The Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is responsible for the custody and care of federal offenders. BOP's population has increased from about 145,000 in 2000 to about 217,000 in 2011 and BOP is operating at 38 percent over capacity. There is no longer parole for federal offenders and BOP has limited authority to affect the length of an inmate's prison sentence. BOP has some statutory authorities and programs to reduce the amount of time an inmate remains in prison, which when balanced with BOP's mission to protect public safety and prepare inmates for reentry, can help reduce crowding and the costs of incarceration. GAO was asked to address: (1) the extent to which BOP utilizes its authorities to reduce a federal prisoner's period of incarceration; and (2) what factors, if any, impact BOP's use of these authorities. GAO analyzed relevant laws and BOP policies; obtained nationwide data on inmate participation in relevant programs and sentence reductions from fiscal years 2009 through 2011; conducted site visits to nine BOP institutions selected to cover a range of prison characteristics and at each, interviewed officials responsible for relevant programs; and visited four community-based facilities serving the institutions visited. Though not generalizable, the information obtained from these visits provided insights.
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