Federal Bureau of Prisons Wasting Millions on Medical Care and Overtime for Non-violent Inmates Who Have Their Own Health Insurance
Denver, CO -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/16/2018 -- Although DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has called out-of-control Federal Bureau of Prisons costs a "persisting crisis" and reported that the BOP spent $1.1 billion dollars on healthcare in 2014, 52 members of Congress asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a February 2018 letter to take into consideration the "unique characteristics of each facility" when eliminating staff at the BOP.
"The safety of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to guard, supervise and protect federal inmates must be a top priority," the letter said. "Implementing these cuts across the board without considering the unique characteristics of each facility would undermine safety priorities and make an already difficult career even more difficult by stretching limited resources further. We import you to reconsider eliminating these positions."
In early 2017, advocacy organization A Just Cause issued press releases that proposed the targeted closure of 76 non-dangerous federal prison camps (FPC's) where the BOP is mismanaging over a billion dollars of their budget by employing hundreds of correctional officers and other support staff to provide what is equivalent to adult daycare and welfare services for 22,000 non-violent camp inmates (Campers) at facilities that don't have bars, walls or barbed wire fences.
According to President Trump's recent 2019 budget proposal, closing just two federal prison camps would contribute to a $122 million-dollar savings.
"If the mission of the BOP is to secure dangerous criminals from society why are millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on hundreds of correctional officers to secure campers at prison camps that cost billions to operate?" asks Banks. "Many of these non-dangerous campers actually work unsupervised with the public in the communities where the camps are located," says Banks. "Currently, the BOP is spending over a billion dollars to house, feed, clothe and provide medical care to campers when they could be confined at home with an ankle monitor and paying for their own living expenses," adds Banks. "For God's sake, the BOP actually spends money on staffing correctional officers to run a laundry room to wash clothes, sheets and blankets for campers and others to oversee recreation activities," says Banks. "A Just Cause has discovered more fraud, waste and abuse by the BOP at the federal prison camp in Florence, Colorado, and likely nationwide, related to wasting taxpayer money for medical care on campers," adds Banks.
According to A Just Cause, many inmates at the Florence camp are covered by their own health insurance plans that they could personally use for their medial needs, but the BOP is paying for all of their medical procedures and surgeries related to hernias, colon and prostate cancer, heart attacks, knee surgeries, pneumonia, and many other ailments. Additionally, when these non-violent, non-dangerous campers are taken to the hospital, a correctional officer from what BOP describes as an understaffed FCI (medium security prison) is pulled from his security duties to accompany a camper to the hospital and must remain there throughout the entire stay. The correctional officer is paid overtime to sit at the hospital watching TV or reading a book for each hour that the camper is there. If a non-dangerous camper is hospitalized for ten days, then a correctional officer will bill overtime for 240 hours (24 hours per day).
"Let's say a camper at Florence was required to stay at the hospital for a full five days and nights, a correctional officer, likely billing at an overtime rate of $50 per hour, would be paid $4500 just to sit there for 90 hours watching TV, reading a book, talking, or surfing the internet on his cell phone," says Banks. "If this occurred just 20 times, the BOP would waste $90,000 just on unnecessary, unproductive overtime which would be added on top pf very expensive hospital and medical costs," adds Banks. "A Just Cause is aware of a Florence camper's recent hospital stay of 19 days for pneumonia, most of which was spent in the intensive car unit (ICU) in a medically induced coma," says Banks. "ICU bed costs alone typically range from $10,000 to $20,000 per day and to add 456 hours of unnecessary overtime billed by correctional officer over 19 days is outrageous," adds Banks. "Just imagine the ridiculous amounts of money being spent nationwide in 76 camps with 22,000 campers," exclaims Banks. "If campers were confined at home, they, not the taxpayer, would have to pay their own medical expenses, could use their own health insurance and the taxpayer wouldn't be bilked for millions in unnecessary overtime costs," contends Banks.
Furloughs, which according to BOP policy is "an authorized absence from an institution by an inmate who is not under escort of a staff member," can be authorized for 30 calendar days or less for a camper to not only "receive a necessary medical, surgical, psychiatric, or dental treatment" not otherwise available, but also for transfer to another BOP institution, attend a crisis in the immediate family, participate in development release plans, establish or reestablish family or community ties, participate in selected educational, social, civic and religious activities or participate in special training courses or institution work assignments. Expenses for furloughs, including transportation, food, lodging and incidentals are the responsibility of the camper. Sources tell A Just Cause that furloughs are almost never approved by the Warden at the Florence Prison Camp.
"If the BOP furlough policy recognizes that campers are non-dangerous and can be unescorted for various furlough purposes, why do camps even exist and why is our government spending billions to operate them?" asks Banks. "Furthermore, why would correctional officers need to accompany the non-violent for hospital stays and bill the taxpayer astronomical amounts of overtime?" ponders Banks. "Home confinement does a much better job of providing an alternative criminal sanction than the federal government charging the taxpayer well over a billion dollars to maintain a national prison camp complex that provides welfare services to 22,000 campers," contends Banks. "Oh, by the way, campers could actually go to work, pay taxes and restitution, and most importantly, support their families," adds Banks.
"America's most serious domestic crisis is a penal policy that over-relies on incarceration," says Banks. "The Netherlands was able to cut their prison population in half by using alternative criminal sanctions for non-violent offenders, which included home confinement, fines and community work," adds Banks. "With overcriminalization and ambitious (sometimes overzealous) federal prosecutors aggressively pursuing prison time for non-violent offenders, we will never be able to effectively reign in mass incarceration or the devastating financial and social havoc it wreaks on our society," says Banks. "Confining non-violent campers at home is a common sense, uncomplicated, alternative punishment measure that will drastically reduce costs and allow hundreds of correctional officers to be reassigned to higher security institutions where the BOP and members of Congress say safety and security concerns exist," concludes Banks.
To support AJC's fight to close federal prison camps, contact your congressional representatives and sign AJC's change.org petition at http://bit.ly/2FKOHp2.
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