The BOP monitors some of the oldest and sickest individuals in prison and it has a problem: it has been undercounting the number of convicts under its care.

Linda Evans, U.s. Parole Comimission

The U.S. Parole Commission’s miscounting came to light when self-described math wonk and Berkeley law professor Chuck Weisselberg spotted something peculiar this year as he reviewed an annual report from the government.

The report claimed the number of people in prison who were convicted before late 1987 had climbed by 69 percent in one year – “inconceivable,” Weisselberg added.

These are senior citizens serving federal sentences,” he noted.

Linda Evans

“They’re the oldest and most vulnerable group of people in the federal prison system and they seem to have fallen through the cracks.”


Linda Evans, who spent more than 16 years in the “care” of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said she was counted “at least eight times a day.”

Evans hears from many people still behind prison in her job as an advocate. She’s scared the government is failing them, and that the basis of the miscounting is simply that it doesn’t care.

U.S. Parole Commission

U.s. Parole Commission
U.S. Parole Commission

The commission was intended to go out of business in 1992. But Congress continues to prolong its mandate every year, even though the panel that formerly had five members making decisions about federal parole release now only has two.

“You have this agency that’s operated in total darkness within the Department of Justice without any interest or oversight by Congress,” “And then in the fall of each year when the commission is about to expire people panic and reauthorize the agency.”

Weisselberg added.

The advocates are coming out now because they don’t want that to happen again this autumn. They argue there’s plenty of time for the Justice Department and Congress to establish a plan for the few hundred older people in prison, possibly, to transfer those cases to judges.

In a written statement, the Parole Commission told NPR it had modified the way they count these so-called “old law” offenders to make it more accurate.

The commission said it believes the number of old law convicts under its jurisdiction will be zero by 2038, when it factors in parole releases and deaths by natural causes.

Source: NPR Vermont