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The following chapter is excerpted from
Defending a Federal Criminal Case (© 2010).
These materials cannot be reproduced without the
expression written permission of the Federal
Defenders of San Diego, Inc.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1035

CHAPTER 19
THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS
by
Todd Bussert1
Henry Martin2

19.01 INTRODUCTION
In 2003, the federal Bureau of Prisons (Bureau or BOP) surpassed Texas to become the country’s
largest correctional system. As of 2009, approximately 200,000 prisoners are under its supervision.3
That figure represents not only 8.6 percent of the entire U.S. prison/jail population but also a four-fold
increase in the federal prison population since 1987, when the federal sentencing guidelines system was
implemented. Because Sentencing Commission data shows that nearly 90 percent of all convicted
defendants are sentenced to some term of imprisonment, the need to understand BOP policies and
practices is essential to effective representation.
A full listing of the Bureau’s institutions and offices, with contact information, can be found on
the agency’s website: http://www.bop.gov. On the home page is a map, divided between the various
regions, which can be clicked to display the institutions and offices within the region. Clicking on the
individual institutions brings up the home page for each. Also on the BOP website are program
statements4 (hereinafter “P.S.”), operating memoranda, and the Inmate Locator, which is also accessible

1

The former Associate Director of Client Services for the National Center on Institutions and
Alternatives (NCIA) and the former co-chair of NACDL’s Corrections Committee, Todd Bussert
(tbussert@bussertlaw.com) is a criminal defense attorney and CJA panel member in New Haven, Connecticut.
Portions of this chapter are drawn from articles Mr. Bussert wrote for the CHAM PION (©NACDL 2002, 2005).
2

Henry Martin is the Federal Defender for the Middle District of Tennessee. The authors welcome
feedback to ensure that the information herein remains relevant and current.
3

A February 2009 Pew Research Center study shows that 40 percent of the federal prison population
is Latino, a direct result of an increase in immigration prosecutions. The BOP reports that 39.5 percent of federal
prisoners are Black.
4

Program statements applicable to the topics addressed herein are cited within section headings.

19-1036

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

at (202) 307-3126.5 This chapter addresses BOP policies and practices with the needs of defendants and
defense counsel in mind.
19.02 ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
The Bureau’s Director and Office of General Counsel are situated at the Central Office in
Washington, D.C., as are the Health Services Division, the Correctional Programs Division and the
Information, Policy and Public Affairs Division. Analogous sections/officials can be found within each
of the regional offices: Western - Dublin, CA; North Central - Kansas City, KS; South Central - Dallas,
TX; Southeast - Atlanta, GA; Mid Atlantic - Annapolis Junction, MD; and Northeast - Philadelphia, PA.
Executive staff (i.e., the Director, Assistant Directors, and Regional Directors) meet quarterly to review
major issues and determine agency policy. The regional offices supervise the agency’s 180 facilities at
92 sites across the country plus 14 privately-managed secure facilities.6 Regions are further subdivided
by Community Corrections Offices (CCMs), which oversee contract community-based institutions
(halfway houses) and prisoners on prerelease home confinement. Although no longer tasked with
designation responsibilities, which are now handled from Texas (see below), CCM staff can be an
accessible source of information on policies and procedures that may impact how and where a client is
housed.
Federal prisons are identifiable by the security-level of the populations they house and the
corresponding degrees of freedom afforded. Federal Prison Camps (FPCs or camps)7 house minimumsecurity inmates, essentially nonviolent offenders with limited criminal histories and less than ten (10)
years remaining to serve. Roughly 18 percent of federal prisoners reside in camps, and, of that
population, approximately 70 percent are drug offenders.
Federal Correctional Institutions (FCIs) are divided into two categories: Low and Medium,
connoting the respective security levels of their populations. Barbed-wire perimeter fencing, higher
staff-to-inmate ratios, and more restrictive movement characterize life at an FCI. About 40 percent of
federal prisoners are classified Low-security, while approximately 27 percent are Medium-security.
Nearly 80 percent of Medium-security prisoners have a history of violence.
The balance of the federal prison population is divided between High-security institutions (a.k.a.,
United States Penitentiaries (USPs)) and administrative institutions. Nearly 90 percent of the Highsecurity population has a history of violence, more than 60 percent have been sanctioned for violating
prison rules, and 14 percent have been convicted of murder, aggravated assault or kidnapping.
Numerous facilities fall under the “administrative” umbrella. For instance, ADX Florence, Colorado,
a Supermax, is administrative. So too are Medical Referral Centers (MRCs), the Federal Transfer Center
5

To use the web version of the Inmate Locator, one needs the inmate’s full name or his register, DCDC,
FBI, or INS Number. The result will provide the inmate’s age, race, sex, projected release date, and location,
with facility phone number. The locator service does not provide the current location of inmates in transit.
6

Recent efforts to lower administrative costs have resulted in construction centered on Federal
Correctional Complex (FCC) sites that house facilities of several security levels. Also, 37 BOP institutions are
over 50 years old.
7

Prison camps are often referred to as “Club Fed” or, in the case of Martha Stewart’s placement at FPC
Alderson (WV), “Camp Cupcake.” This misnomer ignores that these institutions provide security commensurate
with the negligible risk of violence or escape posed by the populations they house.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1037

(FTC) in Oklahoma City, and federal detention centers in major metropolitan areas. Finally, the BOP
contracts with state correctional systems and private providers, such as for community-based facilities
(i.e., Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs or halfway houses)) and for prisons to house non-U.S. citizens
subject to removal. Contract facilities house approximately 17 percent of the total BOP population.
The federal prison population has increased steadily since the late 1980s, and the BOP has
operated consistently over rated capacity (i.e., institutions house more than the maximum number
prisoners they are designed to handle). Estimates place BOP as operating at around 42 percent over rated
capacity system-wide in 2009, an increase from historic numbers (around 30%-35%). Overcrowding
is thus effectively unavoidable no matter where your client is housed, a situation that presents significant
safety concerns. In its FY 2009 budget, the Bureau acknowledges that “[c]rowding is a very real danger
in prisons -- causing frustration and anger for inmates whose access to basic necessities like toilets,
showers, and meals becomes very limited and who face hours of idleness resulting from a limited
availability of productive work and program opportunities.” Additionally, the budget references an
unnamed BOP study which “indicated that a one percentage point increase in a Federal prison’s
crowding (inmate population as a percent of the prison’s rated capacity) corresponds with an increase
in the prison’s annual serious assault rate by 4.09 assaults per 5,000 inmates.” In appropriate
circumstances, these points may merit reference at sentencing. So, too, might the continuing rise in per
capita costs of incarceration, which are $72.44 daily for all security levels in FY 2009 -- a three percent
increase from FY 2008 that annualizes at $26,440 per prisoner.
19.03 DESIGNATION AND CLASSIFICATION (P.S. 5100.08)
Congress directs the BOP to designate “the place of the prisoner’s imprisonment” and authorizes
the Bureau to select “any available penal or correctional facility that meets [agency-established]
minimum standards for health and habitability.” 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). The enabling statute specifically
requires that in placing any prisoner, the BOP account for facility resources, the nature and
circumstances of the offense, each prisoner’s history and characteristics, statements from the court, and
pertinent Sentencing Commission policy statements. Id.; see Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 432
F.3d 235 (3d Cir. 2005). Since the 1970s, the BOP has adhered to a formal designation process driven
by a scored security classification system. Designation determinations are made at a central location by
staff relying on information contained in the presentence investigation report (PSI or PSR) and the
judgment order.
19.03.01 Importance of Presentence Report
To the BOP, a client’s PSI is quite literally “the Bible”. It impacts every aspect of time in federal
custody. See United States v. Brown, 715 F.2d 387, 389 n.2 (5th Cir. 1983). Because information placed
in the PSI is seldom removed, counsel must work to prevent the inclusion of potentially damaging
information in the first instance and review carefully the draft PSI not only for errors and omissions that
might adversely impact sentencing but also for information, or the lack thereof, that might serve to
prejudice a client once incarcerated. Counsel should request the wholesale removal of objectionable
references -- not merely a notation in PSI’s addendum -- with citation to BOP policy that is the basis for
concern. Should Probation refuse revision, ask the Court to order deletion/modification before the PSI
is forwarded to the BOP. See FED . R. CRIM . P. 32(i)(3); Id.-Advisory Committee Notes re: 2002
Amendments (counsel may wish to point out matters in PSI that impact designation). Moreover, counsel
should strive to provide Probation with documentation pertinent to a client’s incarceration, such as

