Best of the Week


AP’s ongoing investigation of Federal Bureau of Prisons reveals inmate deaths, sexual assault

FILE - In this July 6, 2020, photo, a sign for the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons is displayed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The federal prison system has been placed on a nationwide lockdown after two inmates were killed and two others were injured on Jan. 31, 2022, during a gang altercation at a federal penitentiary in Texas. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)


A combination of beat work and investigative reporting led Washington,D.C.’s Mike Balsamo and New York’s Mike Sisak to a pair of scoops on inmate deaths in Texas and sexual assaults in California,revealing continued problems inside what is supposed to be the flagship model of corrections: the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The AP pair,who virtually own the federal prisons beat, have investigated BOP’s operations since billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein was found hanging in his cell at a federal lockup in New York City in 2019.

This time they received a tip that a major fight inside a federal prison in Beaumont,Texas, had left inmates dead and wounded. Throughout the day they worked sources until they could alert a story that two inmates were dead and two more were wounded in an altercation involving members of the violent MS-13 street gang — and that the federal corrections system had gone into a nationwide lockdown.

The story won widespread play and credit by news outlets from The New York Times to CBS News.

Many reporters would have been satisfied with a scoop that tens of thousands of inmates had been locked down in scores of facilities, but Balsamo and Sisak had more.

Within days they completed a monthslong investigation into allegations of sexual assault and mistreatment at the federal women’s prison in Dublin,California. The work included internal documents, statements and recordings from inmates. Their reporting also included interviews with current and former prison employees and a review of thousands of pages of court records from criminal and civil cases involving Dublin prison staff.

Together,they detailed how inmates’ allegations against members of the mostly male staff were ignored or set aside, how prisoners could be sent to solitary confinement for reporting abuse and how officials in charge of preventing and investigating sexual misconduct were themselves accused of abusing inmates or neglecting their concerns.

For keeping the troubled agency under scrutiny and showing that the departures of top officials alone won’t solve BOP’s issues — or stop AP’s investigation — Balsamo and Sisak are AP’s Best of the Week — Second Winners.

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