By a Biometrica staffer
The First Step Act (FSA) of 2018 requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to collect data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) through its National Prisoner Statistics program on a number of different topics and to report these data annually.
Through the FSA, the BJS is required to report on specific characteristics of prisoners including marital, veteran, citizenship, and English-speaking status, educational levels, medical conditions, and participation in treatment programs. It also has to report on certain facility-level data like the number of assaults on staff by prisoners, prisoners’ violations of rules that resulted in time-credit reductions, and selected facility characteristics related to accreditation, on-site health care, remote learning, video conferencing, and costs of prisoners’ phone calls.
In February, the BJS published its first full year report under the FSA with statistics it collected for calendar year 2019. Data for 2020 will be available in the second half of this year, it said in the report.
We take a look at some key statistical findings of the report, and also examine the definitions of some federal prison terms.
Highlights Of The Report
- The proportion of federal prisoners who were either parents, step-parents or the guardians of a minor child grew to 49% at end-2019 from 45% in end-2018.
- Out of a total of 31,458 federal prisoners in 2019, 18% were not citizens of the U.S. and 12.6% of them identified English as their second language and not the first. Those numbers were at 18.7% and 13.2% respectively in 2018.
- A total of 3,791 federal prisoners earned a general-equivalency degree (GED) or other equivalent certificate while in prison. Nearly 30% of prisoners did not have a high-school diploma, or general-equivalency degree, or other equivalent certificate before their BOP imprisonment in 2019, which is similar compared with the previous year.
- Of the 180 pregnant prisoners in federal custody in 2019, a total of 94 gave birth in custody and 74 were released before giving birth. Of those who gave birth in custody, there were five miscarriages, two abortions, three neonatal deaths, and five pre-term births. There was also one instance of a pregnant prisoner being placed in front-hand restraints for disruptive behavior.
- All 122 BOP-operated facilities had at least one clinical nurse, certified paramedic, or licensed physician on-site in 2019. While in custody, 116 federal prisoners received medication-assisted treatment for a substance-use disorder.
- All 122 BOP-operated facilities had video-conferencing capabilities for prisoners to participate in judicial hearings, foreign embassy consultations, reentry-related communications from probation offices, preliminary reentry preparation, disciplinary hearings, and the Institution Hearing Program.
- During 2019, there were 1,252 physical assaults on BOP staff by federal prisoners, with 18 of the assaults resulting in serious injury to the staff member.
Definitions Of Key Terms
Administrative Maximum (ADX): This is a type of segregated housing unit designed for occupancy by a single person, and is the BOP’s most restricted level of segregated housing. It operates only one facility with ADX units: The United States Penitentiary-Administrative Maximum in Florence, Colorado, which houses the most disruptive and escape-prone prisoners in BOP custody. In 2019, there were 386 incidents of prisoners being placed in administrative maximum.
Challenge Program (CH): This is a BOP drug-treatment program designed for high-security prisoners. It includes violence-prevention components, and a protocol to allow prisoners with severe mental illness to develop everyday life-skills like medication management. It does not include an early release incentive, however, a prisoner who successfully completes the program could earn a decrease in his or her security level, and a transfer to a medium-security facility. At the medium-security facility, the prisoner can then be admitted to the BOP’s Residential Drug Abuse Program.
Medication-assisted Treatment: Treatment of substance-use disorders by a licensed physician who administers or prescribes medication that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. The three medications approved by the FDA and recognized by the BOP are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.
Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program: This is a BOP drug-treatment program available to all federal prisoners at every public and private correctional institution. While it does not include an early release incentive, facility wardens are encouraged to allow prisoners who satisfactorily complete the program to be placed in residential reentry centers for the maximum time allowable. In 2019, more than half of the prisoners who participated in it were within 2 years of their release date.
Prohibited Acts: These are actions taken by prisoners held in a BOP-operated or privately operated correctional facility that were against facility rules.
Residential Drug Abuse Program: This is a BOP drug-treatment program available to prisoners who have been diagnosed with a substance-use disorder, and who volunteer to participate. It separates
participants from the general prison population to live in an isolated unit that removes them from negative peer pressure. Successful completion of this program can yield incentives for participants, including early release if they are eligible. It is intended to be delivered during the last 28 months of the prisoner’s sentence, with the final part being the Community Treatment Services Program.
Special Housing Unit (SHU): This is a segregated housing unit in a BOP-operated facility where certain prisoners are separated from the general prison population. Privately-operated facilities do not have SHUs. Prisoners held in the SHU may be housed alone or with other prisoners. The SHU ensures the safety, security, and orderly operation of correctional facilities and the protection of the public by providing alternative housing assignments for prisoners removed from the general prison population.
