WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) along with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), announced today the introduction of the bipartisan Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2016.
Currently, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has significant budget authority over taxpayer dollars without their appointment having been subject to confirmation by the United States Senate. Unlike most Department of Justice (DOJ) administrators and directors, the Director of BOP is appointed by the U.S. Attorney General without Senate approval. The Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2016 would require the Director to be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The legislation would also designate that any newly confirmed Director will have one, 10-year term at the helm of the BOP.
The BOP Director supervises workers at federal prisons across the country who protect the public under hazardous conditions at correctional facilities on a daily basis. This legislation would support subjecting the Director to the same congressional review as other top law enforcement agency chiefs within DOJ. By doing this, it would ensure greater responsiveness by the agency to the safety needs of its nearly 40,000 dedicated federal corrections employees.
“The Bureau of Prisons oversees one quarter of the Department of Justice’s annual budget,” Sen. Booker said. “Requiring presidential appointment and Senate confirmation for the BOP Director will increase transparency and accountability at a large federal agency that impacts the lives, futures, and rehabilitation of thousands of people.”
“Kentucky corrections officers have repeatedly called for the BOP to take additional steps to mitigate risks to officer safety from violent inmates,” Sen. McConnell said. “The legislation I introduced today with Senators Paul, Lee, and Booker will bring some much needed accountability and transparency to the BOP, which is important for all agencies within the Department of Justice, and will help protect federal corrections officers in Kentucky and across the nation.”
“No agency as large as the Bureau of Prisons should have so little accountability. Our bill will ensure the concerns of those who work in the prisons are heard and acted upon. It will also ensure the small businesses affected by competition from the bureau have their voices heard,” Sen. Paul said.
“There is no good reason that the director of the Bureau of Prisons, nearly alone among all Department of Justice administrators and directors, is not subject to Senate confirmation,” Sen. Lee said. “The number of inmates under the Bureau’s jurisdiction increased nearly eight-fold between 1980 and 2014, and its budget increased from 330 million dollars to 6.859 billion dollars over the same period. Rigorous congressional oversight and scrutiny is necessary, and this bill is a step in the right direction.”