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons

medical records or evaluations related to an anticipated accommodation or programming need, and ask
that it be appended to the report.
19.03.02 Designation and Sentence Computation Center
Primary responsibility for prisoner placement rests with officials at the Designation and Sentence
Computation Center (DSCC) in Texas [Grand Prairie Office Complex U.S. Armed Forces Reserve
Complex 346 Marine Forces Drive Grand Prairie, Texas 75051; (972) 352-4400; BOPCPD/DSCC@bop.gov]. The DSCC consists of 17 designation teams comprised of staff who compute
sentences and custody classification scores for inmates. These teams are organized by the federal district
in which the inmate is sentenced.8
Alpha
District of Columbia
D.C. Superior Court
Bravo
Maryland
Tennessee (all districts)
Texas-Eastern
W est Virginia (all districts)
Charlie
Arkansas (all districts)
Kentucky (all districts)
North Carolina (all districts)
Oklahoma (all districts)
Delta
Delaware
Idaho
Maine
New Hampshire
New York (all districts)
Vermont
Echo
New Jersey
North Dakota
Pennsylvania (all districts)
South Carolina

Foxtrot
Connecticut
Ohio (all districts)
Rhode Island
South Dakota
Virginia (all districts)
India
Texas-Southern
Juliet
Texas-W estern
Kilo
Georgia (all districts)
Louisiana (all districts)
Mississippi (all districts)
Texas-Northern
Lima
Florida (all districts)
Guam
Northern Marianna Islands
Virgin Islands
November
Alabama (all districts)
California-Central
New Mexico
Oscar
Arizona

Papa
California-Eastern & Southern
Quebec
Massachusetts
Montana
Nevada
Oregon
Utah
W ashington (all districts)
Romeo
Hawaii
Illinois (all districts)
Michigan (all districts)
Puerto Rico
Sierra
California-Northern
Iowa (all districts)
Kansas
Nebraska
W isconsin (all districts)
W yoming
Tango
Alaska
Colorado
Indiana (all districts)
Minnesota
Missouri (all districts)

A team of seven senior designators (Hotel Team) make the actual designations.9 The DSCC is
also responsible for sentence computation. The designation of individuals presenting with serious or
chronic medical or mental health issues are referred to the Central Office’s Medical Designator (see infra
19.03.04).

8

These DSCC teams are up-to-date as of the time of this printing. They are, of course, subject to change
at any time by the BOP.
9

Senior designators also handle disciplinary transfers; designators handle routine transfers.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

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19.03.03 Security and Custody Classification Level10
The placement process begins when the U.S. Marshal’s Service (USM) receives a copy of the
judgment order from the Clerk’s Office and makes a formal request for designation. Before the DSCC
will act, it must receive, via the e-Designate (electronic) system, the judgment, including the Statement
of Reasons, the PSI and the Marshal’s Individual Custody and Detention Report. The Statement of
Reasons section is the appropriate place for the court to record findings regarded disputed matters. See
FED . R. CRIM . P. 32(c)(1).
To ensure prompt designation, counsel may follow up with the Marshal’s Service to determine
whether it received necessary materials. Counsel can also contact DSCC staff directly to advocate for
clients or present information that might otherwise not be considered. Useful materials to share include
things that reflect the court’s consideration of issues that bear on placement, programming or time
credits, such as responses to PSI objections or its position regarding conditions of confinement (e.g.,
sentencing transcript excerpts). Also helpful are physicians’ letters or records addressing medical or
mental health needs not captured in the PSI. The best way to ensure that correspondence or materials
reach appropriate team personnel is to have the court direct Probation to forward them via e-Designate.
Records to be placed in a client’s “central file,” the physical file that follows the inmate to each
designated institution, should be sent to the warden at the client’s designated (parent) institution -- not
to the DSCC.
DSCC designation staff determines an individual’s security level according to an Inmate Load
and Security Designation Form in the BOP’s computerized prisoner management and tracking system
(SENTRY), which produces a score that corresponds to a classification level. The DSCC also considers
proximity to a prisoner’s legal residence (within 500 miles), population levels at prospective institutions,
judicial recommendations, and placement of other inmates with adverse interests (separatees). Once
loaded into SENTRY, the matter is assigned randomly to a senior designator, who selects the place of
imprisonment and notifies the Marshal’s Office and the facility but not the prisoner or counsel.
The Marshal’s Service or Probation Office (varies by district) typically notify individuals allowed
to self-surrender where to report. Sentencing courts must set a specific reporting date and time. Counsel
with clients permitted to self-surrender should note that recent data shows designation takes
approximately four-to-six weeks, on average, from the date of sentencing. To the extent that designation
is slow in coming or issues arise post-judgment, such as a significant change in health or a family
emergency, the sentencing court alone has the power to authorize an extension of time within which to
surrender; the BOP has no legal authority to modify surrender dates. If a client is unable to report to the
designated institution within the time prescribed and the court has not granted an extension, it is
advisable to surrender to the nearest U.S. Marshal’s Office. Although Marshal’s transport carries its own
unique problems (i.e., diesel therapy), better that than risk being declared a fugitive.
Program Statement 5100.08, the Security Designation and Custody Classification Manual,
establishes BOP policy regarding prisoner classification. The Manual is an assessment tool that assigns
numerical values to ostensibly objective criteria measuring an individual’s risk to public safety and
institutional security. A higher score, on a scale of zero to 45 points, signifies a higher classification
10

Portions of this section are taken from attorney Peter Goldberger’s (Ardmore, PA) contribution to S.
Sady and L. Deffebach, Update on BOP Issues Affecting Clients Before and After Sentencing (Feb. 2007). See
Note 25 infra.

19-1040

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

level and a more restrictive institution [for males, ordinarily 0-1l = minimum, 12-15 = low, 16-23 =
medium, 24+ = high; for females, 0-15 = minimum, 16-30 = low, and 31+ = high]. The following are
the key security point factors:
•

Age: A person age 24 or younger receives eight points; 25-35 year-olds receive four
points, 36-54 year-olds receive two points; and those 55 or older receive no points.