Special Management Unit (SMU): This is a segregated housing unit in a BOP-operated facility that holds any sentenced prisoner whose interaction requires greater management to ensure the safety, security, or orderly operation of BOP facilities, or the protection of the public. Each SMU has three program levels that differ by the conditions of confinement and the expected time-frame to complete the program. Typically, prisoners complete the entire SMU program in about 12 months, after which they are placed in the general prison population at another facility. The three program levels are:
SMU level 1 — prisoners have limited interaction and are normally restricted to their assigned cells.
SMU level 2 — prisoners have greater interaction than in level 1. They are normally restricted to their assigned cells but participate in more out-of-cell activities and programming on a case-by-case basis.
SMU level 3 — prisoners interact in a supervised, open setting
Kinds Of Prohibited Acts And Corresponding Sanctions
Some prohibited acts result in low-level sanctions, while others can have more severe consequences. Here’s a look at the acts that qualify as low, moderate and high severity level according to BOP.
– feigning illness
– abusive or obscene language
– conduct with a visitor in violation of BOP regulations
– unauthorized physical contact
– interference with a staff member’s performance of duties, or engaging in conduct that disrupts the security and orderly running of the facility, if these actions are most like one of the other prohibited acts at the low severity-level.
– indecent exposure
– misuse of authorized medication
– possession of money in excess of an authorized amount
– loan of property for profit
– possession of anything not authorized for prisoners
– refusal to work or accept a program assignment
– refusal to obey an order from a staff member
– violation of conditions of furlough or a community program
– unexcused absence from work or a program
– failure to perform work as directed
– insolence toward, lying to, or making a false statement to a staff member
– counterfeit, forgery, or reproduction of any document, article of identification, money, or official paper
– participation in an unauthorized meeting or gathering
– presence in an unauthorized area
– failure to follow safety or sanitation regulations
– use of equipment or machinery without staff authorization or contrary to instructions and safety standards
– failure to stand count
– interference with the taking of count
– preparing or conducting a gambling pool
– possession of gambling paraphernalia
– unauthorized contact with the public
– exchange of money or anything of value with another prisoner or other person without staff authorization
– destruction, damage, or alteration of governmental or other property valued at $100 or less
– failure to keep one’s person or quarters in accordance with sanitary standards
– possession, manufacture, or loss of a non-hazardous tool, equipment, or contraband
– smoking where prohibited
– fraudulent or deceptive completion of a skills test
– conducting a business
– communication of gang affiliation, participation in gang activities, or possession of gang paraphernalia
– circulation of a petition
– use of mail or a telephone for abuses that do not circumvent monitoring of these communications by staff
– interference with a staff member’s performance of duties or engaging in conduct that disrupts the security and orderly running of the facility, if these actions are most like one of the other prohibited acts at the moderate severity-level.
– escape from non-secure confinement with subsequent voluntary return to BOP custody within 4 hours
– threat of bodily harm
– extortion, blackmail, protection, or demand or receipt of money in return for protection
– engaging in sexual acts
– making sexual proposals or threats
– wearing a disguise or mask
– possession of an unauthorized locking device or lock pick
– destruction, damage, or alteration of a locking mechanism
– adulteration of food or drink
– possession of staff clothing
– engaging in or encouraging a group demonstration or work stoppage
– offer or provision of a bribe to staff
– exchange of money for contraband or some illegal purpose
– destruction, damage, or alteration of governmental property
– practice or demonstration of martial arts, boxing, wrestling, or drilling, unless authorized by staff
– presence in an unauthorized area with a person of the opposite sex without staff permission
– assault or attempted assault of anyone resulting in less-serious injury
– possession of stolen property
– refusal to participate in a required physical examination not related to drug-abuse testing
– tattooing or self-mutilation
– sexual assault involving non-consensual touching without force or threat of force
– use of mail or a telephone for abuses that circumvent monitoring of these communications by staff
– interference with a staff member’s performance of duties or engaging in conduct that disrupts the security and orderly running of the facility, if these actions are most like one of the other prohibited acts at the high severity-level.
– assault or armed assault
– arson that poses a threat to life, poses a threat of bodily harm, or furthers a riot or escape
– possession or manufacture of a firearm or other dangerous instrument that can be used as a weapon
– rioting or encouraging others to riot
– taking hostages
– refusal to take part in drug-abuse testing
– introduction, manufacture, possession, or use of narcotics, drugs not prescribed by medical staff, alcohol, or related paraphernalia
– sexual assault, including non-consensual touching by force or threat of force
– destruction of items during a search
– use of mail or a telephone for an illegal purpose, or to further the commission of any other prohibited act at the greatest severity-level
– interference with a staff member’s performance of duties or engaging in conduct that disrupts the security and orderly running of the facility, if these actions are most like one of the other prohibited acts at the greatest severity-level.