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Bureau of Prisons: Improvements Needed in Bureau of Prisons' Monitoring and Evaluation of Impact of Segregated Housing

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2013
72 pages
This report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office presents the results of an examination of the Bureau of Prisons' use of segregated housing units.
This report was prepared to evaluate the Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) use of segregated housing units. The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates three main types of segregated housing units: SHU - Special Housing Units; SMU - Special Management Units; and ADX - Administrative Maximum. Between fiscal year 2008 and February 2013, the total inmate population housed in these units increased by 17 percent, from 10,659 to 12,460 inmates, compared to the 6 percent increase in the total inmate population in all BOP facilities. The primary purpose of this report was to address the following issues: examine the trends in BOP's segregated housing population; examine the degree to which BOP centrally monitors how prisons apply segregated housing policies; and examine the extent to which BOP assesses the impact of segregated housing on institutional safety and inmates. Data for the evaluation were obtained through visits to 6 Federal prisons, and a review of 61 inmate case files and 45 monitoring reports. Highlights of the findings from the evaluation include the following: a majority, 81 percent, of inmates in segregated housing are held in SHUs; while BOP has a mechanism in place to centrally monitor how prisons implement segregated housing unit policies, the degree of BOP monitoring varies depending on the type of segregated housing unit; and segregated housing units are more costly to operate than general prison population housing units because of the need for more resources to operate and maintain these units. The evaluation also found that BOP has not assessed the impact of segregated housing units on institutional safety and inmates, but both BOP management and prison officials believe that the use of segregated housing units has been effective in helping to maintain institutional safety. Recommendations for improving BOP's use of segregated housing units are discussed. Tables, figures, and appendixes