The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) “Compassionate Release Program” seeks to reduce prison overcrowding by releasing elderly and infirmed inmates. However, a recent congressional hearing revealed that five federal prisons are currently empty, including one purchased for $165 million last October from the state of Illinois.
According to the BOP, a prisoner may be considered for the Compassionate Release Program if the “have a terminal illness or disease” and “have been given a life expectancy of less than one year.” During a House Judiciary hearing last month, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) questioned Assistant Attorney General Lee Lofthus as to the need for such a program given the purchase of the currently empty Thomson prison complex in Illinois and four other empty prisons.
“Why do we have five prisons sitting empty?” asked Sensenbrenner.
Lofthus said the purchase of the Thomson facility was made to increase high-security bed space. The system, he said, “is 52% overcrowded in the high security level.” The purchase, said Lofthus, is “getting value for the taxpayer.”
“Well, we’ve got four other prisons that are sitting empty,” said Sensebrenner.
Lofthus conceded that two of the four prisons were operating at “approximately 10%” capacity. The other two, he said, include one still under construction and another that was recently completed.
As CNS News reports, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General report states that the compassionate release program “provides cost savings for the BOP and helps the BOP with its growing prison population and significant capacity issues.”