The story so far: AP's investigation into federal prisons

An ongoing Associated Press investigation has uncovered deep, previously unreported flaws within the Justice Department’s largest law enforcement agency, the federal Bureau of Prisons

Via AP news wire
Thursday 05 May 2022 06:08
Federal Prisons Investigation
Federal Prisons Investigation

An ongoing Associated Press investigation has uncovered deep, previously unreported flaws within the federal Bureau of Prisons, the Justice Department’s largest law enforcement agency, whose secrets have long been hidden within its walls and barbed-wire fences.

The AP’s reporting has revealed layer after layer of abuse, neglect and leadership missteps — including rampant sexual abuse by workers, severe staffing shortages, inmate escapes and the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic — leading directly to the agency’s director announcing his resignation earlier this year.

Among the AP’s findings, so far:

—Sexual abuse: A permissive, toxic culture of predatory employees at a women’s prison in California, fueled by cover-ups that largely kept their misconduct out of the public eye for years. Among the accused is the prison’s former warden.

—Criminal misconduct: More than 100 Bureau of Prisons workers arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, but the agency has turned a blind eye to employees accused of misconduct, in some cases failing to suspend them after their arrests.

—Staffing crisis: Nearly one-third of federal correctional officer positions vacant, forcing prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates, hampering the response to emergencies, including inmate suicides.

—Escaping inmates: 29 prisoners escaped from federal prisons in an 18-month span, with nearly half still at large. At some institutions, doors are left unlocked, security cameras are broken and officials sometimes don’t notice an inmate is missing for hours.

—Superspreader executions: An unprecedented string of federal executions likely acted as COVID-19 superspreader events, just as health experts warned could happen when the Trump administration insisted on resuming executions during a pandemic.

—Crumbling infrastructure: A rare look inside the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the federal jail in Manhattan where Jeffrey Epstein died, revealed squalid, unsafe conditions including falling concrete, freezing cold temperatures, busted cells and broken pipes.

AP writers Michael Balsamo and Michael Sisak started digging into the Bureau of Prisons after Epstein’s 2019 suicide. At first, they wanted to understand how the highest-profile federal inmate in decades was able to take his own life.

As they continued reporting, it became clear that the dysfunction surrounding Epstein's suicide — guards sleeping and browsing the internet, one of them pulled from a different prison job to watch inmates, both working overtime shifts — wasn't a one off but a symptom of a federal prison system in deep crisis.

The AP's exclusive reporting has forced lawmakers to take notice.

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., introduced legislation that would require the Bureau of Prisons to fix broken cameras. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went to the Senate floor and read AP stories into into the congressional record as he demanded Attorney General Merrick Garland fire the agency’s director, Michael Carvajal.

A few weeks later, Balsamo and Sisak broke the news that Carvajal, a Trump administration holdover, and his top deputy were resigning.

These stories aren’t possible without the help of whistleblowers, inmates and their families, and anyone else who suspects wrongdoing or knows what’s going on and tells us about it.

There are several ways you can share your stories and tips with the AP:

— Visit https://ap.org/tips for instructions on how to share information confidentially and securely.

— Email AP writers Michael Balsamo at mbalsamo@ap.org and Michael Sisak at msisak@ap.org.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in