Washington, D.C. — Legislation led by Representatives Lucy McBath (D-GA-07) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-AL) overhauling the federal prison system was marked up and approved yesterday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The Federal Prison Oversight Act establishes new, independent oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, currently lead the companion bill in the Senate. The legislation was approved on a bipartisan vote of 41-1 by the House Committee, with both Republicans and Democrats lending support for the measure.

“Our Federal prisons must serve as institutions that rehabilitate and prepare Americans for re-entry into society. That can’t happen without putting meaningful accountability measures in place. Incarcerated Americans should not fear death when they enter our Federal prison system, and correctional officers should not fear for their safety in their workplace,” McBath said. “The measures included in our bill modernize the Federal prison system, bolster public safety, and provide a mechanism for incarcerated individuals and their loved ones to protect their civil rights. I am proud to see our bipartisan legislation approved by the Committee and get one step closer to becoming law.”  

“With the Federal Prison Oversight Act, we have a chance to hold the federal prison system accountable,” said Rep. Armstrong. “This bill will improve the health and safety of incarcerated individuals, employees, and visitors in its facilities, in addition to saving money through increasing the system’s efficiency. I am encouraged that this legislation passed out of the Oversight Committee with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.”

“My bipartisan investigations of corruption, abuse, and misconduct in the Federal prison system revealed an urgent need to overhaul Federal prison oversight. That’s why I wrote this bipartisan bill, and I thank Congresswoman McBath and Congressman Armstrong for their leadership moving it through the House,” said Senator Ossoff.

The bipartisan bill requires the Department of Justice’s Inspector General to conduct comprehensive, risk-based inspections of the BOP’s 122 correctional facilities, provide recommendations to fix problems, and assign each facility a risk score, with higher-risk facilities required to be inspected more often. The IG must also 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 bipartisan bill would also establish an independent Ombudsman to investigate the health, safety, welfare, and rights of incarcerated people and staff. The Ombudsman would create a secure hotline and online form for family members, friends, and representatives of incarcerated people to submit complaints and inquiries.

The bill is supported by civil rights, prison union, and public safety organizations, including the Council of Prison Locals (CPL), Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Americans for Prosperity, Justice Action Network, Due Process Institute, Right on Crime, and Niskanen Center. 

Click here to read the bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act.