Washington, D.C. — Legislation led by Representatives Lucy McBath (D-GA-07) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND-AL) overhauling the federal prison system was approved today by the full U.S. House of Representatives. 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, lead the companion bill in the Senate. In the Republican-led House, McBath’s bill was approved on a bipartisan vote of 392-2.

“My son, Jordan Davis, was killed at just 17 years old by a man with a gun who is now serving a life sentence in prison. Through my family’s pain, I have found the strength to forgive my son’s killer. Today’s vote marks significant progress in our work to make needed reforms to protect the staff and incarcerated individuals in our federal prison system,” Congresswoman McBath said. “I am very proud that the committee vote last month and today’s vote in the full House received such overwhelming bipartisan support. This is proof of what is possible when Democrats and Republicans work together for the benefit of the American people. I look forward to swift passage of this legislation in the Senate.”

“Criminal justice is not a red or a blue issue, it’s not a liberal or a conservative issue - it is a smart policy issue,” said Rep. Armstrong.“I am encouraged that the Federal Prison Oversight Act passed the House, and we are one step closer to a more cost-effective federal prison system. This commonsense reform also improves the health and safety of incarcerated individuals, employees, and visitors in its facilities. There aren’t many times in Congress where you can pass legislation that changes people’s lives for the better, so I urge my Senate colleagues to pass this legislation, add accountability to the federal prison system, and work to stop the cycle of crime and addiction.”

“Measures included in the Federal Prison Oversight Act establish necessary safeguards to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of incarcerated individuals and staff. Individuals associated with the Federal Bureau of Prisons deserve the dignity of operations, conditions, conduct, and facilities that are held to a standard through oversight. Accessible channels for complaints and recommendations created in this bill will ensure accountability for shortcomings in the federal prison system environment,” said House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY).

“Our bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act has passed the House. This is a major milestone. My bipartisan Senate investigations of corruption, abuse, and misconduct in the Federal prison system have revealed an urgent need to overhaul Federal prison oversight,” Sen. Jon Ossoff said. “I commend Congresswoman McBath and Congressman Armstrong’s leadership in shepherding our bipartisan bill to House passage, and I now urge Senate leadership to bring our bipartisan bill for a vote and send it to the President’s desk.”

“More transparency and accountability will create a safer environment for correctional officers and staff who work in our federal prisons as well as the inmates incarcerated in them. This bill does not allow the Department of Justice to intervene into the affairs of state and local jails, and will help to improve working conditions and keep our federal corrections officers safe,” said Senator Braun.   

“The Senate Judiciary Committee continues to take an active role in restoring integrity to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and addressing the mismanagement of our correctional facilities. This bill will help improve oversight and ensure the Bureau lives up to its mission to provide safe and humane conditions of confinement and ensure the successful return of incarcerated individuals to the community. I’m pleased to see our bill pass the House and will work with my colleagues in the Senate to make this bill law,” said U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This legislation is endorsed by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), The Prison Fellowship, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Due Process Institute.

“For too long, the Bureau of Prisons has operated with next to no independent oversight and the results have been disastrous for the over 150,000 people incarcerated in federal prisons and the tens of thousands of people who work there,” said Daniel Landsman, Vice President of Policy for FAMM. “Today’s vote is a crucial step in bringing transparency and accountability to an agency that has been plagued by scandal for decades. FAMM is grateful to Rep. Lucy McBath and Rep. Kelly Armstrong for their steadfast leadership on this legislation. We urge the Senate to work quickly to get this bill to the President’s desk for the sake of everyone who lives and works in our federal prisons and their families.”

“Numerous investigations of federal prisons have uncovered dangerous physical conditions and widespread sexual abuse, highlighting an urgent need for increased oversight,” said Debra Perlin, Policy Director of CREW. “By establishing an independent inspections regime, the Federal Prison Oversight Act would begin to bring a measure of transparency and accountability to this deeply broken system. We call on the Senate to immediately pass this long overdue legislation.”   

“The U.S. House of Representatives recognizes that our federal prisons should be safe, constructive places for all who live and work inside,” said Heather Rice-Minus, Prison Fellowship president and CEO.  “With nearly 50 years of experience providing help and hope for incarcerated individuals, Prison Fellowship stands with bipartisan leaders who are acting to make federal prisons safer, healthier, and more humane. We look forward to the day this bill becomes law, marking a significant milestone in bringing accountability and reform to America’s federal prison system.”

“The stories in recent years of sexual violence against incarcerated women, corruption, and unhealthy conditions in federal prison facilities are incredibly concerning. These stories show us that there is nowhere near enough independent oversight over the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It's the responsibility of Congress to make a course correction. The consequences of doing nothing put the health and safety of incarcerated persons and correctional staff, whose care they are under, at risk. We thank Congresswoman McBath and Congressman Armstrong for their tremendous leadership on the Federal Prison Oversight Act,” said Jason Pye, Vice President, Due Process Institute.

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 will 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.

Click here to read the full text of the bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act.