The federal prison system, grappling with a rise in officer misconduct investigations, should devise a plan to better assess job candidates to eliminate potentially unsuitable applicants, a U.S. Justice Department watchdog report concluded.
The report, published today by the DOJ’s inspector general office, examined the hiring practice at the federal Bureau of Prisons amid the increasing number of misconduct investigations and arrests.
The prison bureau's internal affairs office opened more than 4,600 misconduct investigations last year, double the number from a decade ago. Thirty-four corrections officers were arrested in fiscal year 2010, up from 18 reported arrests in 2001.
“While most of the BOP’s 16,000 Correctional Officers never engage in misconduct or commit crimes, those who do jeopardize the safety and security of other staff and inmates and undermine public confidence in the BOP,” the report said.
In one recent case, a 26-year-old corrections officer pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to accepting bribes and smuggling contraband that included cigarettes. The officer accepted a $2,000 cash payment—money that the man later gambled, and lost, at a casino in Illinois, prosecutors said.
The inspector general’s investigation revealed that although prison bureau officials individually examine job candidates' previous employment discipline, education and credit histories, the Bureau of Prisons does not conduct a “systematic evaluation of combinations of characteristics.”
The report said more than half of the corrections officers who were disciplined for misconduct violated rules in the first year or two of service. DOJ investigators said the prisons department should develop a “composite scoring mechanism” to assess the suitability of applicants. BOP leaders agreed with the recommendation.
Thomas Kane, the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, said in a letter to the inspector general’s office that the bureau is in the process of developing a “core value assessment exam.” The pilot exam began earlier this month.
The exam, Kane said, will measure integrity, respect and “correctional excellence.”