•

Education: Two points are assigned to those without a verified (in the PSI) high school
diploma or GED certificate. One point is assigned to those enrolled in a GED program,
and zero if a diploma or certificate has been verified.

•

Drug Use: One point for abuse of drugs or alcohol in the last five years. Although the
issue arises infrequently, prudence suggests assessing the impact that this point may have
on classification level relative to a client’s ability and interest in participating in the 500hour drug program (infra).

•

Detainers: A PSI’s mention of detainers, pending charges or outstanding warrants results
in points being assigned based on their respective severity. Points are not ordinarily
applied for immigration detainers, but a public safety factor (see infra) will result in at
least low-security placement. Detainers also serve as program disqualifiers, such as for
Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (RDAP) and halfway house. Consider
resolving such matters before sentencing, but be aware of the impact new convictions
may have on the criminal history score.

•

Criminal History: Criminal history is measured using the Sentencing Guidelines’
criminal history score, as determined by the sentencing court. Accordingly, the criminal
history section merits even closer scrutiny, with errors corrected before the PSI is sent
to the BOP. BOP uses the original criminal history score notwithstanding a judicial
finding that it is over-representative. The best course in such instances is for the
Judgment and Commitment Order (J&C) to reflect the court’s determination, with a
separate judicial recommendation that BOP consider a lesser score.

•

Current Offense Severity: Appendix A to the Manual contains the Offense Severity
Scale, which ranges from Greatest to Lowest. Severity points are based not on the
offense of conviction but on the “most severe documented instant offense behavior.”
(For example, if the conviction is for simple assault but the PSI’s offense conduct section
reflects an aggravated assault, BOP scores the more serious conduct.).

•

Pre-Commitment Status: Three points are deducted for voluntary surrender, either to the
institution or to the USM (other than on the day of sentencing).

•

Prior Violence: One to seven points, based on seriousness and recency, are applied for
prior violent acts where there has been a finding of guilt (looking at the actual behavior
as set forth in the PSI). “Minor” violence is aggressive or intimidating but unlikely to
cause serious bodily harm or death, while “serious” violence is likely to cause serious
bodily harm or death.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

•

19-1041

Escapes: One to three points are applied for prior escapes from custody, including
halfway house walkaways, based on seriousness and recency. Although points are not
assigned for absconding, eluding arrest and failure to appear, such actions may result in
application of a “greater security” management variable (see infra).

By following the application directions set forth in Chapter 4 of the Manual, counsel can
approximate a client’s security point total. Some factors are straightforward (e.g., age, education level).
Others involve a degree of subjectivity that require a conservative, educated guess. Beyond providing
a sense of the institutional security-level for which a client will qualify, engaging in the scoring process
prior to sentencing alerts counsel to problematic issues and needed advocacy. For instance, whether a
drug offender meets the Bureau’s definition of “Organizer/Leader,” see P.S. 5100.08, App. A, p. 5, can
mean the difference between the offense of conviction being labeled “high” as opposed to “greatest”
severity, the latter resulting in two more points and application of a Public Safety Factor (see below).
Inasmuch as designation personnel view defendants as the person portrayed in the PSI, the best, if not
only, opportunity a client may have to resolve a role-related dispute, or similar point of factual
contention, is during the sentencing phase. A particular danger is a PSI’s failure to distinguish clearly
between “instant offense behavior” and other conduct, namely co-conspirators’ conduct, in which a
client was not implicated. Whenever possible, have the Court direct Probation to “clean up” or at least
clarify the PSI in these or similar regards before it is transmitted to BOP. Likewise, ensure that the J&C
and Statement of Reasons reflect favorable rulings on guidelines enhancement issues (e.g., rejection of
proposed two-point gun bump, lesser quantity attribution).
Beyond a prisoner’s scored security level, DSCC staff consider application of overriding factors:
Public Safety Factors (PSFs) and Management Variables. P.S. 5100.08, Ch. 5. PSFs are intended to
address information suggesting a need for greater precautions in classification. PSFs are not confined
to evidence of convictions; the BOP often relies on the PSI’s description of current and prior offense
behavior. It is thus critical that offending or incorrect material be stricken from a PSI even though it
does not affect sentencing. There are 11 PSFs, application of any of which bars placement at a prison
camp:
•

Disruptive group (males only): Essentially gang affiliation (e.g., Jamaican Mafia, Crips,
Bloods, Latin Kings, MI6, etc.). Counsel should ensure that any gang or organized crime
affiliation listed in the PSI is substantiated and request removal of reference to prior
affiliations. Results in High placement, unless waived.

•

Greatest severity offense (males only): Refers to offense underlying present term of
confinement and, as set forth in Appendix A to the Manual, includes serious assaults,
organizing/ownership in large-scale drug crimes, espionage, extortion through violent
means, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, violent sexual offenses, and firearms distribution.
Results in at least Low placement.

•

Sex offender: Assigned when there is any evidence of sexual misconduct in an inmate’s
background, including prior conduct and notwithstanding the offense of conviction. If
the PSI indicates questionable or borderline behavior, seek a finding it was not
“aggressive or abusive.” Results in at least Low placement and triggers the sex offender
notification requirement.

19-1042

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

•

Threat to government official: Results in at least a Low placement.

•

Deportable alien: Applies to all non-citizens absent a finding by Immigration and
Customs Enforcement or the Executive Office for Immigration Review that removal is
not warranted. Results in at least Low placement.

•

Sentence length (males only): Looks at projected release date (sentence length less
anticipated good time credit). Those with more than ten years remaining to serve must
be housed in at least Low; more than 20 years, Medium; and more than 30 years, High -all unless waived.

•

Violent behavior (females only): Two convictions for, or findings of, serious violence
within the last five years. Results in placement at Carswell (TX) Administrative Unit,
unless waived.

•

Serious escape: For incident within preceding ten years. Unless waived, results in
placement of females at Carswell Administrative Unit, and males in at least Medium.

•

Prison disturbance: Involvement in a serious incident of violence within an institution
that produces a finding (in conjunction with a period of simultaneous institution
disruptions) of engaging, encouraging or acting in furtherance of a riot. Results in High
placement for males, and placement at Carswell Administrative Unit for females.

•

Juvenile violence (juveniles only): Applies if history of even one serious violent
conviction.

•

Serious telephone abuse: Where, as reflected in the PSI, inmate used or attempted to use
a telephone to “further criminal activities or promote illicit organizations,” but only if:
(i) “leader/organizer” or “primary motivator”; or (ii) used phone to communicate threats
of death or bodily injury; or (iii) used phone to conduct or attempt significant fraudulent
activity while incarcerated; or (iv) leader/organizer of significant fraudulent activity in
the community; or (v) used phone to arrange introduction of drugs while incarcerated.
Also applies if monitoring of inmate calls is needed in response to “significant concern”
communicated by federal law enforcement, if an inmate has telephone disciplinary
violation, or if the BOP “has reasonable suspicion and/or documented intelligence
supporting telephone abuse.” In addition to affecting placement, this PSF may cause
reduction in monthly telephone minute allotment.

