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GAO reroutes request for prison probe



Published: Wed, June 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A federal spokeswoman said that prison overcrowding poses no danger.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

ELKTON -- It may be the U.S. Justice Department rather than the General Accounting Office that probes allegations of overcrowding and poor conditions at the federal prison here.

U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th, asked the GAO in April to conduct the probe.

Traficant lodged the request after being contacted by inmates and their families about conditions at the lockup, Ohio's only federal prison.

He hasn't divulged more details regarding the allegations.

GAO discussions: Jeff Nelligan, a GAO spokesman, said Tuesday that the GAO had extensive discussions with Traficant's staff regarding the allegations and the investigation request.

The GAO has advised Traficant's staff members that the Justice Department is better equipped to investigate, Nelligan said.

A spokesman for Traficant was unavailable to comment Tuesday.

Problem acknowledged: Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, has acknowledged that FCI Elkton and many other low-security federal prisons are overcrowded.

The overcrowding is caused primarily by an increase in the federal prison system's low-security inmate population.

Billingsley insisted, however, that the overcrowding does not pose a danger to inmates and staff.

Capacity, population: FCI Elkton consists of a low-security institution with a 1,536-inmate capacity and an adjacent low-security satellite facility with a 600-inmate capacity.

The prison's population report states that 1,884 prisoners are housed in the institution and 600 inmates are in the satellite facility.

leigh@vindy.com




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