Prepared Statement by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
on Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
September 29, 2022
Thank you. I look forward to hearing
from Director Peters as well as the witnesses from our second panel today.
I’d like to emphasize that this hearing
gives us a chance to ask questions of Director Peters under oath, but I think
it’d make a lot of sense if this committee had the chance to do so before she
became Director on August 2nd.
I’ve cosponsored the Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2022.
This is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Leader McConnell and cosponsored by
several others including Senators Lee and Ossoff, and it would make the
position of director of the Bureau of Prisons a Senate confirmable position.
The Bureau of Prisons has been the
subject of serious criticism. Inefficiency, mismanagement, staffing problems,
abuse of prisoners, crimes by prisoners, failure to implement prison
programming, the list goes on and on. A
confirmation hearing is an opportunity for more accountability.
This committee last held an oversight
hearing of the bureau in April of 2021 with former Director Carvajal. He told
us at that time that the bureau was on track to meet its obligations under the First Step Act and to resolve staffing
shortages. But we were misled because these remain areas of serious concern
Staffing at federal prisons is a crisis.
Without enough staff, you can’t have the security to stop criminal activity
inside prisons. Without enough staff, you can’t implement First Step Act programming to rehabilitate those who want to reform
themselves. Without enough staff, you can’t keep inmates and staff safe.
I also want to mention that this committee
has become aware of what appears to be disturbing examples of mismanagement and
Director Peters, on August 1st of this
year, I sent you a letter on those issues that you’ve yet to respond to. I know
you only took the position on August 2nd, but I’d still like to see a response
to that as soon as possible.
The letter is about whether commissaries
create a conflict of interest for the BOP’s efforts to ensure inmates are
satisfying their financial obligations. Many inmates have outstanding
obligations such as victim restitution and child support.
Inmates such as the Boston Bomber and
Larry Nassar have thousands of dollars to spend on cigarettes and candy that’s
stashed with the BOP.
While the BOP sits on that money, these
notorious criminals aren’t paying victim restitution and other obligations. In
other words, the BOP profits from these criminals hiding their money in
prisoner accounts instead of paying their victims.
Action has been promised with respect to
reforming how these accounts are monitored.
However, we’ve seen little follow
This committee has also been concerned
about instances of prison workers and corrections officers committing crimes.
Director Peters, I understand that you
recently visited Federal Correction Institution Dublin, where several staff –
including a chaplain and former warden – have been arrested for sexually
In response to letters from this committee,
the BOP has supplied information on policies for hiring and enforcing rules on
employee misconduct. However, those policies and rules don’t matter if they
aren’t enforced within a culture that discourages breaking the rules.
Leadership begins at the top. As I tell
all government employees in leadership positions: either you run the agency or
the agency runs you.
In conclusion, I want to mention
something that I think you figured I’d say. I’ve always placed a high
importance on whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are patriotic citizens that put
their country above their own self-interest. Whistleblowers help keep the
It’s been widely reported that inmates
who complain face punishment, but reports also indicate that whistleblower
employees at the bureau face retaliation for speaking up.
This is not how you build accountability
It’s important that as director of the
BOP, you understand that whistleblowers are protected by law and their efforts
should be supported, not chilled.