WASHINGTON — As states throughout the country close prisons, implement population reduction measures and cut programming to overcome budgetary deficits, the federal government proposes to increase 2011 spending on federal prisons by almost $528 million.
The Obama administration’s $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal year 2011 proposes appropriating $29.2 billion to the Department of Justice — an increase of almost 5.5 percent, including a $527.5 million hike in funding for federal prison operations and for improved security for courthouses and members of the judiciary, according to reports.
The administration’s budget proposal includes increases for the Bureau of Prisons, the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, the U.S. Parole Commission and the U.S. Marshals Service to support agency ability to continue to confine offenders under appropriate conditions.
The boost in appropriations would increase the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ total budget to almost $7 billion as U.S. Bureau of Statistics projections forecast the current federal prison population of about 213,000 inmates to swell by approximately 7,000 during the coming fiscal year.
The administration’s budget would increase assistance to state, local and tribal law enforcement by $722.5 million and also directs a total of almost $449 million to public safety in tribal territory. The budget proposal would also direct additional resources to fund FBOP prison and detention programs and to support effective re-entry programs, officials say.
The administration’s spending plan lies in stark contrast to public safety spending plans at the state and local level, which have seen officials from Michigan to Florida shuttering correctional facilities and cutting back inmate programming and services.
Many states, including California, are implementing population reduction measures, such as the expansion of early release programs or elimination of parole revocation for technical violations.
At mid-year 2009, the FBOP was double-bunking more than 18,000 high-security inmates — more than 90 percent of the high-security population held in federal prisons. Federal standards stipulate that the double-bunking of high-security inmates must be capped at 25 percent of the high-security population.
Systemwide, federal prisons are operating at approximately 35 percent in excess of rated capacity. High-security federal facilities are already operating at more than 50 percent in excess of rated capacity, and the problem is forecast to intensify as projected inmate population increases continue to outpace bed capacity systemwide, federal officials say.
“Inmate crowding, especially at high security levels, is at maximum manageable proportions and additional bed space is crucial to provide some relief for staff and inmates,” according to the FBOP.
In addition to addressing overcrowding problems and projected population increases, the administration’s budget proposal would direct almost 50 percent of the additional funding to finance President Obama’s plan to close the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
The budget request proposes releasing $237 million for the purchase of Thomson Correctional Center, a vacant state supermax facility in Thomson, Ill., to house some detainees once Guantanamo is shut down.
The Justice Department’s funding request for fiscal year 2011 earmarks $170 million for the purchase of Thomson. The prison-spending proposal, which cites overcrowding at high-security facilities as the primary justification, would allocate an additional $67 million to upgrade five of Thomson’s eight housing pods for use as a 1,600-bed high-security federal penitentiary.
The Department of Defense, which could spend up to $350 million to substantially enhance security at the prison with new perimeter fencing and to upgrade cells to house alleged terrorists and Guantanamo detainees, would operate three of Thomson’s housing pods.