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DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AUTHORIZATION
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 1978
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
The committee met at 9:30 a.m. in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building; Hon. Peter W. Rodino, Jr. (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Rodino, Kastenmeier, Edwards, Conyers, Mann, Danielson, Drinan, Holtzman, Volkmer, McClory, Railsback, Butler, Cohen, Moorhead, and Sawyer.
Staff present: Alan A. Parker, general counsel; Garner J. Cline, staff director; and Franklin G. Polk, associate counsel.
Chairman RODINO. The committee will come to order.
This morning our hearing, which deals with the authorization of the Department of Justice, will hear from the following witnesses:
Norman A. Carlson, Director, Bureau of Prisons; Cecil C. McCall, Chairman, U.S. Parole Commission; and John R. Stanish, Pardon Attorney.
In accordance with past procedures, the members of the subcommittee which has jurisdiction over this matter will be called on first. We will adhere to the 5-minute rule.
Our first witness this morning is Norman A. Carlson, Director of Prisons.
Mr. Carlson, we are glad to have you here, along with Mr. McCall and Mr. Stanish; I would suggest if you can, you summarize the statements that you have, in order that we allow members the opportunity to be able to question you.
TESTIMONY OF NORMAN A. CARLSON, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF PRISONS, ACCOMPANIED BY GARY R. MOTE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, AND JAMES G. MEEKER, OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
[The prepared statement of Mr. Carlson follows:]
STATEMENT OF NORMAN A. CARLSON, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF PRISONS
Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning to discuss the Federal Prison System and its present program and future direction.
Our authorization request for Fiscal Year 1977 includes resources which would enable us to work toward the following three goals: Reduce overcrowding in Federal correctional institutions; close the antiquated penitentiaries in our system, particularly McNeil Island, Washington; and increase our use of communitybased programs and minimum security camps.
In the Spring of 1975, an increase in the Federal prison population began which was unprecedented in size, and largely unexpected. The increase continued for more than two years, and the result was an increase of more than 6,000 in our average population. This increase in prisoner population has severely taxed our facilities and our staff.
Our funding level authorization request for 1979 would more than double funds available for release of inmates through halfway houses. The number of prisoners being released through these community based programs would be expanded, and the average length of stay would be increased to 120 days. This will have a substantial impact on our prisoner population.
During the final months of their terms, individuals in halfway houses can locate jobs, arrange for housing, and prepare themselves for release. Congress has steadily increased the funds available to the Federal Prison System to place inmates in halfway houses and other community centers. The halfway house program began in 1961 with fewer than 100 residents. Today, there are Federally operated centers in eleven cities, and we have contracts with 400 units operated by private groups and state and local governments. We can accommodate several thousand individuals at a time, with these resources.
Release through a halfway house is an alternative that is helpful for many inmates. However, not all would be eligible for release through halfway houses. Those who are not eligible include the violent and dangerous offenders, individuals being released to detainers for deportation, or to serve state prison sentences.
Another alternative that would reduce overcrowding is the utilization of minimum security camps. This request would provide funds for the operation of new camp facilities that would house more than 400 offenders. All of these new facilities would be satellites of existing institutions and would share some services. We also operate camp facilities that are independent of other institutions and two camps that serve military installations. These facilities, at Eglin, Florida, and Maxwell, Alabama, provide services to the Air Force such as landscaping and ground maintenance.
New camp facilities can be developed rapidly, and at comparatively low cost. Their cost of operation is also low, when compared to the secure correctional institutions. We would welcome the opportunity to develop additional camp facilities in any location that would serve our population requirements. We have explored the possibility of added camps on military bases, but negotiations with the Department of Defense have not resulted in any specific agreements thus far.
The utilization of these minimum security alternatives to confinement means that we must improve our ability to identify those individuals who can be safely housed without the traditional security of prisons. Since January, 1977, a task force has been developing a new system to classify inmates. We must give proper weight to an individual's prior criminal activities and the likelihood of his escape. The new classification system is now being tested in the Western Region, and if the tests are successful its use will be expanded this summer.
We are also in the process of developing a better means for monitoring individuals in halfway houses. As we expand the utilization of halfway houses, this evaluation will help us determine which individuals in our system can benefit from the community experience without risk that they will commit new crimes. The minimum security facilities and community based alternatives will be used primarily for offenders serving short term, or those who are near the end of longer prison terms. This will concentrate the more serious and aggressive prisoners in more secure correctional institutions. The portion of serious and assaultive offenders in our population has continued to grow. While the number of residents convicted of auto theft and liquor violations has declined, the number of individuals convicted of robbery and narcotics or firearms offenses has more than doubled in the past 10 years.
