What Can Be Done about Overcrowding in Long-Term Federal Correctional Facilities

Gao ID: PAD-78-50 February 10, 1978

During the past 5 years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has spent over $200 million for new prison facilities and nearly $1 billion for the care and custody of its prisoners. Despite these large expenditures, Federal prisons are overcrowded. The Bureau estimates that it will need additional facilities to house about 10,000 Federal inmates so overcrowded conditions can be alleviated and the three oldest Federal facilities phased out.

Four alternatives are suggested in terms of costs, benefits, and potential problems: (1) aiding State and local governments in constructing facilities to provide space for Federal as well as non-Federal prisoners; (2) decreasing emphasis on institution-based programs and increasing the use of minimum security alternatives, such as halfway houses and prison camps; (3) using and/or improving existing Department of Defense facilities that are excess or underused; and (4) constructing new Federal correctional institutions and/or expanding existing facilities. Careful consideration must be given to achieving the objectives of providing: a safe and humane environment for offenders, opportunities for offenders to change their behavior patterns, and a model for State and local correctional systems.

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