U.S. House Passes McBath’s Prison Oversight Bill

Dave Williams

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

Legislation establishing oversight of the federal prison system sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, has cleared the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bipartisan bill, which passed Tuesday with just two “no” votes and now moves to the U.S. Senate, would require the Justice Department’s Inspector General to conduct comprehensive inspections of the federal Bureau of Prisons’ 122 correctional facilities and provide recommendations to fix the problems it uncovers. The bureau would have 60 days to respond to all inspection reports with a corrective action plan.

The bill also would establish an independent ombudsman to investigate the health, safety, welfare, and rights of incarcerated people and staff. The ombudsman’s office would create a secure hotline and online form for family members, friends, and representatives of incarcerated people to submit complaints.

“Today’s vote marks significant progress in our work to make needed reforms to protect the staff and incarcerated individuals in our federal prison system,” McBath said Tuesday. “This is proof of what is possible when Democrats and Republicans work together for the benefit of the American people.”

“This is a major milestone,” added Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., who led an investigation into the federal prison system in 2022 and is sponsoring a Senate version of McBath’s bill. “My bipartisan Senate investigations of corruption, abuse, and misconduct in the federal prison system have revealed an urgent need to overhaul federal prison oversight.” 

The legislation has been endorsed by Families Against Mandatory Minimums, The Prison Fellowship, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and the Due Process Institute.