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September 28, 2022

"Voices from Within the Federal Bureau of Prisons: A System Designed to Silence and Dehumanize"

The title of this post is the title of this notable recent report from the nonprofits More Than Our Crimes and The Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. Here is part of the report's executive summary:

Prison walls are erected not only to keep people in, but to prevent the world from seeing the abuses of our carceral system.  The inhumanity of what happens behind bars, as is demonstrated by the accounts of incarcerated persons in this report, is deliberately hidden from view in faraway prisons surrounded by high walls and double fences of razor wire.  Few people other than those who are confined or work in prisons have a full view of how they operate.  Glimpses provided by litigation or a scandal are rare and transitory; sustained transparency is nonexistent. This opacity allows dehumanizing conditions to be sustained and grow worse.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) is comprised of 122 institutions, incarcerating more than 157,000 people, that are among the least transparent and accountable in the nation.  The violent, dehumanizing and dangerous conditions in FBOP prisons harm families and communities in every state; impacting the mothers, fathers, children and siblings who lose loved ones to this sprawling network....

Yet, despite this extremely problematic history, the FBOP operates with no real accountability. The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General routinely lists “maintaining a safe, secure and humane prison system” as one of its top management challenges.  FBOP and prison leadership seem to be either unwilling or incapable of ensuring that even minimum standards are met.  As Sen. Dick Durban, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, noted, FBOP Director Michael Carvajal (since resigned) has “overseen a series of mounting crises, including failing to protect BOP staff and inmates from the COVID-19 pandemic, failing to address chronic understaffing, failing to implement the landmark First Step Act, and more.”

However, the overarching conclusion of this report is that reform cannot be achieved solely by replacing Director Carvajal with new blood.  The problems with the FBOP are cultural, entrenched and systemic, and independently enforced accountability must be the cornerstone of any serious attempt to change.  That cannot be achieved without replacing the current grievance procedure that incarcerated individuals must follow — which too often triggers retaliation as severe as physical abuse — with a process that is safe, reliable and fair.

September 28, 2022 at 01:14 PM | Permalink


Chicago MCC, Sept. 2022:
Guard beat by inmates.
One rape.

Posted by: Fluffyross | Sep 29, 2022 9:17:50 AM

I am the wife of a prisoner, someone who I feel is wrongly incarcerated. My husband was working as a contractor overseas protecting American troops from enemies. His sister sent him an email with a picture of his favorite little niece. Anytime the niece did something "big girl" like pulling a tooth, riding her bike the first time, etc, she insisted mom take a picture and sending it to him. When she was approximately 4, she was getting her first shower and posed really cute. The picture sent to him was from the waist up. Thinking his niece was cute and that his girlfriend in Texas would think the same, he forwarded it to her. His charges are importing an image (considered child porn) into the US, and so he was threatened into signing a 20-year plea agreement. When he was arrested, he had no idea what was going on because he certainly was not a person who engaged in CP. All of his electronics in his home were seized, checked for CP which there wasn't any because he ISN'T and NEVER WAS a man to think that way. So I think something should also be done about men and women who are put in prison under such circumstances. It was his first and only offense and I don't think it's right that he or others should have to serve such long prison sentences for something so stupid and innocent. Thank you for listening.

Posted by: Mrs. Teresa Markwith | Sep 29, 2022 2:06:56 PM

I agree 100% that the Federal BOP is too large, too corrupt, and needs a major overhaul with outside oversight. Creating a third party independent office for Federal BOP oversight is a good start, but in reality, the Federal BOP needs to be investigated by an international Human Rights Commission for its inhuman conditions and abusive practices. It is incredible that we as a nation treat our incarcerated individuals so abominably and do not provide decent medical care or rehabilitation for them to succeed upon release like we are a Banana Republic. I am a criminal justice reform advocate and family member of a young adult in custody who took a plea for non-contact internet crime: first arrest ever/ no criminal record. He is being denied medical treatment. He has multiple traumatic brain injuries, a brain lesion, and takes medication for anxiety and depression. THE Federal BOP received the imaging results of his injuries with his paperwork, including a treatment plan for the cognitive PT he needs to recover. He was responding well to treatment when he surrendered. He also had a judicial order/recommendation for these treatments. Still, with all the documentation and a judicial order, he was sent to a Level 1 Medical facility, and was told by his Case Manager that he could not have any treatment because he sustained the injuries before he was in custody, and that she didn't have his medical records, He called his attorney who faxed her the records (which she did have), and then she screamed at him for contacting his attorney. She had him investigated and retaliated against him (fortunately, he just wants to do his time and hadn't done anything to be punished for). At least she showed up. Another Case Manager at the same facility hasn't been on the premises in the 2 years since COVID began and does everything by phone. Nice gig if you can get it. My loved one also had testing done which showed that he could only take one anxiety/antidepressant medication safely (also included with his paperwork). Upon his intake into the BOP, his medication was withdrawn suddenly because it wasn't on the BOP Formulary. It is dangerous to withdraw these medications suddenly, there are serious side effects up to and including suicide. After his medication was suddenly withdrawn, he was placed in 14 day "COVID" quarantine which in reality lasted almost 2 months. Even though he is in low security, he was only allowed out of his cell M W and F for 1 hour to shower, make phone calls, and exercise (3 hours per week). He had no access to Commissary during that time. These conditions are inhumane for anyone, but to put someone into those conditions after suddenly withdrawing mental health medication is cruel and unusual punishment and unconstitutional. The "quarantine" was in concentration camp-like conditions and inhumane on so many levels. When his medication was withdrawn, I contacted the facility via both telephone and email and offered to pay for his medication since it wasn't on the formulary. No one would transfer my call, speak with me or respond. After 6 months without medication, the institution's Medical Department tried to give him a medication (in the same family) that was on his list for severe side effects. He STILL doesn't have his medication. However, there are other individuals incarcerated at that institution that are in even worse health than he is who are not getting any treatment. Classes at this institution are cancelled at will, and there are no programs there to teach a trade/apprenticeship for rehabilitation, although the Federal BOP claims that one of its goals is to rehabilitate and train people to reintegrate into society. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Posted by: Social Justice Warrior | Sep 29, 2022 6:30:24 PM

The abuse and corruption in our prison system is beyond anything humane. Not a single person in congress should be re-elected based on this alone. And every time I hear "we will set up an oversite board" etc.....I laugh. There is more than enough documentation on the corruption of the system and the employees by enough organizations for a decades now, to make immediate changes right now. A new director....what a joke.

Posted by: Mp | Sep 29, 2022 6:49:40 PM

Teresa Markwith --

Did your husband have a lawyer? The behavior you describe -- sending a picture of a shirtless four year-old only from the waist up -- could not conceivably be regarded as CP, not by the prosecutor and not by the court. There must be something else going on here.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 1, 2022 12:00:17 PM

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