The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice (OIG) released its findings on multiple investigations related to prison escapes, including an investigation at the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC), SPC, Beaumont, Texas, where the escape of four (4) inmates went unnoticed for more than 12 hours despite three (3) Inmate counts overnight during that time period.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates 122 facilities across the country. These facilities have different levels of security depending on the supervision necessary for the inmates. Those security levels are Minimum, Low, Medium and High (there are also administrative facilities such as Metropolitan Detention Centers and Medical Centers that house all levels of inmates). The least restrictive environment, as the name implies, is Minimal, also known as “Camps”. While “camping” may seem like a charming term that conjures up images of ponds, fishing, and tennis, that’s not the case. The prison camps are heavily monitored, but lack the strictest security measures, such as barbed wire fences, gun towers and several locked gates.
The camps are regulated with multiple inmate counts each day, security rounds to ensure there are no crimes (drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, talking on cell phones … all prohibited acts). However, the OIG issued a concerning report on the number of leak incidents along with some failure to report those leaks by BOP staff.
Inmates who escaped from the Beaumont FCC Beaumont camp had other inmates pose as them or place mannequins on their beds to fool correctional officers during nightly counts. The Beaumont camp is adjacent to a low security prison but on the grounds of a compound that has a high, medium and low security prison that houses almost 5,000 inmates (there are about 400 inmates in the camp). While BOP employees were not found to fail to perform their duties, the OIG identified security concerns that allowed inmates to escape. It should be noted that these inmates did not actually “escape” but rather left the compound to obtain contraband and were planning to return (no one is fleeing). Inmates leaving the compound generally pick up packages from others who drop off things like alcohol, drugs (usually marijuana), cell phones, and food (just what I’m hearing).
The OIG has discovered through multiple investigations that many independent federal prison camps and satellite prison camps (those adjacent to higher security prisons) have security weaknesses that in some cases have allowed inmates to escape undetected. In the incident that occurred in Beaumont, the evidence showed that the 4 inmates escaped from the facility after the 4:00 p.m. stand-up count (for which they were present) and that despite correctional officers taking the counts At 12:00 am, 3:00 am and 5:00 am, they were not found missing at that time.
As a result, the OIG sent the findings of its report to BOP Director Michael Carvajal and requested an update on the steps that will be taken to ensure more security in federal prison camps. The OIG recommended:
- The BOP must ensure that the alarms on all exterior building doors at FPC and SPC are in working order and must take appropriate measures to prevent tampering.
- The BOP must ensure that all existing video cameras at FPC and SPC are in working order.
- The BOP must install video cameras on all exterior doors of the building at the FPCs and SPCs, so that the BOP
- Control officers can watch the gates while the camp officers are busy performing their duties, such as counting inmates.
It seems that more security is approaching the federal prison camps.