Justice IG Blasts Marshals Service Over Contractor-Run Prison

Weeks after President Trump’s Justice Department revived the practice of contracting out federal prison management, the U.S. Marshals Service has come under fire for lax oversight of a privately run detention facility in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Justice’s inspector general on Tuesday released a report on CoreCivic Inc.’s management of the Leavenworth Detention Center, citing safety and security problems. CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) is one of the largest federal prison contractors.

The IG found that the Marshals Service employee responsible for monitoring the contractor’s daily performance “was located offsite, had no previous contract oversight experience, and received no formal guidance and negligible detention-related training.” The employee rarely visited the facility and failed to document inspection activities or develop monitoring procedures.

Understaffing was a periodic problem, the IG found, with correctional staff vacancies running as high as 23 percent at one point.

In 2011, without the Marshals Service knowing, the contractor concealed that it was triple bunking detainees. Staff “uninstalled the third beds bolted to the floor of several cells designed for two detainees and removed the beds from the facility in advance of a 2011 American Correctional Association accreditation audit,” the report said.

Many of the problems with CoreCivic stem from poor contracting practices on the part of the Marshals Service, the IG found. For example, the Bureau of Prisons “establishes facility staffing expectations and enables the BOP to hold contractors accountable for non-compliance”—something the Marshals Service failed to do.

The Marshals Service “failed to use available mechanisms, such as contract price reductions, to hold CoreCivic accountable for the [Leavenworth Detention Center’s] staffing deficiencies and other instances of non-compliance with contract requirements,” the IG said.

The Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, which later merged with the Marshals, did not comply with all of the Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements when it awarded the contract, for example, limiting the pool of contractor offerors to the Leavenworth area, which benefited CoreCivic.

The IG made 24 recommendations for improving oversight, to which the Marshals Service agreed and the contractor did not object. If continued until 2026, the contract awarded in 2007 will be worth $697 million.

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