Crime by federal correctional officers is on the rise, report finds

September 29, 2011
”Davidson”

Crime is on the rise — by correctional officers in the federal Bureau of Prisons.

And junior officers are the culprits more than their fair share of the time.

The number of correctional officers who were arrested almost doubled, from fiscal year 2001 through 2010, according to a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

The report went beyond the numbers and looked at the “relationship between the misconduct record of recently hired Correctional Officers and those officers’ background characteristics, such as their record of discipline at previous jobs, education level, and credit history,” according to a press release from the Office of Inspector General.

“Although the BOP currently assesses such characteristics individually when deciding whether to hire or make a Correctional Officer a permanent member of the BOP’s staff, the BOP does not conduct any systematic evaluation of combinations of background characteristics as part of its hiring process.”

During the period from 2001 through 2010, a total of 272 correctional officers were arrested, rising from 18 in 2001 to 34 in 2010. That’s an 89 percent increase. The number of officers rose only 24 percent during that same time.

The more dramatic numbers involve misconduct investigations and allegations. Investigations more than doubled, from 2,299 to 4,603. There were 32,455 misconduct allegations against correctional officers between 2001 and 2009 that had final resolutions, and 52 percent were substantiated.

About 58 percent of the officers with substantiated allegations of misconduct and who were suspended for at least one day were on the job less than two years when they violated regulations.

Despite the increase in arrests and cases of misconduct, BOP does make an effort to hire only those fit for correctional duty, the IG indicated.

“Before making a conditional offer of employment, the BOP assesses applicants’ suitability through a series of steps that include a pre-employment interview, a panel interview, and credit and criminal records checks,” the report said. “Information provided by applicants is compared against 30 measurable thresholds in the BOP’s Guidelines of Acceptability. If an applicant exceeds any one Guideline threshold, the applicant is considered unsuitable and can only be hired if the BOP grants a waiver.”

But the problem, according to the report, is BOP does not coordinate the information it gathers about an applicant to develop a more complete picture.

“The BOP’s current system,” the report said, “does not include a mechanism for systematically considering combinations of characteristics...when deciding whether to hire or make a Correctional Officer a permanent member of the BOP’s staff.”

The BOP response included in the report said the agency agrees with the IG recommendation to “consider a composite scoring template for applicants.”

federaldiary@washpost.com

Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.
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