Federal Prisons

Revised Design Standards Could Save Expansion Funds Gao ID: GGD-91-54 March 14, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined whether the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was using reasonable and cost-effective measures of prison system inmate capacity in determining the extent of prison crowding and the need for additional facilities.

GAO found that: (1) BOP based its determination of rated capacity in existing facilities on a single-bunking standard; (2) the incidence of double-bunking varied widely among the facilities, but BOP used double-bunking extensively; (3) despite operating at 60 percent over rated capacity, BOP had not experienced unmanageable problems; (4) there was no evidence that double-bunking led to more incidents such as escapes or violence; (5) no federal statutes or regulations prohibited double-bunking; (6) while the American Correctional Association (ACA) holds to a single-bunking standard, adherence is not a prerequisite to ACA accreditation provided that other key standards are followed; (7) BOP adopted a double-bunking standard for new medium-security facilities, and has used the new standard in preparing its expansion plans for the fiscal year (FY) 1992 budget; (8) BOP created a task force to review and update the capacity of existing facilities; (9) BOP could save substantial construction and operating costs by using a double-bunking standard to measure the rated capacity of all new and existing facilities; and (10) budgetary savings could be achieved by adopting a double-bunking standard requiring a cell size of less than 90 square feet and extending it to all cells of the prescribed size in a facility.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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