Federal Prisons Need $2 Billion for Maintenance

All 123 Federal Bureau of Prisons institutions require maintenance, with a long list of unfunded modernization and repair needs.   June 2, 2023

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor 

Deferred maintenance makes the biggest headlines when the facilities struggling to cope are K-12 schools, universities and government office buildings. But as a new federal report reveals, the problem is hardly limited to these facilities. 

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) recently estimated that the cost for needed, major repairs of its prisons as of May 2022 was approaching $2 billion, according to a new report evaluating BOP efforts to maintain and construct correctional institutions. How debilitating is the problem? All 123 of the BOP’s institutions require maintenance, with a long and growing list of unfunded modernization and repair needs, and three of these institutions are in such critical disrepair that they are fully or partially closed. 

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) also launched a web page with photos and videos documenting the condition of prison cells, cell blocks and kitchen, dining and other areas at five BOP institutions — FCI Terminal Island, USP Atlanta, FTC Oklahoma City, CI Taft and MCC New York. 

The DOJ OIG found that the BOP’s efforts to address these issues were hampered by two major factors: a mismatch between available and needed funding and the absence of a well-defined infrastructure strategy. 

The audit found that the BOP’s budget requests have been far below its own estimates of resource needs. For example, BOP sought less than $200 million for its infrastructure needs from Congress in 2022, and Congress appropriated $59 million. Consequently, the resources available to address BOP’s maintenance needs are limited, and in many cases, necessary repairs cannot be completed in a timely manner . 

At the same time, the audit found that Congress has set aside over $1 billion for the BOP to construct two new institutions, but these funds remain largely unspent, the projects have been in the planning stages for over a decade, and the BOP’s requests each year that Congress cancel one of these projects and rescind the funds have not been acted on. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 


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