Harley Lappin will retire as the Justice Department Bureau of Prisons Director on May 7.
Lappin, a career public administrator, has led the agency that has jurisdiction over the federal prison system since April 2003, overseeing more than 100 prisons and the care of about 200,000 inmates. He is the seventh Bureau of Prisons Director since the agency’s creation in 1930.
The Director has held various administrative posts at the bureau since his start as a case manager at a Texarkana, Texas, federal prison in 1985. He was warden at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., when Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed at the facility in 2001.
“I am grateful for Director Lappin’s wise counsel, as well as his dedication to the Justice Department,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “And I am certain that, for years to come, the Bureau of Prisons and the American people will continue to benefit from his enduring contributions.”
Holder also thanked the Director for his “invaluable insights” on ways to improve inmate rehabilitation and development and tackle prison overcrowding.
Earlier this month, Lappin pleaded with House members for more funding to handle a growing prison population and allow DOJ to use a Thomson, Ill., correctional facility for maximum-security prisoners who are crowding prisons. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) fiercely opposed the use of the Thomson prison. The chairman of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and science subcommittee said he did not trust DOJ assurances that the facility would not house Guantanamo Bay detainees once slated for the prison.
Wolf said the Bureau of Prisons should devote its energy to lowering recidivism through prison work programs and rehabilitation along with working on proposals for early releases.
A key House subcommittee chairman said Tuesday he does not trust Justice Department assurances that a facility once slated for Guantanamo Bay detainees would now be used only to help alleviate overcrowding in U.S. prisons.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and science subcommittee, told Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin at a hearing that he does not support DOJ plans to use a Thomson, Ill., correctional facility for maximum-security prisoners.
The Thomson facility initially was considered as a location to house Guantanamo Bay detainees as part of President Barack Obama’s efforts to close the military prison in Cuba. But Congress last year banned the transfer of the prisoners to U.S. soil during fiscal 2011, which ends on Sept. 30.
The DOJ is requesting in its $28.2 billion fiscal 2012 budget request about $67 million to activate the facility, which the Department has yet to buy. The Department also requested in its fiscal 2011 budget $237 million to purchase the prison. But Congress has yet to approve a fiscal 2011 budget for the DOJ.
Lappin told Wolf that using the facility for Guantanamo Bay detainees is “not the case now.” Wolf jumped on the director’s remark, commending him for his “conscience.”
“The confidence level in the Attorney General and the Bureau of Prisons and the administration on this issue is not very high because they were going to go there,” Wolf said.
The Bureau of Prisons cares for about 200,000 inmates and is expected to take in thousands of more prisoners in the next year, Lappin said.
The DOJ will have to take general-population prisons and renovate them for maximum security inmates if Congress doesn’t allow them to use the Thomson facility, Lappin said. Without Thomson, he said, prisons will become more crowded.
Wolf seemed unimpressed.
The Republican said the Bureau of Prisons should devote its energy to reducing recidivism through prison work programs and rehabilitation in addition to working on proposals for early releases.
“I don’t think the Bureau of Prisons ought to get so wrapped up in Thomson,” Wolf said.
Lappin said his agency is working on early release proposals, has programs in place to help reduce recidivism and supports further efforts in those areas. But he stressed the importance of increased funding for the Bureau of Prisons.
“We cannot get through this fiscal year at [the fiscal 2010] level,” Lappin said.
The Justice Department will work to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years, according to a plan released by the White House Thursday.
The DOJ plans to lower by about 16 percent the amount of greenhouse gas it releases and the emissions generated from the production of electricity and steam for its facilities. The department also intends to reduce by about 4 percent greenhouse gas emissions from sources like employee travel and waste disposal.
President Barack Obama ordered federal agencies last year to develop sustainability performance plans.
“[The] DOJ will work to meet or exceed the requirements of [the presidential order], as outlined in the following Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan,” Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus wrote in the DOJ plan. “Through its annual strategic and budget planning processes, DOJ will continue to commit the human and financial resources necessary to increase energy efficiency; measure, report, and reduce GHG emissions from direct and indirect activities; conserve and protect water resources; eliminate waste; leverage acquisition to foster markets for sustainable technologies, products, and services; design, construct, maintain, and operate high-performance sustainable buildings; and strengthen the vitality and livability of the communities in which DOJ facilities are located.”
A major target of the DOJ’s sustainability efforts will be the Bureau of Prisons, which accounted for about 88 percent of the department’s energy consumption in fiscal 2009.