Our request for Fiscal Year 1979 includes two major new construction proposals that will assist us in housing this population. When completed, they will have direct impact on our plans to close the oldest institution in our system-the Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington. Both construction proposals are for western institutions, and are designed to draw down the McNeil Island population. We are requesting $15.9 million for construction of a correctional institution in Arizona that would house 300 young adult offenders. Our studies of the inmate population at the Federal Correctional Institution, in Lompoc, California, and other institutions, indicate that the current population of younger offenders from Arizona and the surrounding region justifies the request.
In addition, the Arizona institution will have a detention unit that will provide space for individuals awaiting trial or sentencing, and those serving very short sentences, who are currently held in overcrowded county jails or in remote places. The Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix is severely crowded with its own prisoners, and is unable to take more than a percentage of detainees or others who should be housed in local institutions. Federal prisoners are now being housed at locations remote from Federal Court, and away from their attorneys and families.
Our request also includes $2.6 million to acquire a site and begin the planning for a new adult institution for sentenced prisoners in the West.
When the two new facilities for which funds are being requested have been put into operation, we will change the mission of existing Western institutions. Offenders requiring close custody will be confined in the penitentiary facilities available at Lompoc, California. Lompoc would replace McNeil Island as the institution for housing those inmates who require close custody.
The closing of the penitentiary on McNeil Island, however, is only our first priority. We also hope to close two other penitentiaries in Atlanta, Georgia, and Leavenworth, Kansas. They are more than 75 years old, and their design makes it difficult to maintain a safe environment for both inmates and staff. The physical capacity of these two institutions totals less than 3,000 beds, but they currently hold more than 4,000 inmates in cell blocks, as well as in converted shower and storage areas.
The effort to close these antiquated institutions is a high priority despite the population increase. Older facilities are expensive to repair, and it is difficult to maintain standards of humane care.
When the period of sharp population increase began in 1975, we had about 23,000 residents. Since then we have opened three new institutions for sentenced offenders, and we now have institutions designed for a total of 23,000 residents. However, we have more than 29,000 in our custody today.
There are other alternatives to reduce overcrowding which we have also examined. One such alternative is contracting to house more Federal offenders in state and local institutions. On an average day, there are about 5,000 Federal inmates housed in state and local institutions, but most of them are detainees. They are awaiting trial or sentencing, or are serving short sentences.
If we could place a substantial number of offenders particularly those with longer sentences-in state and local institutions it would benefit us greatly. In those localities where prison beds are available, we will continue our policy of contracting for their use. Our surveys of state and local agencies, however, indicate that the number of suitable spaces available to us is small.
The funding level authorization request under consideration today includes funds to hire staff and begin activation of two institutions and four minimum security camps mentioned earlier. These new facilities, which will accommodate nearly 1,500 residents, were constructed with funds appropriated in previous years.
The 669 new staff positions in this budget proposal include:
440 staff members to activate two new institutions which are under construction at Otisville, New York and Talladega, Alabama. These two new institutions are designed to accommodate 1,036 residents;
81 new staff positions to operate new living units, at existing institutions, including satellite camps at Leavenworth, Kansas; Danbury, Connecticut, Texarkana, Texas, and El Reno, Oklahoma. These new facilities are designed to provide space for 422 residents;
70 new staff members to establish Federal prison industry operations at new institutions in order to give employment opportunities to more inmates; and 78 additional staff members to improve the security of existing institutions, to improve the quality of medical care, and to accommodate the population increase and changes in the characteristics of the prisoner population. The pressures of inmate population increases the past three years have forced us to devote considerable public attention to the question of facilities. In the interim, however, we have continued to focus attention on programs available to residents in our institutions.
On an average work day, 6,000 of our residents are employed by Federal Prison Industries, a wholly owned government corporation which is self-sustaining. Last year, 14,000 inmates shared $6 million in earnings while producing goods
and services for sale to Federal agencies. The revenue from these sales also provides funds for inmates who perform other necessary work, such as preparing and serving food.
The request for 70 additional staff positions for Industries would not require appropriated funds. It would permit us to expand industrial operations at 4 institutions, and to begin new operations at eight other institutions, including the new facilities that will be opened.
