How to do Business With The Bureau of Prisons
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The Bureau of Prisons welcomes and encourages your participation in the acquisitions process.

You may participate in the Federal acquisition process by receiving and responding to solicitations that you believe your company can perform. You may obtain copies of these solicitations via the Federal Business Opportunity website (FBO).

Receiving a Solicitation

Regardless of the method of acquisition, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) maximizes competition consistent with the purchase of supplies or services necessary to meet its needs. This is done by notifying interested vendors registered in the System for Award Management at, placing notices of planned acquisitions on the Government electronic point of entry, or displaying a copy of the solicitation information pertaining to the requirement at the contracting office.

Government Electronic Point of Entry

All Federal agencies are required to post notices of proposed Government purchases exceeding $25,000, subcontracting leads, contract awards, sales of surplus property, and foreign business opportunities to the Government electronic point of entry system known as Federal Business Opportunities (FBO), at Purchases that are to be made exclusively from Small Businesses are also identified. The FBO website is maintained by the General Services Administration (GSA). Since the use of this website is mandatory for all Federal agencies, it is the most comprehensive and effective method of receiving solicitations. Companies wishing to do business with the BOP are strongly encouraged to become familiar with FBO and to register for notifications of solicitations in their area of expertise.

Faith-Based and Community Organization Partnerships

The Bureau of Prisons partners with faith-based and community/neighborhood organizations to address the life skill needs of inmates and to provide essential support to empower successful community reentry. In particular, Chaplains in the Bureau of Prisons operate faith-based reentry programs using mentors to promote accountability and provide guidance to inmates in transition. The Life Connections/Threshold Program Mentor Training video is available here for review.

Faith-based and Community-based organizations can submit offer/bids/quotations equally with other organizations for contracts for which they are eligible.

Methods of Acquisition

Participation in the BOP acquisition process is the same as with any other Federal agency. BOP Contracting Officers use various methods to buy supplies and services that help to fulfill the agency's mission. Three contracting methods - sealed bidding, competitive negotiations, and non-competitive negotiations - are discussed below. It is the Contracting Officer's responsibility to select the method that best meets the needs of the BOP.

Sealed Bidding - The sealed bidding method of procurement is used in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 14 when the following four conditions exist:

  1.   Time permits the solicitation, submission, and evaluation of sealed bids;
  2.   Award will be made on the basis of price and other price-related factors;
  3.   Discussions with responding bidders will not be necessary; and
  4.   Receipt of more than one sealed bid is anticipated.

If any of these conditions does not exist, the negotiation method must be used.

In sealed bidding, the solicitation document is referred to as an Invitation for Bids (IFB). The IFB is generated and posted to the FBO website. All bids are submitted sealed and kept in a secure place until the time and date specified in the IFB. Bids are then publically opened, read, and made available for public inspection. A contract award is made to the responsible bidder whose bid, conforming to the IFB, represents the best value to the BOP, considering only price and price-related factors specified in the IFB.

Contracting by Negotiation - As stated in FAR Part 15, the solicitation document for the negotiation method is commonly referred to as a Request for Proposal (RFP). The RFP provides all the information necessary for submitting a proposal, including:

  •   Where and when proposals must be submitted;
  •   The technical description and quantity of the required supplies or services; and
  •   Time requirements for delivery or performance.

In competitive negotiations, vendors are asked to submit proposals and support them as necessary with information such as statements of estimated costs or other evidence of reasonable price, data on the company's management plans, past performance information, and information to demonstrate and support the company's technical capabilities for the job.

If necessary, the Contracting Officer establishes a competitive range and negotiates with each vendor whose offer falls within the competitive range. The Contracting Officer analyzes, questions, explores, and carefully negotiates all areas of the proposal, including cost and profit, performance requirements, delivery schedule, and methods of payment. The award, which is publicized via FBO, represents the best value to the BOP, considering factors such as technical competence, delivery, price, and past performance.

Non-Competitive Acquisitions - At times, circumstances do not permit the use of competitive procedures. Federal agencies may then use the negotiation method on a non-competitive or a very restricted competitive basis. Some circumstances under which procurement actions may be non-competitive or restricted include:

  • Only one responsible source exists that can provide the required supply or service,
  • An unusual and compelling urgency exists, or
  • A statute authorizes or requires that an acquisition be made through another agency (e.g., Small Business Administration) or from a specified source (utilities).

Simplified Acquisition Procedures

Simplified acquisitions are valued at less than $150,000. Simplified Acquisition Procedures (SAP) are defined in FAR Part 13 and involve obtaining either oral or written price quotes. The award is based on the quote that represents the best value to the BOP when price and other factors are considered.

Federal Supply Schedules

The BOP is further required by FAR to use the consolidated purchasing program offered by the GSA for certain common-use items for Federal agencies. GSA buys and stocks for resale to Government offices such items as office supplies, equipment, furniture, books, paper products, hardware, and office machines. It also leases and purchases for Federal agencies such items and services as telecommunications; terminals for teletype; data and facsimile transmission; and guard, janitorial, dry cleaning, and utility services, to name a few examples.

GSA purchases these goods and services and many others by use of Federal Supply Schedules (FSS) that are indefinite delivery contracts that permit agencies to place orders directly with suppliers. Most FSS awards are competitively let by GSA for specific periods. Interested businesses should contact the nearest GSA Business Service Center for more information on how to compete for this type of contract.