The Bureau of Prisons (BOP): Operations and Budget

Source: Nathan James, R42486, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, March 4, 2014

… Changes in federal criminal justice policy since the early 1980s have resulted in a continued increase in the federal prison population. The number of inmates under the BOP’s jurisdiction has increased nearly eight-fold (790%) from approximately 24,600 inmates in FY1980 to nearly 219,300 inmates in FY2013. Since FY1980, the federal prison population has increased, on average, by approximately 5,900 inmates each year. The burgeoning federal prison population has led Congress to increase appropriations for the BOP’s operations and infrastructure. In FY1980, Congress appropriated $330.0 million for the BOP. By FY2014, the total appropriation for the BOP reached $6.859 billion. The additional funding for the BOP was necessary to cover the costs of providing services to a growing prison population, expanding prison capacity, and hiring additional staff to manage the expanding federal prison system. The annual growth in the federal prison population has outstripped the BOP’s prison capacity, resulting in overcrowding in the federal prison system. Congress could choose to mitigate some of the issues related to federal prison population growth by appropriating more funding so the BOP could hire additional staff and expand prison capacity to alleviate overcrowding. On the other hand, Congress could also consider ways to reduce the number of inmates held in federal prison by considering alternatives to incarceration, such as increasing good time credit for inmates who participate in certain rehabilitative programs, placing more low-level offenders on community supervision in lieu of incarceration, or reducing mandatory minimum penalties for some offenses….