Management Variables are grounded in the “professional judgment of bureau staff” and include
more nebulous considerations, like population management, the need for medical or psychiatric
treatment, circumstances wherein an inmate poses either a greater or lesser security risk than his assigned
security level denotes, and judicial recommendations. The last of these is the most frequently
encountered by defense counsel.
The BOP receives judicial recommendations in approximately 50 percent of cases. It works to
comply with recommendations so long as they are consistent with agency policy. See P.S. 5100.08, Ch.
5, p.3. It reports honoring approximately 62 percent of recommendations completely and 11 percent

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1043

partially. When requesting placement at a particular institution or class of institution, opportunities for
program participation, less restrictive pre-release status while in halfway houses, waiver of fine
repayment while in custody, or any other consideration the facts indicate would be appropriate, counsel
should emphasize the court’s role in the designation process as well as the BOP’s willingness to abide
by recommendations. See 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b)(4). If nothing else, a judicial recommendation indicates
the court’s perspective as to the appropriate handling of a defendant and to the applicability of security
enhancements. Recommendations for the 500-hour drug program are unnecessary and may prove
detrimental. In terms of placement at a given facility, the more specific (e.g., name of institution(s),
rationale) the better; recommendations like “close to home” can have unintended, adverse consequences.
For those clients who might be appropriate for direct designation to a halfway house (e.g., minimumsecurity, less than 13 months remaining to serve), the BOP requires a judicial recommendation.11
An inmate’s security classification and designation will be reviewed periodically throughout the
term of incarceration for continued appropriateness. Requests for waiver of either a PSF or a
Management Variable can be made to the DSCC Administrator. Note that where efforts to correct
factual errors fail during the sentencing phase or upon referral to the DSCC, a prisoner can pursue relief
through the administrative remedy process and, ultimately, review by the district court in the district in
which he is housed. Prisoners maintain certain due process rights in the designation context, as well as
a Privacy Act right to insist that fact-bound determinations not be based upon erroneous information
subject to verification. See Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209 (2005); Sellers v. Bureau of Prisons, 959
F.2d 307 (D.C. Cir. 1992); see also Perry v. Bureau of Prisons, 371 F.3d 1304 (11th Cir. 2004).
19.03.04 Medical Classification Level
Defense counsel often (justifiably) highlight a client’s poor health or mental state as a form of
sentencing mitigation, and, just as often, this information finds its way into the presentence report. The
BOP purports to treat most every medical condition and to provide a level of care commensurate with
prevailing community standards. See United States v. Cutler, 520 F.3d 136, 172-75 (2d Cir. 2008). But
see GAO, BUREAU OF PRISONS HEALTH CARE : INMATES’ ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE IS LIMITED BY LACK
OF CLINICAL STAFF (1994); cf. BUR . JUST . STAT ., MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS OF PRISON AND JAIL
INMATES (Sept. 2006) (by midyear 2005, 45 percent of federal inmates had mental health problems).
Although some courts do question the BOP’s ability to provide appropriate treatment, see, e.g., United
States v. Pineyro, 372 F. Supp. 2d 133 (D. Mass. 2005), most impose sentence fully expecting BOP will
meet individual prisoner medical and/or mental health needs.
The BOP seeks to identify and manage medical needs by assigning CARE Level classifications
to all inmates and federal facilities that are designed to match prisoners with institutional and community
resources. Prisoners fall within one of four categories:
•

11

Level 1-under 70 and healthy generally but may have limited needs that can be managed
by medication and clinical evaluations every six months (e.g., mild asthma, dietcontrolled diabetes, stable HIV patients not needing medication);

The BOP has abandoned restrictions on direct halfway house designations instituted in early 2003.
See Joyce K. Conley and Kathleen M. Kenney, Review of Inmates for Initial Designation to Residential Reentry
Centers, 1 (Feb. 2, 2009).

19-1044

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

•

Level 2-stable outpatients requiring quarterly evaluations who can be managed in chronic
care clinics but not needing regular enhanced resources (e.g., medication-controlled
diabetics, epilepsy, emphysema);

•

Level 3-fragile outpatients who require frequent clinical contact and possible assistance
with daily living activities (e.g., cancer in remission less than one year, advanced HIV,
severe mental illness in remission through medication); and

•

Level 4-inpatients with severely impaired functioning needing 24-hour nursing care (e.g.,
cancer in treatment, dialysis, quadriplegia, stroke/head injury, major surgery, acute
psychiatric illness).

As for the corresponding facility considerations: Level 1-located approximately one hour or more
from community medical centers (i.e., remote); Level 2-no special capabilities beyond those that Health
Services staff ordinarily provide but within about one hour of major regional treatment centers, therein
permitting more immediate attention to medical emergencies; Level 3-adjacent to Level 4 institutions;
Level 4-Medical Referral Centers.12
Care Level 1
USP Atwater
FCI Bennettsville
USP Big Sandy
FCI Herlong
USP Lee
FCI Manchester
FCI McKean
FCI Oxford
USP Pollock
FCI Ray Brook
FCI Safford
FCI Sandstone
FCI Three Rivers
FCI Williamsburg
FCC Yazoo City

Care Level 2
All BOP facilities that are
not Care Level 1 or 3, or
Medical Referral Centers.

Care Level 3
FCC Butner (not FMC)
FCI Forth W orth-Low
FCI Terminal Island-Low
USP Terre HauteMinimum, Medium and
High
USP Tucson-High

Care Level 4
FM C Butner
FMC Carswell
FM C Devens
FMC Fort W orth
FMC Lexington
FM C Rochester
USMCFP Springfield

When a newly sentenced prisoner’s PSR presents an apparent need for medical or mental health
accommodation, that is, the individual scores out as a Care Level 3 or 4, the DSCC refers the designation
to the Bureau’s Medical Designator. Uncertainty concerning the level of requisite care may result in
initial designation to a Medical Referral Center for closer assessment before a final designation is made.
For a client expecting a camp or FCI-Low placement, such news may be unwelcome and a cause for
anxiety. Most judges do not realize that a medical referral can mean a heightened security classification,
as the MRCs and FMCs are Low-Medium, not Minimum.

12

Anecdotal evidence suggests that BOP is designating those with persistent mental health issues (e.g.,
anxiety) to at least low security institutions based on a supposed need for closer monitoring and the higher staffto-inmate ratios at FCIs.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1045

19.03.05 Sentence Computation
Inmate sentence computation issues -- credit for time served and time remaining to serve -- are
made by staff at the DSCC. The relevant data is captured on a Sentence Monitoring Computation Data
form, which inmates can obtain from staff. The form is typically reviewed during intake and then during
program reviews. Based on the BOP’s time credit matrix, which the Courts of Appeals have uniformly
upheld, most federal prisoners can expect to serve 87.14 percent of the sentence imposed, as opposed
to the commonly-assumed eighty-five percent. See Sash v. Zenk, 428 F.3d 132, 136-37 (2d Cir. 2005)
(collecting cases).
Inmates frequently complain that they are not receiving credit due for time served or based on
concurrent state sentences. It is a complex, fact-specific area for which bright-line guidance is difficult.
That said, two common scenarios counsel confront provide considerations that should be weighed.
19.03.05.01
Arrest

