Post Date: June 8, 2014
MONTPELIER – In order to increase public awareness and accountability of federal prison officials, Prisology, a national criminal justice reform organization, filed suit today against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC.
The lawsuit alleges that the BOP failed to comply with amendments to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) which require federal agencies to publish certain records online for public perusal.
“Since 1996, the BOP has flagrantly disregarded important amendments to the Freedom of Information Act,” said Brandon Sample, Prisology’s Executive Director. “Through this litigation, we hope to gain greater transparency and accountability of federal prison operations.”
According to the lawsuit, the BOP is required to publish online all agency responses to prisoner grievances from each BOP institution, Regional Office, and the BOP’s Central Office; private settlements outside of litigation between the BOP and its employees, inmates, and other persons; grants and denials of requests for compassionate release; all settlements, compromises, and rejections of claims made pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act and Inmate Accident Compensation Program; and Disciplinary Hearing Officer reports reflecting agency adjudication of serious prison disciplinary charges.
Jeremy Gordon, Prisology’s General Counsel, called the litigation “groundbreaking.” “Effective oversight of federal agencies is impossible where lawmakers and the public do not have access to information about agency operations and practices. At present, the BOP largely functions in a shroud of secrecy,” Gordon said.
For fiscal year 2015, the BOP has requested nearly $6.9 billion in funding. Despite being one of the most well-funded federal agencies, the BOP is presently operating at 32 percent over capacity, with some 217,000 federal prisoners in its custody. BOP employs over 39,000 people across 119 institutions, six regional offices, and its headquarters in Washington, DC.
“With budgets nearing $7 billion a year, there is undoubted cost savings and improvements to be had in the BOP’s management, practices and policies,” said Benson Weintraub, Prisology’s Associate General Counsel. “Through this litigation we will prove, in the words of Justice Brandeis, that sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant.”
A copy of the lawsuit can be accessed here.
Press contact: Kim Ward at [email protected]