Statement of Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
For a Hearing on the Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Prisons October 22, 2013
Good morning, Chairmen Leahy and, Whitehouse, Ranking Members Grassley and Graham, and Members of Committee. I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the operations, achievements, and challenges of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Bureau). While I was appointed Director in December 2011, I have been with the Bureau for nearly 25 years, having started as a correctional officer and then holding many positions including Warden and Assistant Director.
I cannot begin without acknowledging that this past February the Bureau suffered tragic losses with the murders of two of our staff. On February 25th, Officer Eric Williams, a Correctional Officer at the United States Penitentiary in Canaan, Pennsylvania, was working in a housing unit when he was stabbed to death by an inmate. The death of Officer Williams reminds all of us that our work on behalf of the American people is dangerous. Every day when our staff walks into our institutions they willingly put their lives on the line to protect society, one another, and inmates in their care. On February 26th, Lieutenant Osvaldo Albarati was shot and killed while driving home from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. This incident is still under investigation. We will always honor the memories of Officer Williams and Lt. Albarati, and their losses further underscore the challenges the dedicated men and women working for the Bureau face daily. While there are many facets to our operations, the foundation for it all is the safe, secure, and orderly operation of institutions, and each and every staff member in the Bureau is critical to this mission.
The mission of the Bureau is two-fold: to protect society by confining offenders in prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure, and to ensure that inmates are actively participating in reentry programming that will assist them in becoming law-abiding citizens when they return to our communities. I am deeply committed to both parts of the mission. Yet continuing increases in the inmate population pose ongoing challenges for our agency. As the nation’s largest correctional agency, the Bureau is responsible for the incarceration of over 219,000 inmates. System-wide, the Bureau is operating at 36 percent over rated capacity and crowding is of special concern at higher security facilities, with 51 percent crowding at high security facilities and 45 percent at medium security facilities. We are grateful for the support Congress recently provided to activate new facilities in Berlin, New Hampshire; Hazelton, West Virginia; Yazoo, Mississippi; and Aliceville, Alabama. When fully activated, these facilities will assist us somewhat with reducing crowding for our inmates; however, even with these institutions coming online, decreasing our crowding remains a critical challenge.
The safety of staff is always a top priority, and we use all available resources to secure our institutions. We continue to take a variety of steps to mitigate the effects of crowding in our facilities, and are confident the policy changes the Attorney General recently announced to recalibrate America s federal criminal justice system will provide us even more assistance. These changes, part of the Department of Justice s (Department) "Smart on Crime" initiative, will help ensure that federal resources are used more efficiently by focusing on top law enforcement priorities.