WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Federal prisons plagued with problems have senators pushing for more oversight. They’re hoping a new bill and a new Bureau of Prisons director will help make that happen.
Lawmakers say the federal prison system is failing.
“The bureau has been riddled with mismanagement and sadly with scandal,” Sen. Dick Durbin said.
At a hearing on Thursday, lawmakers spent hours talking about the issues behind bars including understaffing, abuse of prisoners, unsafe living conditions, and corruption among prison workers.
Several senators, including Chuck Grassley, called on new Bureau of Prisons Director Collette Peters to turn the bureau around.
“Either you run the agency or the agency runs you,” Grassley said.
Senators Jon Ossoff, Dick Durbin, and Mike Braun just introduced a new bill they say is designed to find and fix the problems
“What I believe is needed, … is strong and independent oversight,” Ossoff said.
The legislation, called the Federal Prison Oversight Act, would require the Justice Department to inspect prisons on a stricter schedule so they can recommend reforms, and it would establish an independent person to take complaints about prison conditions.
“We must come to this work with our arms wide open. I welcome accountability and oversight,” Director Peters said.
Council of Prison Locals President Shane Fausey says the oversight could help both guards and inmates.
“A safe workplace is a safe place for offenders to live,” Fausey said.
Criminal Justice advocate John Wetzel, with Phronema Justice Strategies, says until major reforms are implemented problems will persist.
“You’ll be having the same hearing a decade from now or two decades from now if we do things the same way,” Wetzel said.