Is DOJ Being Gouged on Jail Rent?
By Stephanie Woodrow | March 21, 2022 1:59 pm

With rent soaring, the Justice Department must do a better job of negotiating the rate it pays to house federal detainees in non-federal facilities, the department’s  Office of Inspector General said in an audit report released Monday.

DOJ spent more than $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2010 on non-federal detention space, which is leased from state and local governments, as a result of a  shortage of federally owned detention space. This is an increase from previous years.

Therefore, OIG recommends that the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) and the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee (OFDT), which are responsible for negotiating intergovernmental agreements with state and local detention officials to hold detainees for a “jail-day rate,”  take “significant actions before the price analysis negotiation strategy it currently uses can be considered an effective tool for USMS specialists to justify fair and reasonable jail-day rates.”

In other words, the department isn’t haggling enough over the rent it pays.

According to OIG, most of the 60,000 federal detainees are housed in state and local facilities and therefore fall under the “jail-day rate.” Prior to March 2006, the rate was determined by each facility’s reported costs. However, recently the rate has been restructured to include other factors that take into account estimated rates from other local facitilies and government estimates.

The average daily rate has increased from $58 in FY 2005 to more than $65 in FY 2010, according to the audit. OFTD attributes this to overall rising costs and an increased number of detainees.

In the report, OIG made 15 recommendations to help OFDT and USMS better negotiate, justify and document rates. Among the recommendations were validating facility-submitted information; better using operating expenses to measure whether proposed rents are reasonable; and identifying exactly which facilities are similar to the requesting facility and using only those facilities for the basis of comparisons.

Although the OFDT and USMS generally agreed with the recommendations, they had some objections. The major objection, as outlined in a letter from Federal Detention Trustee Michael A. Pearson to Raymond J. Beaudet, Assistant Inspector General for Audit, relates to how the rate is calculated, with Pearson arguing for a different formula than the one recommended by OIG.


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