Armstrong unveils bill to improve accountability for Federal Bureau of Prisons

U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) on Sept. 28 introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would establish an inspections regime for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the U.S. Department of Justice law enforcement agency responsible for the care, custody, and control of incarcerated individuals who have committed federal crimes.

“I appreciate the chance to work on this commonsense legislation that will make federal prisons better prepared to rehabilitate incarcerated individuals and ultimately make our communities safer,” said Rep. Armstrong on Wednesday.

The Federal Prison Oversight Act, H.R. 9009, which Rep. Armstrong cosponsored alongside bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), also was introduced on Sept. 28 by U.S. Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA), who unveiled their chamber’s version, S. 4988.

If enacted, the bill would bolster federal prison oversight by requiring the Justice Department’s Inspector General to conduct risk-based inspections of the BOP’s 122 facilities to identify problems that affect incarcerated people and staff and to make recommendations on how to address them, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers. 

“BOP has an obligation to ensure the health and safety of incarcerated individuals, employees, and visitors in its facilities,” Rep. Armstrong said. “Our bipartisan bill will provide oversight of the federal prison system and allow us to hold it accountable.” 

Additionally, the bill would require the inspector general to assign each facility a risk score, with higher-risk facilities required to be inspected more often, noting that the inspector general also must report its findings and recommendations to Congress and the public, and the BOP must respond to all inspection reports within 60 days with a corrective action plan. 

The bill also would establish a department ombudsman to investigate issues that negatively impact the health, safety, welfare, or rights of incarcerated people or staff, and to report dangerous findings directly to the Attorney General and Congress.

“Our federal prisons must serve as an institution that rehabilitates individuals and prepares them for reentry into society — that cannot happen without putting meaningful accountability measures in place,” said Rep. McBath.

The bill is supported by numerous organizations, including Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Council of Prison Locals, Right on Crime, the American Conservative Union, and Americans for Prosperity.