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Bureau of Prisons: Timelier Reviews, Plan for Evaluations, and Updated Policies Could Improve Inmate Mental Health Services Oversight

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2013
76 pages
This U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study examined the Federal Bureau of Prison's (BOP's) costs and oversight of inmate mental health services.
The study recommends that BOP prioritize the completion of postponed program reviews and that it develop a plan to evaluate treatment programs. The study also proposes the development and implementation of updated program statements. BOP currently conducts various internal reviews that assess institutions' compliance with its policies related to mental health services, and it also requires institutions to obtain external accreditations. BOP's internal program reviews are on-site audits of a specific program, including two that are relevant to mental health services. Most institutions in GAO's sample received good or superior ratings on their psychology and health services reviews; however, these reviews did not always occur within BOP-established time frames, generally due to lack of staff availability. When reviews were postponed, delays could be lengthy, sometimes exceeding a year, even for those institutions with the lowest ratings in previous reviews. Moreover, BOP has not evaluated whether most of its psychology treatment programs are meeting their established goals and has not developed a plan to do so. In addition, BOP's program statements related to mental health services contain outdated information. By periodically updating its program statements, BOP would ensure that the staff has a consistent understanding of its policies and that these policies reflect current mental health care practices. GAO analyzed obligated funds for fiscal years 2008 through 2012 for the two BOP divisions responsible for mental health services at BOP institutions; examined the most recent review reports for a random sample of 47 BOP institutions and all 15 contract facilities; examined BOP policies; and interviewed BOP officials. Appended supplementary information