WASHINGTON, D.C. (10/31/19) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), as well as Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) announced Wednesday the introduction of the Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2019, which would bring further accountability to the nation’s federal prisons by requiring the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, according to a press release.
Currently, the BOP Director has significant budget authority over taxpayer dollars without their appointment having been subject to confirmation by the Senate. Unlike most U.S. Department of Justice administrators and directors, the Director of BOP is appointed by the U.S. Attorney General – not the President – without Senate consideration.
The Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2019 would require the BOP Director to be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The bipartisan legislation would also designate that any newly confirmed Director would have one, 10-year term at the helm of the BOP.
“The Senate is in the personnel business, responsible for evaluating the qualifications of more than a thousand of a president’s nominees to staff the federal government. The Director of the Bureau of Prisons, in charge of over 36,000 employees and a multi-billion dollar budget, should be subject to the Senate’s consideration and confirmation,” McConnell said in a statement. “Our bipartisan legislation extending the Senate’s advice and consent over this position can increase transparency and accountability at the BOP and help protect federal corrections officers, including hundreds of Kentuckians, from harm.”
“No agency as large as the Bureau of Prisons should have so little accountability. Our bill will ensure the concerns of those who work in the prisons are heard and acted upon. It will also ensure the small businesses affected by competition from the bureau have their voices heard,” Paul stated.
“On behalf of my fellow correctional officers, I’d like to thank Senators McConnell and Paul for their leadership to increase safety and accountability at Kentucky’s federal prisons,” said Jerry Jackson, Jr., president of Union Local 612 and Correctional Officer at U.S. Penitentiary, Big Sandy in Martin County. “Officers at facilities like Big Sandy need all the support we can get, and a new layer of transparency in the Bureau of Prisons can help make sure we have the resources to stay out of harm’s way.”
"We support Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul on this bill. We feel that the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons should be subject to Senate confirmation. We believe that it is the Senate's duty to ensure that the appointee has the knowledge and experience to run this agency effectively," said Geoffrey Bowling, vice president of Union Local 4051 and Recreational Specialist at Federal Correctional Institution Manchester in Clay County.
“The Bureau of Prisons has a big role to play in criminal justice reform and implementing the First Step Act. It is imperative that this position is more politically accountable which is why I support the Federal Prisons Accountability Act,” Lee stated.
“Working across the aisle to strengthen accountability of the federal prison system protects Arizona’s corrections officers and Arizonans’ tax dollars,” Sinema said.
The BOP Director supervises workers at federal prisons across the country who protect the public under hazardous conditions at correctional facilities on a daily basis. This legislation would support subjecting the Director to the same congressional review as other top law enforcement agency chiefs within DOJ, such as the FBI and ATF Directors and the DEA Administrator. Extending Senate consideration to the BOP Director would also promote greater responsiveness by the agency to the safety needs of its dedicated federal corrections employees.