Client Is In State Custody on Pending Charges at Time of Federal

This highlights the concept of “primary jurisdiction.” Clients who are brought into custody by
a given jurisdiction remain under that jurisdiction’s primary custody and control until formally
discharged (e.g., released on bond, dismissal of case, completion of sentence, etc.). Being produced in
another jurisdiction via writ does not extinguish the original jurisdiction’s primacy; the defendant is
merely “on loan.”
A defendant who is found guilty and sentenced first in state court must complete whatever
sentence is imposed before the BOP will assume custody. Although a state conviction/sentence can
affect adversely a client’s criminal history score, the federal court is able to reduce a defendant’s federal
sentence to reflect time served in state custody (U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3 and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)) as well as
to order the federal sentence to run concurrent to undischarged portion of the state sentence. Where the
federal court directs that the federal sentence run concurrent to another undischarged term of
imprisonment, the BOP treats it as an order that the state prison be designated as the individual’s place
of federal imprisonment (until such time as the state sentence is completed and the person is handed over
to the BOP). See P.S. 5160.05 (describing this policy and offering express language the federal
sentencing court should use to make clear its intent that federal sentence run concurrently to
undischarged state sentence). Absent the federal court expressly ordering the federal sentence to run
concurrently, the BOP will treat the federal sentence as running consecutive to any undischarged term
of imprisonment since the BOP does not readily afford “double credit” for time served on another
sentence. See 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b).
Resolution in state court first is not desirable to those looking to serve their time in federal
custody. Because it is the rare case where a state is willing to allow a pre-trial detainee to discharge to
a federal warrant or detainer, counsel might look to determine whether the state is amenable to dropping
its case or agreeing to a non-prison sentence should the federal sentence be deemed sufficient
punishment. In such instances, the client would be sentenced first in federal court and then, once the
state case resolves, discharged to the outstanding federal detainer. To ensure that the client receive full
consideration from the BOP for time served in state custody, it is essential that counsel obtain certified,
written verification that none of the time served in state custody was credited toward another sentence
(e.g., certified disposition from the state court that the case was dropped or the sentence imposed carried

19-1046

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

no term of imprisonment, even time served) and forward that verification to BOP Inmate Systems
Management officials at the DSCC.
Where a client is sentenced first in federal court and then in state court, there is a strong
likelihood that he will serve the sentences consecutively. Even where the federal court orders that the
federal sentence run concurrently, the BOP is reticent to accept the idea of federal courts’ ability to run
a federal sentence concurrent to an as yet imposed state sentence.
19.03.05.02

Client is in Federal Custody on Pending Charges When Charged in
the State

From a federal perspective, this is usually seen as the most desirous scenario because “primary
jurisdiction” means that the individual is in federal custody and that the federal sentence can and should
control. Under this scenario, it is often best to have the federal sentence resolve first so as to avoid any
confusion about whether the state Department of Correction has credited any time served in federal
custody against a state sentence. Note, however, that the BOP shall treat any state matter -- regardless
of whether the client is convicted and sentenced, or the charges remain pending -- as producing a
detainer even if none is lodged. This impacts a client’s security level (at least Low) and pre-release
placement (halfway house) eligibility. In jurisdictions requiring that a prisoner must appear in front of
the paroling authority before a sentence is terminated, it is likely that the client will serve his entire
federal sentence at an FCI (or higher) and then be returned to the state to tend to outstanding matters.
Again, these issues are complicated and, frankly, not capable of full and fair exposition here. A
memorandum from BOP’s Northeast Regional Counsel, Henry Sadowski, Esq. -- Interaction of Federal
and State Sentences, available at http://www.bop.gov/news/ifss.pdf -- is an excellent resource that
captures the Bureau’s approach. Counsel should be wary of making any assurances to clients about
credit for time served. Additionally, to the extent that time credit considerations are fundamental to the
rationale for the sentence, counsel should incorporate them formally into the record in order to provide
a possible basis for relief via 28 U.S.C. § 2255 should it later be determined the Court misapprehended
material factors when imposing sentence.
19.04 INSTITUTIONAL LIFE
The best advice counsel can offer the client facing his first term of imprisonment is, “You will
learn more in the first few weeks than I or any guide book can tell you.” Thus, while this section touches
upon most frequently asked questions, one of the best ways to assist clients is to put them in contact with
former federal prisoners, particularly those who served time at a client’s designated institution. This can
be accomplished by inquiring on criminal defense listserves. Former clients are surprisingly receptive
to sharing their experiences.
19.04.01 Receiving and Orientation
Intake practices vary by institution. Generally, new prisoners are accepted weekdays during
business hours (9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.). Those approved for voluntary surrender should arrive no later
than 10:00 a.m. to help avoid processing delays or other unexpected problems, such as placement
overnight in the Special Housing Unit (SHU or the hole).

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Receiving and Discharge (R&D) staff conduct the first part of the intake. It is akin to a police
booking and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours. Inmates are strip-searched,
photographed and fingerprinted before submitting to social, medical, and psychological evaluations. The
social evaluation entails a brief social history/security screening meant to ensure each prisoner is an
appropriate candidate for the institution (not requiring additional supervision or unavailable services).
The medical evaluation includes a physical exam, a screening for tuberculosis and other contagious
diseases, and the taking of history of current and prior conditions. The psychological evaluation assesses
mental status and suicide risk.
It is during R&D that unauthorized personal property is taken and packaged for return to the
prisoner’s home address (at the Bureau’s expense). Medication in an individual’s possession not
prescribed by the BOP is prohibited and will be confiscated and destroyed. Items that one can bring
ordinarily include prescription eyeglasses, a plain wedding band (no stones), a religious medallion, and
a money order. Clients should call the designated institution before reporting to confirm what the facility
allows.
At the completion of R&D, institutional clothing is presented and, assuming a bed is available,
a housing unit assigned. Lack of bed space results in SHU placement until population pressures ease.
Admission and Orientation (A&O) usually occurs within four-to-five days of R&D. It entails meeting
with the Unit Team that will supervise the inmate. Prisoners are also introduced to the heads of the
various departments, review the institution’s policies and standard operating procedure contained in a
handbook that each inmate should receive, and assigned a job.
19.04.02 Staff
The BOP has more than 35,000 full-time employees. Over 60 percent are white (non-Hispanic)
and over 70 percent are male. On the whole, they tend to be conservative-minded and bureaucratic. An
array of counselors, correctional officers, medical personnel, and administrators staff each institution.
Because one of the Bureau’s stated goals is for staff to serve as “law-abiding role models,” they are
compelled to interact regularly with prisoner populations. Staff supervise all facets of prisoner life:
living, dining, visiting, etc. They also conduct regularly scheduled counts to monitor prisoner
whereabouts (five on weekdays, six on weekends).
An inmate’s primary interaction is with the Unit Team located in his housing unit: unit officer,
counselor, case manager, and unit manager. Concerns, requests, grievances, etc. are addressed to the
Team, often in writing (a.k.a., a cop-out), and can be appealed to the warden. Wardens, who are vested
with tremendous discretion in their respective institutions’ daily operations, invariably uphold team
decisions, therein restricting opportunity for meaningful review. Additional appeals can be made to the
regional and central offices, with exhaustion of the administrative remedy process positioning one for
potential redress through the District Court in which a prisoner’s institution is seated. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241.13 Ultimately though, wardens are the frontline of the BOP’s senior administration, and, absent
clear abuses of discretion, their decisions stand.

13

Further information concerning the BOP’s administrative remedy process can be found in P.S.
1330.13. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.10 - 542.15.