The funding for a portion of our vocational training expense is being transferred from prison industry revenue to the salaries and expenses authorization request to improve management of the program.
Our prison population continues to include a disproportionate share of individuals who did not succeed in the public school system, and who do not have marketable job skills. Residents are not required to attend school or training classes, but may volunteer to participate in those which are available. Enrollment in both academic and vocational programs has increased since the requirement to attend classes was eliminated and we adopted the policy of voluntary program participation.
The Federal Prison System includes the National Institute of Corrections (N.I.C.), which provides training, research and technical assistance when requested by Federal, state and local correctional agencies and organizations. During the past year, a national jail center was established under the auspices of N.I.C. to serve as a useful resource to city and county detention facilities. The Institute has also provided training programs available to local agencies and assistance to communities that wish to develop and implement minimum standards.
We believe the funding level authorization request for Fiscal Year 1979 will enable the Federal Prison System to fulfill its goal to provide safe and humane confinement.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other Members of the Committee may have.
Mr. CARLSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to appear before the full committee. This is my first chance to meet with the entire committee.
I would like to introduce my colleagues. On my right is Gary R. Mote, assistant director, and on my left is Jim Meeker, a member of my staff.
Mr. Chairman, the request focuses on two primary issues. First is the severe overcrowding in our institutions. At the present time we have an inmate population of 29,700. This is 6,000 over rated capacity and, obviously, presents a problem in terms of limited accommodations, and our desire to provide a safe and humane environment for offenders committed to custody by the courts.
The inmate population reached an all-time high last August of over 30,400. It did decrease slightly during the fall months. During the last several months, it has begun to climb again. We anticipate that the increase will continue and that the problem of overcrowding will remain with us at least in the short run.
The second issue I would like to address concerns the plan we have to close the three large penitentiaries which have been in operation now for nearly 75 years.
As I testified before Congressman Kastenmeier's subcommittee several years ago, the first priority is the large penitentiary situated on McNeil Island in Washington. It is a large institution, built in 1865, of five-tiered cell blocks with 8 to 10 inmates in a cell. It is difficult to manage and maintain.
As I indicated several years ago, we plan to close that institution once we can provide decent facilities for the Federal offenders committed by courts on the west coast.
In trying to address the two problem areas I cited, the problem of overcrowding and the problem of our closing McNeil, we have three thrust areas contained in the budget.
The first is the expansion of minimum-security camps.
We propose to open three additional camps at Danbury, Conn., Texarkana, Tex., and El Reno, Okla.
Our rationale is they are inexpensive to construct and also they are much less costly to operate once they are completed.
Beyond the expansion of prison camps, we also propose to expand the use of community treatment centers-halfway houses for offenders. They would be used for inmates about to be released from custody, and for individuals committed by the courts where the judge recommends that they spend a period of time in a halfway house.
We began the halfway house program in 1961. It has been expanded year by year. This year we are asking for a substantial expansion in terms of the number of dollars and the number of inmates that will go through that program during the course of fiscal year 1979.
The third basic area is the construction program. We have requested funds to build a 500-inmate facility near Phoenix, Ariz., which would serve a dual purpose. First, it would provide detention space critically needed to service the U.S. district court in Phoenix, and second, for youthful offenders committed to our custody who would be residents of Arizona when released.
In addition, we have requested a site to begin developing an adult western institution somewhere in the West, probably in the State of California.
Again, this impacts on our plans to close the large penitentiary at McNeil Island. That was a quick summary. I would be pleased to answer questions you or your colleagues may have.
Chairman RODINO. We will defer questions until each of you has testified.
Our next witness is Mr. Cecil C. McCall.
TESTIMONY OF CECIL C. McCALL, CHAIRMAN, U.S. PAROLE COMMISSION
Mr. MCCALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. I will submit the entire statement for the record. I will attempt to summarize.
Chairman RODINO. It will be inserted at this point.
[The prepared statement of Mr. McCall follows:]
STATEMENT OF CECIL C. MCCALL, CHAIRMAN, U.S. Parole COMMISSION
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am pleased to appear before you today in support of the U.S. Parole Commission's authorization request for fiscal year 1979.
As you may be aware, the responsibilities and procedures to be followed by the U.S. Parole Commission are quite specifically delineated by the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act of 1976. This major revision of Federal parole statute was passed by the Congress after a number of years of study, as well as administrative innovation by the former Board of Parole.
This statute provides for a nine member Commission, the use of hearing panels to conduct parole interviews and revocation hearings, the establishment of ex