The Bureau of Prisons has started and will continue to initiate projects that will increase the use of solar and wind power, and those that decrease electricity and water consumption. The bureau will also continue to help inmates equip themselves with the skills necessary to hold “green” jobs in prison and after incarceration.
“BOP is not the only DOJ bureau working to achieve sustainability through its mission, but it is the largest,” the report said. “Other bureaus and DOJ components will integrate [sustainability] goals into their missions through [Environmental Management Systems], sustainable strategies, and other initiatives.”
The Justice Department intends to acquire a prison in Thomson, Ill., even if Congress won’t let the Obama administration move Guantanamo Bay detainees there, a DOJ official said Thursday.
Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich wrote in a letter to Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.), whose district includes Thomson, that the federal prison system is experiencing a “critical overcrowding problem” and is in “urgent need” of more high security facilities.
The fiscal year 2011 DOJ budget request calls for $237 million to purchase, set up and run the Thomson Correctional Center, according to Weich. But the budget request doesn’t say that the prison will hold Guantanamo Bay detainees, who President Barack Obama has pledged to move from the detention facility in order to close the U.S. military prison in Cuba.
“[T]he President has directed the Department of Justice to acquire the facility to fulfill both the goals of reducing federal prison overcrowding and transferring a limited number of detainees out of Guantanamo,” Weich wrote. “The Department has made clear, however, that it would be seeking to purchase the facility in Thomson even if detainees were not being considered for the transfer there.”
Republicans, including Manzullo, have discouraged the Obama administration from transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the prison.
Manzullo has said he supports the repurposing of the Illinois state prison to house more prisoners in the federal prison system, but not for holding Guantanamo Bay detainees.
“The federal prison system is way overcrowded and is in dire need of more space, and Thomson offers an ideal solution,” Manzullo said in a statement last November. “Moving Gitmo north to Thomson, Illinois, should not be part of the package, especially since the administration faces a huge hurdle in getting congressional approval for the terrorists to be detained in America.”
It will likely be several more months before the DOJ would be able to secure most of the funds requested for the Thomson prison.
The House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and science subcommittee held its first hearing on the DOJ Bureau of Prisons budget Thursday. It may take several more months before funding is allocated; the DOJ budget for fiscal year 2010 was not enacted until mid-December.
The DOJ can ask for some funds to start on security upgrades before the DOJ budget is enacted, according to the Tribune Washington Bureau, which first reported the story. But the Illinois state legislature must still approve the sale of the prison before the DOJ can begin work on the facility.
The Justice Department’s fiscal 2011 budget request asks for funding to buy the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois, but the proposal sent to Congress leaves out one key piece: it does not mention that the facility would be used to house accused terrorists currently held at Guantanamo Bay.
Instead, the Bureau of Prisons’ request seeks $170 million to buy and renovate the Thomson, Ill., prison because of inmate crowding conditions at high security facilities.
“Inmate crowding, especially at high security levels, is at maximum manageable proportions and additional bed space is crucial to provide some relief for staff and inmates,” the request states. “Inmate crowding that is not addressed will continue to endanger staff, inmates, and the community.”
According to a DOJ spokeswoman, the department’s fiscal 2011 budget also requests an additional $67 million to upgrade the facility to a high security federal penitentiary. In all, the DOJ is seeking $237 million for use on the facility.
The Bureau of Prison’s budget proposal says that high security facilities are operating at 51 percent over capacity and that the trend is “projected to worsen in future years, as the population continues to outpace capacity.”
As of May 2009, according to the request, 18,630 high security inmates — or 93 percent of all high security population in federal facilities — were double bunked. Under the BOP standards, no more than 25 percent of high security inmates should be double bunked. The Thomson facility would provide an additional 1,600 high security cells.
The request does mention that prisons have taken on significantly greater risks because of several high-profile terrorists already housed in the federal prison system including former al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, among others.
The final sale of the prison still has several hurdles to overcome. In Illinois, the state legislature voted last month to require the governor to obtain approval from the legislature before selling state properties worth more than $1 million — a new requirement that would apply to the state-owned Thomson facility.
For their part, federal officials have tried to focus on the benefits the purchase would bring to the local community. Harley Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons told The Christian Monitor that of the 850 to 900 staff positions at the prison, 60 percent would be local. Lappin estimated that 1,200 to 1,700 private-sector jobs will be created as a result of prison activity – all indirect ways the prison will create jobs and reduce unemployment.