US federal prison failures led to inmate deaths, Justice Dept review finds

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 10:10 AM

By Katharine Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Safety failures by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons including the widespread use of single cells and failure to keep out drugs and weapons led to preventable inmate deaths, the Justice Department watchdog said on Thursday.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz blamed deaths on BOP’s “operational and managerial deficiencies” that also included staffing challenges that left inmates without proper care and supervision.

“It is critical that the BOP address these challenges so it can operate safe and humane facilities and protect inmates in its custody and care,” Horowitz said, announcing the report.

The report was based on a review of 344 inmate deaths at BOP facilities including jails, prisons and other institutions from 2014-2021 that were caused by suicide, homicide, accident or unknown factors. Many of the accidental deaths involved drug overdoses and suicides accounted for more than half of the deaths, the report said.

“Any unexpected death of an adult in custody is tragic … we have already taken many steps to mitigate these deaths,” Colette Peters, BOP director wrote in a response to the report.

The review began in 2020 after congressional requests to investigate inmate homicides and suicides.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama)