61 Fed. Probation 53 (1997)
The Federal Bureau of Prisons: Its Mission, Its History, and Its Parnership with Probation and Pretrial Services

handle is hein.journals/fedpro61 and id is 55 raw text is: The Federal Bureau of Prisons:
Its Mission, Its History, and Its Partnership
With Probation and Pretrial Services
BY JOHN W. ROBERTS
Chief Communications and Archives, Federal Bureau of Prisons

HE FEDERAL Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a com-
ponent of the U.S. Department of Justice, has pri-
mary responsibility for housing sentenced fed-
eral offenders and shares responsibility with the U.S.
Marshals Service for housing inmates awaiting trial or
sentencing in federal courts. It works closely with the
U.S. probation and pretrial services system in such
areas as providing community corrections and pretrial
detention bedspace, offering alternative sanctions for
supervised release violators and probation violators,
determining the prison to which an inmate will be des-
ignated, and coordinating certain case management op-
erations and other program activities.
Historical Overview
Although the federal judiciary is more than 200 years
old, the first federal prisons did not appear until the
end of the 19th century, and the BOP itself was estab-
lished less than 70 years ago. Until the 1890s, there
were so few individuals convicted of violating federal
statutes that there was no pressing need for the federal
government to maintain its own places of incarceration,
apart from military prisons and U.S. Marshals' jails. In
accordance with the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Justice
Department simply housed most convicted federal of-
fenders in state prisons and county jails on a contract
basis.
In 1891, however, steadily increasing numbers of
federal offenders, overcrowding in state facilities, and
concerns over the conditions of confinement for federal
offenders prompted Congress to authorize the estab-
lishment of three United States Penitentiaries. The
first three penitentiaries, located in Leavenworth
(Kansas), Atlanta (Georgia), and McNeil Island (Wash-
ington), were joined in the 1920s by a youth reforma-
tory in Chillicothe, Ohio, a women's reformatory in
Alderson, West Virginia, and a federal jail (or detention
headquarters) in New York City.        L
Those early prisons operated within the Department
of Justice, under the nominal supervision of the Super-
intendent of Prisons. In practice, however, they oper-
ated virtually autonomously. Each had its own appro-

priation from Congress, albeit meager, and each was ad-
ministered by a warden who was politically appointed.
There was little or no inmate classification or program-
ming and minimal consistency of administration from
prison to prison.
By the late 1920s, prosecutions under the Volstead
(or Prohibition) Act and other new federal laws were
causing federal prisons to become desperately over-
crowded. Moreover, the haphazard administration of
federal prisons and the lack of central direction inhib-
ited federal prisons from responding effectively to ad-
vances in correctional philosophy that were being de-
veloped at that time, which stressed the classification
and individual treatment of offenders.
To address those problems, the Federal Bureau of
Prisons was established on May 14, 1930, by an act of
Congress. The new Bureau immediately undertook an
urgently needed program of prison expansion and im-
plemented the kind of firm, consistent administrative
control over federal prisons that previously had been
lacking. The -expansion and administrative reforms en-
abled the BOP to rid itself of political patronage jobs,
develop a better trained and more professional staff,
and improve conditions of confinement.'
In 1934, another act of Congress established Federal
Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI), to address the scourge of
potentially explosive inmate idleness. A wholly-owned
government corporation that went into business on
January 1, 1935, FPI operated factories in BOP facili-
ties that employed inmates to manufacture furniture,
textiles, brooms, printed material, military apparel, and
other products for sale exclusively to other federal
agencies. With the creation of FPI, each BOP inmate
had a meaningful work assignment-either working in
an FPI factory or performing work in support of prison
operations (such as food service, carpentry, janitorial
work, clerical assignments, groundskeeping). Keeping
inmates productively occupied became a critically im-
portant tool for managing inmates. Also known by its
tradename, UNICOR, FPI continues to be indispens-
able to safe prison operations.'
At the same time, the BOP was able to begin provid-
ing vastly improved educational and vocational train-

Vol. 61, No. 1

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