Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before Congress in December.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before Congress in December. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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IG: Federal Bureau of Prisons Should Review Enforcement of Policies on Reporting Misconduct

Managers may not be following the rules, watchdog notes.

An inspector general is asking the Federal Bureau of Prisons to review its enforcement of policies on reporting misconduct, after learning that senior managers may not be following them. 

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz sent a memo to BOP Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer on Feb. 10 asking her to clarify and reinforce policies that require employees to report misconduct allegations against employees or contractors “as soon as practicable (but no later than 24 hours)” to their chief executive officer or other authority, such as the Office of Internal Affairs or Office of the Inspector General. This was in reference to an ongoing investigation of a warden who told an associate warden (then serving as acting warden) to not report an alleged security incident and that he or she would do so upon return. The IG found that this might be a widespread issue among senior managers. 

 “The warden made statements to the [inspector general] that raise concerns that this was not an isolated incident,” Horowitz wrote. “For example, the warden told the [inspector general] that if an acting warden is serving for a period of up to two weeks, then the practice within the BOP is for the acting warden to wait until the warden returns to the institution, present any reportable information to the warden, and then leave it to the warden to report the information as required by BOP policy.”

As a result, the IG is recommending the agency reconsider how it enforces its policies on how employees report misconduct they see among staff and contractors. The personnel policy outlines the specific steps on how to handle the three levels of misconduct, listed below:

  • Classification 1: Allegations against an employee or contractor that if substantiated would be a prosecutable offense (which includes physical or sexual abuse, theft and fraud);

  • Classification 2: Allegations against an employee or contractor that if proven would “not likely result in criminal prosecution, but constitute serious misconduct” (such as threatening assaults, malicious use of government facilities or resources, inappropriate relationships with people in custody or other breaches of agency rules and regulations); 

  • Classification 3: Misconduct allegations that involve employees or contractors that “ordinarily have less impact on institutional operations,” but could result in disciplinary action (examples include: unprofessional conduct, abusive language, refusal to follow instructions, misuse of government vehicles and intoxication while on duty).

The IG could not disclose what the incident was, since this is an ongoing investigation. 

“The Bureau of Prisons appreciates the work of the Office of Inspector General in this important area,” BOP spokeswoman Nancy Ayers told Government Executive.“We agree with the OIG's recommendations and will be taking steps to implement them.”