The Office of the U.S. Inspector General has released its annual report of the Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Justice for 2013. While the Inspector General states that he places no priority on any particular challenge, all are equally pressing, a recurring one from years past is the growing population and costs of the federal American Prison system and the effect it is having on the justice system as a whole.
According to the report, growing population sizes and the rising costs of inmate care are resulting in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) budget being consumed more and more by prisoner care and safety. These costs are, according to report, forcing the department to make decisions between dealing with overcrowding in prisons and increasing or continuing efforts to pursue criminals.
In a recent speech to the American Bar Association, the Deputy Attorney General commented that the costs of the prisons system is “unsustainable” and presents “a crisis that … has the potential to swallow up so many important efforts in the fight against crime.” These efforts for which the Deputy Attorney General claimed that every dollar spent on prisons and detention was a dollar being pulled away from enforcement efforts such as “violent crime, drug cartels, public corruption cases, financial fraud cases, human trafficking cases, [and] child exploitation” among others.
Unfortunately, there appear to be no signs that the amount of money the DOJ spends on prisons and detention will slow. Projections place the amount of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ budget will grow from 25% of its total discretionary budget to 28% of its total discretionary budget by 2018. According to the Inspector General, the DOJ has a few opportunities to reduce its costs using existing programs. These opportunities include continuing and improving the rate of implementation of the International Prisoner Treaty Transfer Program, the compassionate release program, and addressing the increasing number of offenses that are criminal under federal law.
The report states that there are an estimated “10,000 to 100,000 federal regulations that can be enforced criminally.”
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.