treatment and
education. 14 We found that while BOP had plans to evaluate the
performance of some of its reentry programs, it did not have a plan in
place to prioritize evaluations across all of these programs. As a result,
we recommended that BOP include, as part of its current evaluation plan,
all 18 of BOP’s national reentry programs, and prioritize its evaluations by
considering factors such as resources required for conducting
evaluations. In May 2016, BOP provided to us an evaluation plan that
was consistent with our recommendation. BOP has continued to update
14

GAO-15-454.

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the evaluation plan to reflect changes in priority. For example, the most
recent plan, updated in July 2017, lists BOP’s Mental Health Step Down
Unit program as its top priority, with a target evaluation date of fiscal year
2018. According to BOP, this reflects the need for analysis of services for
seriously mentally ill inmates. 15
BOP has taken steps to assess costs of home confinement services.
In February 2012, we reported that BOP did not know the actual cost of
home confinement services. 16 To facilitate inmates’ reintegration into
society, BOP may transfer eligible inmates to community corrections
locations for up to the final 12 months of their sentences. 17 Inmates may
spend this time in a RRC and in confinement in their homes for up to 6
months. 18 BOP contracts with private organizations to manage the RRCs
and monitor inmates in home confinement. 19 At the time of our review,
BOP was paying a rate of 50 percent of the overall per diem rate
negotiated with the RRC for each inmate in home confinement. For
example, if BOP paid a contractor the average community corrections per
diem rate of $70.79 for each inmate housed in a RRC, BOP would pay
$35.39 per day for that contractor’s supervision of each inmate in home
confinement. However, according to BOP, the agency did not require
contractors to provide the actual costs for home confinement services as
part of their contract and therefore did not know the cost of home
confinement. To help BOP better manage its costs, we recommended
that BOP establish a plan for requiring contractors to submit separate
prices of RRC beds and home confinement services. BOP implemented
this recommendation and determined that all new solicitations as of
February 1, 2013, will have separate line items for RRC in-house beds
and home confinement services. According to BOP, as of November
2017, 184 solicitations with separate RRC bed and home confinement
service line items have been issued since February 2013.
15

For additional information on BOP mental health services, see GAO, Bureau of Prisons:
Timelier Reviews, Plan for Evaluations, and Updated Policies Could Improve Mental
Health Services Oversight, GAO-13-1, (Washington, D.C.: July 17, 2013).

16

GAO-12-320.

17

18 U.S.C. § 3624(c).

18

Id.

19

Through an interagency agreement, BOP and the PPSO also established the Federal
Location Monitoring Program, through which PPSO officers provide supervision for BOP
inmates in home confinement under certain conditions.

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GAO-18-275T

BOP could better measure the outcomes of RRCs and home
confinement. In June 2016, we reported that BOP was not positioned to
track the information it would need to help measure the outcomes of
inmates placed in RRCs and home confinement and did not have
performance measures in place. 20 Specifically, we found that, as part of
its strategic plan, BOP had two measures—one to track the number of
inmates placed into RRCs, and another to track the number of inmates
placed in home confinement. However, these measures did not help
assess the outcomes of RRCs and home confinement, such as how
these programs may or may not affect the recidivism rates of inmates. To
address this deficiency, we made two recommendations to BOP to (1)
identify, obtain, and track data on the outcomes of the RRC and home
confinement programs; and (2) develop performance measures by which
to help assess program outcomes. DOJ concurred with these
recommendations.
As of December 2017, BOP has taken steps to implement our
recommendation to identify, obtain, and track data on the outcomes of
RRCs and home confinement. In particular, BOP reported to us that it has
developed a revised Statement of Work for use with its RRC contractors
that requires the contractors to track and report quarterly to BOP on,
among other things, the number of placements into and releases from
RRCs and home confinement; revocations from RRCs or home
confinement; and RRC and home confinement residents that have
secured full, part-time, or temporary employment. BOP plans to compile
these data to track contractor performance and program outcomes.
Further, BOP reported to us that it has developed a voluntary survey that
asks RRC residents about their RRC experiences, including the amount
of help they received in finding and keeping a job, and finding a place to
live. These actions are in line with our recommendation and we will
continue to monitor their implementation. However, as of December 2017,
BOP has not provided evidence to us that it has developed performance
measures by which to help assess program outcomes. We continue to
believe BOP should do so.
Chairman Gowdy, Ranking Member Cummings, and Members of the
Committee, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be pleased to
respond to any questions that you may have.
20

GAO-16-516.

Page 13

GAO-18-275T

GAO Contacts and
Staff
Acknowledgments

(102462)

For further information about this statement, please contact Diana Maurer
at (202) 512-8777 or maurerd@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page
of this statement. Other individuals who made key contributions to this
statement include Brett Fallavollita (Assistant Director), David Alexander,
Pedro Almoguera, Joy Booth, Billy Commons, III, Tonnye’ Connor-White,
Jessica Du, Lorraine Ettaro, Michele Fejfar, Christopher Hatscher, Susan
Hsu, Tom Jessor, Matt Lowney, Heather May, and Jill Verret. Key
contributors for the previous work on which this testimony is based are
listed in each product.

Page 14

GAO-18-275T

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