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Senators introduce bipartisan bill to overhaul federal prison system

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Michael Siluk/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Last week, a group of senators introduced legislation to bring greater transparency to the federal Bureau of Prisons, reports the Associated Press.

The bill is sponsored by Senators Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. It comes at a time when the BOP is facing unprecedented scrutiny. In May, the Associated Pres revealed that it had conducted an investigation that “uncovered deep, previously unreported flaws” in the prison system. The investigation uncovered criminal misconduct, staffing crises, sexual abuse, escaping inmates, and crumbling infrastructure.

The Senate also launched an investigation of its own into the BOP. That investigation was led by Ossoff, who serves as the chair for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

“My 10-month bipartisan investigation of corruption, abuse, and misconduct in the Federal prison system revealed an urgent need to overhaul federal prison oversight,” Ossoff said. “I am bringing Democrats and Republicans together to crack down on corruption, strengthen public safety, and protect civil rights.”

The bill, called the Federal Prison Oversight Act, would require the Department of Justice to create a prisons ombudsman to oversee complaints about prison conditions. The bill also would compel the DOJ’s inspector general to evaluate risks and abuses at all federal prison facilities, reports the AP.

“It’s no secret that BOP has been plagued by misconduct. One investigation after another has revealed a culture of abuse, mismanagement, corruption, torture, and death that reaches to the highest levels. And yet it still operates without any meaningful independent oversight. The result has been catastrophic for both incarcerated people and staff,” Durbin said. “Our bipartisan bill addresses this lack of meaningful oversight and aims to improve the safety and accountability of our federal prison system. It is common sense legislation that I hope our colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support.”

The legislation is supported by groups across the political spectrum, including the correctional officers’ union, the inmate-advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Conservative Union, and Americans for Prosperity.

“Families with incarcerated loved ones for years have been calling for greater transparency, safety and accountable from our federal prisons,” FAMM President Kevin Ring said. “The bipartisan bill introduced today answers their calls.”

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