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19.04.03 Visitation (P.S. 5267.07)
Each institution’s visiting regulations can be found on its home page on the Bureau’s website,
http://www.bop.gov. Although institutions might have unique procedures, all require that a prisoner’s
visitors be pre-approved. The approval process requires the prisoner to mail a standardized form to the
prospective visitor, who then must return the completed form to the Unit Team, which conducts a
background check. This process may be waived if a prospective visitor is identified as family or a friend
in the PSI. An individual slated for self-surrender can help expedite the approval process by mailing a
letter to herself at the institution a few days before reporting that contains the names, addresses and dates
of birth of prospective visitors -- such letters should have “Scheduled to Report [DATE]” written on the
envelope.
At most institutions, the approval process holds equally for legal visitors, though exceptions are
made for exigent circumstances. Also, institutions prohibit visitors from wearing khaki-colored clothing
because it matches prison uniforms (a security risk).
19.04.04 Telephone Use (P.S. 5264.07)
Inmates may use institution telephones when off duty from work assignments. They may call
individuals on their approved telephone lists. In order to add names to the list, an inmate must provide
a person’s pertinent contact information, which staff then reviews before authorizing and entering it into
the institution’s computer. Each inmate must establish a phone account and purchase phone credits
before placing calls. Inmates are provided with a personal pin number that automatically deducts credits
from their account.
Telephone calls last up to 15 minutes, with 300 minutes being the maximum allowable per month
(400 in November and December). The allotted number of monthly minutes is a substantial hardship
to many, especially those with close family ties and large families. One result is abuse of the BOP’s
phone system. Caution clients strongly against violating institution telephone rules because it can and
does result in placement in the hole (both during investigation and as punishment), loss of good time
credits and/or lengthy suspension of telephone and visiting privileges. The most common abuses are
three-way calls, when the party on the other end joind another into the call (regardless if the third party
is on the inmate’s approved list); conducting ‘business’ over the telephone; having another inmate call
a family member at one’s behest; and use of a cellular phone (smuggled into the institution).
All non-legal calls begin with a recorded announcement that the call originates from a federal
correctional institution, which is repeated midway through the call. Non-legal calls are recorded and
subject to monitoring. In certain circumstances, individuals whose use of telephone facilitated their
offense conduct or who committed an institutional infraction involving the use of a telephone are subject
to a Serious Telephone Abuse PSF (see supra Section 19.03.03). In addition to Low placement, such
persons can expect their calls to be more closely monitored.
19.04.05 Mail (P.S. 5265.11)
All mail should be addressed using an inmate’s committed name (as listed by the BOP) and
register number (e.g., John Doe, Reg. No. XXXXX-XXX). Each institution’s address for prisoner mail
can be found on its home page on the Bureau’s website, http://www.bop.gov. Personal mail is subject

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1049

to inspection by staff outside of an inmate’s presence. Unless labeled correctly (see infra § 19.06), legal
mail is handled like personal mail.
Prisoners may only receive hardcover publications and newspapers directly from the publisher,
a book club or a bookstore. Minimum and Low prisoners can receive soft cover publications (excluding
newspapers) from any source, while those at Medium, High and administrative facilities must receive
them from the publisher, a book club or a bookstore. Other restrictions on incoming publications, such
as concerning content, can be found in Program Statement 5266.10. See 28 C.F.R. § 540.70, et seq.
19.04.06 Electronic Mail (P.S. 5265.12)
A growing number of institutions permit inmate communication via electronic mail known as
the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication System (TRULINCS). TRULINCS is expected to be
available in all facilities by mid-2011. The program is run through CorrLinks, a Web based electronic
mail service (http://www.corrlinks.com) that requires registration, though no fee(s). The program allows
inmates to send e-mails of up to 13,000 characters, without attachments, to individuals on their approved
contact list. TRULINCS is intended “[t]o provide the Bureau with a more efficient, cost-effective, and
secure method of managing and monitoring inmate communication services.” Messages are, like the
telephone system, subject to monitoring (and retention), and thus not confidential -- there is no
confidential attorney-client e-mail system. Two classes of offenders are precluded from accessing
TRULINCS: sex offenders and those whose offense of conviction involved use of the Internet.
19.04.07 Commissary Account and Privileges
The BOP allows prisoners to maintain commissary accounts through which they can both
purchase approved items at allotted times from an institution’s commissary (e.g., food, cigarettes,
clothing, personal hygiene products, hand held radios, watches, fans, etc.) and pay for telephone calls.
Self-surrender prisoners should be encouraged to bring a U.S. Postal Service money order made out in
their name and including their federal register number. Although there are no limits on the balance one
may keep, it is recommended that accounts not be excessive since others invariably learn such
information and it invites unwelcome attention (i.e., pressure or threats).
Once funds are deposited in a prisoner’s account they are considered his property regardless of
the source (e.g., a gift from family). Consequently, at the warden’s discretion they may be used to satisfy
financial obligations, like court-ordered restitution, via the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program
(IFRP). See United States v. Lemoine, 546 F.3d 1042 (9th Cir. 2008) (upholding BOP’s ability to require
inmates pay restitution under IFRP at a higher or faster rate the specified by the sentencing court); 28
C.F.R. 545.10, et seq.; P.S. 5380.08.
For prisoners in BOP custody, third parties should send funds for deposit to:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
First Name Last Name
Reg. No. XXXXX-XXX
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001

19-1050

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

Deposits should be money orders made out to “First Name Last Name” and include the register
number. The sender’s name and return address must appear on the upper left hand corner of the
envelope in case of return. The BOP destroys anything else included in the envelope (e.g., personal
items). The sender must trace funds not deposited into a prisoner’s account.
Another option to send money is Western Union’s Quick Collect Program, which, for a fee, posts
funds to a prisoner’s account within two-to-four hours when sent between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. EST
(seven days per week, including holidays). Funds received after 9:00 pm EST are posted by 7:00 am
EST the following day. The Quick Collect Program can be accessed: (1) by completing a Quick Collect
Form and providing it to an agent, which can be located by calling (800) 325-6000 or through
www.westernunion.com; (2) by using a credit or debit card and calling (800) 634-3422, selecting option
2; or (3) by using a credit or debit card and selecting “Quick Collect” at www.westernunion.com. Any
Quick Collect transaction must include the prisoner’s register number, the prisoner’s committed name,
a Code City of “FBOP” and a State Code of “DC.” Senders are solely responsible for information given
and for funds -- funds posted incorrectly to a prisoner’s account may not be returned.
Information concerning specific deposits can be obtained from the BOP by calling (202) 3072712 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST.
19.04.08 Employment and Education
Most federal prisoners must work, albeit in mundane, menial positions for which wages are
minimal (12-to-40 cents per hour). For instance, approximately 12 percent of the population is
responsible for food preparation. The best opportunity for meaningful employment exists within Federal
Prison Industries (a.k.a., UNICOR), which pays 23 cents to $1.15 per hour. Be advised, however, that
UNICOR positions tend to be reserved for those with longer sentences, and the program was down-sized
in mid-2009 due to external economic pressures. There has also been litigation and criticism concerning
health-risks associated with such jobs. See Smith v. United States, Case. No. 5:08-cv-00084-RS/AK
(N.D. Fla.). Many institutions also offer vocational training through work assignments. Vo-Tech
programs include HVAC, plumbing, motor vehicle maintenance, welding, dental assistant, carpentry,
culinary arts and electrician.
Inmates who have not graduated high school or earned a General Equivalency Diploma (G.E.D.)
are required to enter a literacy program, which progress from basic literacy to attaining one’s G.E.D.
This requirement affects approximately 40 percent of the inmate population, and failure to participate
can result in loss of good time credits. Similarly, non-English speaking prisoners must participate in
English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) courses until able to function at an eighth-grade level. Aside from
prisoner-taught adult education courses, academic opportunities are otherwise limited to correspondence
courses, the cost of which is borne by the inmate.
19.04.09 Medical and Mental Health Care
Notwithstanding the questionable quality of prison medical care (see supra section 19.03.04, ),
it is important for counsel to document legitimate health problems. A client is better served when the
BOP has a true appreciation for his condition(s). Prior to a client entering federal custody, counsel can
take several steps to help ensure that needs are understood and, hopefully, met. The most obvious is to
ensure the PSI documents conditions and prescribed treatments completely, to include appending reports

