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					                                                              THE LEGAL
                                                              INVESTIGATOR
                            The Official Journal of The National Association of Legal Investigators August 2003

         INVESTIGATION OF CRIMES IN THE BUREAU OF PRISONS
                                                    Article By: H. Ellis Armistead, CLI

                                                    THE GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATION                             ACCESS TO THE SCENE
                                                    The investigation of violent crimes within a             Unlike most other crime scenes, the defense
                                                    Federal Institution is conducted jointly by              investigator is severely restricted in access to
                                                    agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation            the scene. Access to the scene must be
                                                    (FBI) and the staff of the Bureau of Prisons             secured through he BOP and may require a
                                                    Special Investigative Service (SIS). While the           court order. Photographs and measurements
                                                    investigations are conducted concurrently,               are taken under the supervision of BOP and
                                                    their objectives often diverge. The FBI con-             they will generally screen all documents and
                                                    ducts a criminal investigation and if a suspect          photographs produced by the investigator
                                                    is identified the case is referred to the United         prior to their release.
                                                    States Attorney. The SIS investigation focuses
                                                    primarily on infractions of rules and policy by          ACCESS TO INMATE WITNESSES
                                                    both inmate and staff.                                   The defense investigator faces a particular
                                                                                                             challenge in interviewing inmate witnesses.
                                                    The defense investigator must be aware that              The first challenge is locating and gaining
                                                    information on a particular crime is contained           access to the witness.
                        Ellis H. Armistead          in both the files of the FBI and the SIS and
                                                    should be part of the discovery process in a             It is common for the BOP, after a serious
A CRISIS IN THE PRISON SYSTEM                       criminal proceeding. Given that a violent                crime, to transfer inmates to other institutions,
Prisons in the United States are housing a          crime within an institution indicates a failure          often far from the institution where the inci-
record number of inmates both at the local,         on the part of the BOP, it is not uncommon for           dent took place. The Defense investigator
state and federal levels....Sentencing guide-       the BOP to be less that forth coming with                must be prepared to travel extensively inter-
lines and, “three strikes” laws have increased      investigative information that maybe critical in         viewing inmates in institutions throughout the
the length of sentences. The increase in sen-       the defense of an accused inmate.                        country.
tence lengths and the inability of the govern-
ment to provide adequate facilities for the
                                                    Specifically, the investigator should be looking         There is a routine for arranging legal visits
inmates has created a crisis in the the prison
                                                    for the following information:                           with inmates. The routine may vary slightly
systems. Nowhere is this crisis felt more
                                                                                                             from institution to institution, but it is generally
acutely than in the Federal Bureau of Prisons
                                                    • SIS interviews of staff and inmates                    the same through out the system.
(BOP).
                                                    • Photographs and other evidence seized by
                                                      the SIS independent of the FBI                         • The investigator must identify the location of
I will focus on the investigation for defense of
                                                    • Cell rotation logs                                       the inmate witness. (www.bop.gov).
inmates charged with violent crimes while
                                                    • Disciplinary records                                   • The investigator must contact the inmate’s
incarcerated in the BOP. Many of the tech-
                                                    • Inmate medical records                                   counselor.
niques and problems that will be outlined are
                                                    • Gang affiliation files                                 • The investigator must submit a BOP form
applicable to other prison systems, while
                                                    • Razor logs (records of shaving equipment handed out)     signed by the defense attorney.
some are unique to the BOP.
                                                    • Cell inventory logs                                    • The visit must be approved by the warden
                                                    • Correctional officer (CO) staffing schedule              or assistant warden.
In March 2003, the BOP was housing 137,000
                                                    • BOP Procedures for investigation of crimes             • A date and time is set.
inmates in facilities across the country1. These
facilities are located throughout the United        • After-action reports compiled by BOP
                                                    • Internal memorandum specific to the case               Often, when contact is first made with the
States. The facilities include Maximum, United
                                                    • Central Inmate Monitoring (CMI) files                  counselor, the counselor will inquire as to the
States Penitentiaries, Federal Corrections
                                                    • Inmate work assignments.                               nature and the subject of the inquiry to be
Institutions, Federal Detention Centers,
                                                                                                             made of the inmate. The counselor will tell the
Federal Prison Camps and Federal Medical
                                                    The US Attorney’s office may not be forth                investigator that he or she must “check” with
Centers. A list of these facilities as well as an
                                                    coming with this information, telling defense            the inmate to determine if the inmate wishes
inmate locator service is located at
                                                    counsel that it is in the control of the BOP.            to meet with the investigator.
www.bop.gov.
                                                    The BOP may even have one of its staff attor-
                                                    neys enter an appearance in the case, as a               The proper response to this question is to:
Crimes of violence within the institutions can
                                                    “special United States Attorney”. The BOP                • explain the the nature of the inquiry is
be generally classified in two categories;
                                                    attorney will often attempt to block the release           confidential
inmate on inmate and inmate on staff. The
                                                    of BOP information citing “security” concerns.           • that the investigator understands that the
cache of weapons available to inmates varies
                                                    It is incumbent on the investigator to identify            inmate is not required to talk with the
from shanks to zip guns. Both produce very
                                                    the items needed and on the defense attorney               investigator.
serious injuries and at times death to the
victims.                                            to aggressively pursue the release of those
                                                    documents.
                                                             THE LEGAL
                                                             INVESTIGATOR
                            The Official Journal of The National Association of Legal Investigators August 2003



