May 23, 2024

Bureau Of Prisons Facility In Oregon Is Focus Of Government Report

Walter Pavlo

The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report of FCI Sheridan, one of the federal Bureau of Prisons complexes located across the United States. The report highlighted problem areas specifically at Sheridan but most are simply challenges that exist across the BOP. The report reflects the results of another unannounced inspection of a BOP facility (see reports here for Tallahassee and Waseca).

OIG concluded that Sheridan has “... substantial shortages of Correctional Officers and healthcare workers―which is an issue at many BOP institutions—have created widespread and troubling operational challenges at FCI Sheridan that substantially impact the health, welfare, and safety of employees and inmates.” BOP’s Director Colette Peters, has visited a number of prisons across the country and recently closed the troubled women’s prison at FCI Dublin (California) after government agents swarmed the facility in March 2024. The Warden, chaplain and other corrections officers were indicted on charges of raping female inmates.

The OIG said that it planned to conduct a number of these unannounced visits and Sheridan is now added to facilities with major issues. OIG found substantial staff shortages, a problem for the BOP across the country, led to FCI Sheridan not having available Correctional Officers to escort inmates to external medical providers (inmates must be accompanied by staff to medical appointments or hospital stays). Specifically, OIG noted that during their inspections 101 outside appointments had been canceled between January and November 2023 due to the lack of available employees to escort inmates to these appointments.

OIG also found serious shortages among FCI Sheridan employees who facilitate the BOP’s Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) where only 5 of 16 of employee positions were filled at the time of their visit. It should be noted that other prisons have recently stopped the RDAP program, which can reduce prison sentences by up to one year as a result of success completion. At FCI Sheridan, the shortages led to the institution being unable to offer RDAP to many eligible inmates who had been transferred from other institutions specifically to participate in FCI Sheridan’s program. Three days after OIG’s inspection concluded, BOP Director Colette Peters suspended the RDAP at the FCI Sheridan’s minimum-security prison camp.

Lockdowns have also been a noted problem across the BOP where there are too few employees (specifically corrections officers) who are not available to work the institutions. At FCI Sheridan, OIG concluded that the Correctional Officer vacancy rate has meant that institution management is not always able to fill all inmate-monitoring posts and therefore lacks the employees it needs to safely supervise inmates. As a result, inmates are routinely confined to their cells during daytime hours and are therefore often unable to participate in programs and recreational activities. In addition to RDAP, there were 3 vacancies in the Psychology Services Department (in addition to 11 vacancies among drug treatment employees), as well as 3 vacancies in the Education Department, which limited program offerings and contributed to waitlists at FCI Sheridan.

Related to medical care, OPIG also noted a number of violations in medical care, specifically; 1) removing medication from its packaging hours before the next pill line was set to commence, thereby promoting the risk of an administration error because the employee who removes the medication from the packaging was not always the employee who later dispensed it, 2) BOP staff reused the same bag when crushing different medications. This can cause drug cross contamination, which can cause an inmate to have adverse reaction to the contaminated medication and 3) BOP did not consistently identify each patient by examining two forms of identification before dispensing medication to them.

OIG described one situation where an inmate took matters into his own hands to get medical treatment, writing, “... we found that, just prior to our inspection, an inmate feigned a suicide attempt in order to receive medical attention for an untreated ingrown hair that had become infected. When finally examined after the feigned suicide attempt, he required hospitalization for 5 days to treat the infection.”

Finally, OIG discovered that FCI Sheridan did not centrally track the number of all allegations of inmate-on-inmate sexual misconduct reported to employees. The failure to accurately track these allegations undermines the ability of both FCI Sheridan and the BOP to collect data consistent with Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

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Article originally published on by Walter Pavlo (May 23, 2024)

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