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1051

and evaluations. Where a client is taking medication, counsel should also provide the prescribing
physician a copy of the BOP’s national formulary to confirm that the medication is available or, if not,
to facilitate a possible transition to another medication.
See http://www.bop.
gov//news/PDFs/formulary.pdf. Additionally, counsel should obtain written verification from a client’s
treating physician concerning any necessary medical-related accommodation, which can be presented
to institution staff upon arrival (i.e., during R&D) and sent to the warden for inclusion in the central file.
19.04.10

Transfers, Including Halfway House and Home Confinement (P.S. 5100.08,
Ch. 7; P.S. 7310.04; P.S. 7320.01)

Once placed at his designated institution, a federal inmate is generally ineligible for transfer (redesignation) for 18 months, during which time he must maintain infraction-free conduct. Even then,
transfers are usually limited to compelling reasons, such as change in classification level, necessary
medical treatment, or distance between the inmate and family. Counsel is most frequently contacted
regarding the latter.
Unless told otherwise, the BOP considers an inmate’s “legal address,” as listed in the PSI, as his
“release residence,” that is, the address to which he intends to return upon release. This address is used
when implementing the 500-Mile Rule (see supra Section 19.03.03, “Security and Custody Clasification
Level”). Assuming no separatee issues, an individual seeking to move closer to home needs to
demonstrate why the move is necessary and appropriate. This can include a letter from an immediate
family member explaining difficulties in visitation related to distance, cost or medical considerations,
or confirming a new release residence. A new residence is also significant because it implicates potential
transfer of supervision issues (i.e., different Probation Offices) that must be addressed as part of the
BOP’s pre-release planning.
Except for changes in classification, transfers are between institutions of equal security (e.g., Low
to Low). Where escorted transfers are called for, the process can be long and arduous, involving
shackled transport from one local jail to the next, extended placement in SHU at high-security
institutions and/or prolonged placement at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. For those
inmates classified “out” or “community” custody transferring from a Low to Minimum or between
Minimums, Bureau policy allows for unescorted transfers (furlough transfers). Family members on an
inmate’s approved visiting list can provide transportation to the receiving institution subject to warden
approval.
Pre-release transfers are those made either to a Residential Reentry Center (RRC or halfway
house), a place of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b), or to home confinement, which can serve
as a place of imprisonment for the final ten percent of a prisoner’s sentence not to exceed six months
(18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(2)). Through the Second Chance Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-199, Apr. 9, 2008),
Congress directed the BOP to ensure that each federal prisoner serve a portion of his term of
imprisonment, not to exceed one year, “under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable
14

14

RRCs were formerly known as Community Corrections Centers (CCCs), and they are still so referred
to in controlling policy, P.S. 7310.04.

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons

opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the reentry of that prisoner into the community. Such conditions
may include a community correctional facility.” 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(1).15
Notwithstanding this directive, the Bureau limits pre-release programming, that is, both halfway
house and home confinement opportunities, to the final six months of one’s sentence except in
“extraordinary” circumstances approved by a Regional Director. One suggested method to assist a client
in receiving the maximum allowable pre-release placement time is to have the court expressly
recommend it in the judgment order. The BOP is statutorily obliged to weigh such recommendations
when making designation decisions. 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b). In this regard, it is useful to raise Oregon
AFD Steve Sady’s excellent perspective on pre-release placement: where the law has long allowed any
prisoner to serve up to six months on home confinement, the Second Chance Act must be viewed as
directing the BOP to maximize use of halfway houses as pre-release placement facilities in addition to
home confinement (for up to one year total).
An inmate’s release plan, including a decision regarding halfway house or home confinement
referral, is to be completed 17-to-19 months prior to his projected release date. Issues that can delay the
referral process include the receiving district’s Probation Office’s inspection of the release residence,
the inability to secure a promise to pay for medical care for those inmates lacking health insurance, and
resolution of outstanding charges. While policy permits direct placement on home confinement, the
BOP typically requires that prisoners serve at least a few days at a halfway house before so transitioning.
Direct home confinement placement is usually reserved for inmates unlikely to be employed in the
community (e.g., retired, disability).
19.05 PROGRAMS & RELEASE MECHANISMS
19.05.01

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs (P.S. 5330.11; P.S. 5331.02, 18
U.S.C. § 3621(e); 28 C.F.R. §§ 550.50, et seq.)

The BOP estimates that 40 percent of federal inmates have diagnosable, moderate-to-severe
substance abuse problems. See Stmnt. of BOP National Drug Abuse Coordinator Beth Weinman at the
U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Symposium of Alternatives to Incarceration, Prison Programs Resulting
in Reduced Sentences (July 14, 2008), available at http://www.ussc.gov SYMPO2008/NSATI_0.htm.
Some form of drug treatment is mandatory where drug use contributed to the commission of the offense,
where it was the basis for revocation of supervised release or community placement, or where the
sentencing court so recommends. Sanctions for failure to complete include pay reduction and
community program ineligibility. Accordingly, and because judicial recommendations are not necessary
for Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (RDAP) participation, it is suggested that counsel not
request recommendations concerning courts’ views as to the propriety of treatment.
The BOP operates three drug abuse programs. The first is the 12-15 hour voluntary Drug Abuse
Education Course offered at all institutions and designed to teach the prisoner about the consequences
of drug/alcohol abuse and addiction by reviewing their personal drug use and the cycle of drug use and
crime. 28 C.F.R. § 550.51. The second is the 12-24 week (90-120 minutes per week) Non-residential
Drug Abuse Treatment (NR DAP), which is targeted to, inter alia, those awaiting RDAP, those who do
15

For a discussion of the BOP’s historic halfway house practices, see Todd Bussert, Peter Goldberger,
and Mary Price, New Time Limits on Federal Halfway Houses: A shift in correctional policy, 21 CRIM INAL
JUSTICE 1, 20 (ABA Spring 2006).