Continued from page

• that the investigator would like to meet per-  Inmates are often concerned about losing              The investigator should never promise any-
sonally with th inmate and explain the nature    privileges or even being transferred to another       thing to the inmate. Ethical considerations
of the inquiry and then let the inmate decide if institution as the result of cooperating with the     aside, unlike government investigators the
he or she wishes to talk.                        defense. By definition, a crime committed by          defense investigator in reality has little or
                                                 an inmate in custody of the BOP implies a             nothing to offer the inmate. Broken promises
This approach generally works, but there are failure by BOP to accomplish its mission. BOP             inevitably result in non-cooperation.
still times when the counselor will go to the    staff are alert to the fact that a defense inves-
inmate, tell the inmate that an investigator     tigation may uncover misconduct and negli-            Except in very unusual circumstances the
wants to conduct an interview and then report gence by BOP staff that is embarrassing to               tape recording of interviews inside of BOP
back to the investigator that the inmate is      the agency.                                           institution is forbidden. Most inmates are
refusing the interview and the visit is can-                                                           understandably reluctant to make written
celled.                                          On occasion, inmates may lie to get another           statements out of fear for their safety. It is
                                                 inmate in trouble, to cause the investigator          most productive for the investigator to pro-
Letters to inmates, with any detail of the case, problems, to make themselves seem impor-              duce a written or verbal report of the the inter-
should not be sent as the letters are read by    tant or just for the fun of it. Inmates are very      view to the attorney. Obviously there is some
BOP personnel and often other prisoners. An good at lying and often have access to the                 risk that the inmate may change his story, but
inappropriate letter may jeopardize the safety discovery on a certain case or may have                 the alternative may be getting no information
of an inmate as well as compromise the           obtained information via the prison grapevine.        at all. Following up with periodic notes or let-
investigation.                                   The investigator must make special efforts to         ters to the inmate, simply inquiring about their
                                                 corroborate all statements.                           well being and showing concern will often
THE INTERVIEW                                                                                          secure continued cooperation for an extended
Once the investigator has been approved for In the actual interview the investigator should            period.
the interview, preparation for the interview     be empathetic to the inmates plight, under-
must begin. Beyond the normal interview the standing of the system and treat the inmate                The defense investigation of crimes commit-
investigator is familiar with, there are special                                                       ted in the Bureau of Prisons presents unique
                                                 with respect. Initial resistance to being inter-
considerations for inmate interviews.                                                                  challenges to the investigator. Developing a
                                                 viewed can often be over come by just talking
                                                                                                       routine or protocol for conducting these inves-
                                                   about the inmate himself, his family, prison life
First, inmates are primarily concerned about                                                           tigations results in a higher quality work prod-
                                                   etc. An open and friendly approach by the
their personal safety. They carefully assess                                                           uct and increases the chances of a successful
                                                   investigator goes a long way in fostering
the impact making a statement may have on                                                              investigation.
                                                   communications.
their personal safety and their treatment by
BOP. An inmate who is considered a “snitch”
                                                                                                       1
                                                                                                        Lapin, Harly G. Bureau of Prisons, Weekly
or “rat” not only risks physical harm, but may                                                         Population Report. March 2003
be placed in the Special Housing by prison
staff.

				
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