September 29, 2022

Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Bureau of Prisons Oversight

Director Peters to testify before Congress for the first time since taking over as head of the Bureau

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”

Key Quotes:  

“It is no overstatement to say that in recent years, the Bureau has been riddled with mismanagement and scandal. Under the Bureau’s previous leadership, we witnessed a lackluster response to the COVID-19 pandemic, rampant misconduct by BOP officials, chronic staffing shortages, the overuse of solitary confinement and lockdowns, and inadequate implementation of congressional authorities to reduce prison populations and recidivism.”

“Due to this series of misfortunes and failures, I called for the Attorney General to replace your predecessor with a reform-minded Director who was not a product of the Bureau’s bureaucracy. I know that one person cannot singlehandedly fix all of the problems the Bureau faces—but my hope is that under your leadership, Director Peters, BOP will chart a new course.”

“Since this July alone, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General has issued more than 15 press releases announcing the arrest, indictment, or conviction of BOP employees. An Associated Press investigation last November revealed that two-thirds of criminal cases against Justice Department personnel in recent years have involved the Bureau of Prisons.” 

“Without objection, I am entering into the record internal affairs reports that BOP provided in response to bipartisan oversight that Ranking Member Grassley and I are conducting. These documents show unacceptable levels of sexual misconduct by BOP staff, which Senator Grassley and I continue to investigate.” 

“In recent years, members on both sides of this Committee—including myself, Ranking Member Grassley, Senator Booker, Senator Lee, Senator Whitehouse, Senator Cornyn, and others—have come together to enact legislation aimed at responsibly reducing the federal prison population and making our communities safer. Unfortunately, the implementation of these reforms leaves much to be desired. More than three years after we enacted the landmark First Step Act, many incarcerated people who have participated in recidivism reduction programming are still waiting for the earned time credits that they were promised as a result of their hard work.”

“When BOP does use the authorities that Congress has authorized, the experience has been positive. Consider this: between March 2020 and July 2022, BOP released 11,043 people to home confinement under the CARES Act. Only 17 have been returned to prison for new criminal conduct.”

“It is clear: many of the people languishing in federal prisons across the country do not need to be there. They should be developing vocational skills, receiving mental health counseling and educational services, and reentering society as productive members of our communities.”

“Our federal prison system has failed to fulfill its fundamental purpose: to provide safe and humane conditions of confinement and ensure the successful return of incarcerated individuals to the community. I’m hoping that—with Director Peters’ leadership—we can finally chart a new course at the Bureau of Prisons.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

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