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19-1053

not meet RDAP admission criteria, and those found guilty of an incident report for use of drugs or
alcohol. 28 C.F.R. § 550.52. Wardens are encouraged to consider NR DAP graduates for maximum
RRC placement. The third program is the nine-plus month, 500-hour RDAP for prisoners with a
diagnosable and verifiable substance abuse disorder. 28 C.F.R. § 550.53.
The BOP developed the “inpatient” RDAP in 1988 to lower recidivism rates. According to
empirical evidence from its Office of Research and Evaluations, the program has met that objective.
Male inmates who successfully complete RDAP are 16 percent less likely to be re-arrested or revoked
than cohorts who went untreated, and male RDAP graduates are 15 percent less likely to use drugs. See
Pelissier, et al., Triad Drug Treatment Evaluation, 65 FEDERAL PROBATION 3, 6 (Dec. 2001) (female
graduates 18 percent less likely to re-offend or use drugs). Through the 1994 Crime Bill, Congress
created an incentive for participation in the inpatient program: those nonviolent offenders who
successfully complete the program while incarcerated (and who have not previously received early
release via RDAP) are eligible for release up to one year prior to the expiration of sentence. 18 U.S.C.
§ 3621(e).16.
Congress’s action had its desired result, particularly with the closure of the Intensive
Confinement Center (boot camp) program in 2005. Each year, an increasing number of inmates seek
admission into RDAP, with more than 17,000 participating in 2008. See Weinman Stmnt., supra
(approximately 7,000 inmates on waiting list).17 However, in 2009, BOP implemented a sliding scale
for § 3621(e) reductions tied to sentence length: those serving 30 months or less are ineligible for more
than a six-month reduction; those serving 31-36 months are ineligible for more than a nine-month
reduction; and those serving 37 months or longer are eligible for the full 12 months.
RDAP participation is voluntary. Interested prisoners within 36 months of release may apply by
requesting an eligibility interview via a “cop-out” (informal request from a staff member) or a BP-8
16

The determination as to whether an inmate is ineligible for early release due to the commission of a
crime of violence is controversial. After much litigation, the BOP modified the criteria for eligibility for early
release from a sentence for successful completion of a drug treatment program. 28 C.F.R. § 550.58. This change,
reflected in P.S. 5331.02 and P.S. 5162.05, was intended to exclude violent offenders by the exercise of the
implicit discretion placed in BOP by the statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e)(2)(B), rather than by definition of the
statutory language “nonviolent offense.” Bureau policy, which the Supreme Court has upheld, denies early
release to persons who have been convicted of a crime of violence -- homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated
assault, child sexual offense (but not possession of child pornography), arson or kidnapping) -- or a felony
offense that has as an element, the actual, attempted, or threatened use of physical force against the person or
property of another; that involved the carrying, possession, or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon or
explosives (including any explosive material or explosive device); that by its nature or conduct, presents a serious
potential risk of physical force against the person or property of another; and that by its nature or conduct
involves sexual abuse offenses committed upon children. Lopez v. Davis, 531 U.S. 230 (2001); but cf. Paulsen
v. Daniels, 413 F.3d 999 (9th Cir. 2005) (program statement violated the Administrative Procedures Act). In
Crickon v. Thomas, 579 F.3d 978 (9th Cir. 2009), the Ninth Circuit invalidated Bureau policy that disqualifies
categorically RDAP participants from § 3621(e) sentence reduction eligibility based on prior convictions.
However, because the government is not subject to the doctrine of non-mutual collateral estoppel, Crickon
applies only to those prisoners housed in the Ninth Circuit; prisoners housed elsewhere will need to challenge
the policy through the administrative remedy process and, likely litigation.
17

In 2008, BOP for the first time did not offer RDAP to 100 percent of eligible prisoners prior to release
from custody.

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons

(formal request for resolution). The written request serves to initiate the RDAP application and should
prompt an interview with either the institution’s RDAP Coordinator or a drug treatment specialist (DTS),
or, if a prisoner is housed at a facility that does not offer the RDAP, a member of the Psychology
Services staff.
An applicant’s chemical dependency need not be linked to his offense conduct, nor does one’s
eligibility for early release (§ 3621(e) credit) affect RDAP eligibility. To be eligible for the RDAP, one
must, inter alia, have 24 months or more remaining to serve18, present a verifiable, documented pattern
of substance abuse or dependence within the 12-month period preceding arrest on the underlying
offense19, have no serious mental or cognitive impairment precluding full program participation, be
halfway house eligible (therein precluding participation by non-U.S. citizens and prisoners with
detainers), and sign acknowledgment of program responsibilities. As to a substance abuse, staff review
the PSI before scheduling an interview to ascertain whether an applicant meets the diagnostic criteria
for abuse or dependence indicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Mental Disorders,
Fourth Edition, (DSM - IV). There is some debate over how much drug or alcohol use rises to this level.
Compare P.S. 5330.11 § 2.5.8(2)-NOTE (“recreational, social, or occasional use of alcohol and/or other
drugs that does not rise to the level of excessive or abusive drinking does not provide the required
verification of a substance abuse disorder”), with Kuna v. Daniels, 234 F. Supp. 2d 1168 (D. Or. 2002)
(social use of alcohol sufficient to warrant RDAP admission). With this in mind, counsel should discuss
substance abuse histories with clients prior to presentence interviews and, when possible, provide PSI
writers with independent information documenting the existence and degree of a client’s dependence
(e.g., medical records and clinical assessments). Should the BOP deem a PSI factually insufficient, a
client might well be found ineligible for services and refused an interview. In that instance, counsel
and/or the client may supply documentation subsequent to incarceration.
Given the § 3621(e) incentive, and to assure inmate veracity, RDAP eligibility interviews entail
difficult questions designed to determine whether admission is sought in good faith to obtain treatment
or simply to secure a quicker return home. Applicants can expect to be asked when they learned about
the program and the § 3621(e) credit, whether attorneys advised them to exaggerate treatment needs
when meeting with Probation, and details of their drug or alcohol use (e.g., when, how often, where, with
18

The 24 months remaining to serve rationale is unclear and possibly an area ripe for litigation since
the program can be completed within 15 months (nine months at the institution and six months at a halfway
house). Accounting for ordinary Good Time credit, someone sentenced to 18 months could complete the program
with approximately three weeks to spare on his sentence, though obviously receiving little to no § 3621(e) credit.
Accordingly, the 24-month figure appears an arbitrary cut-off.
19

The 12-month parameter derives from the premise that 12 months consecutive sobriety reflects
“sustained full remission” for which treatment services are unnecessary. See Weinman Stmnt., supra. In other
words, prisoners with lifelong addiction problems, even if confirmed by prior arrests or treatment efforts, are
ineligible for RDAP participation unless BOP staff confirms drug abuse or dependence during the last 12 months
before arrest. Although a practice ripe for legal challenge, it nonetheless compels counsel to verify the time
frame surrounding a client’s substance abuse. See Mitchell v. Andrews, 235 F. Supp. 2d 1085, 1090 (E.D. Cal.
2001) (“The DSM-IV does not require documentation of substance abuse or dependency during the 12-month
period immediately preceding either a diagnostic interview, arrest, or incarceration.”) (emphasis in original);
see also Smith v. Vazquez, 491 F. Supp. 2d 1165 (S.D. Ga. 2007) (“Though the BOP has presented arguably valid
reasoning behind the ‘twelve months preceding’ rule, Respondent has not shown a consistent source for the rule
or even a consistent definition of the rule.”; collecting cases) (decided before 2009 program statement
amendments that codified the 12-month rule).

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1055

whom, others’ awareness, etc.). Counsel should thus advise clients not to malinger or to overstate their
problems, either during the presentence interview or when seeking entrance into the program.
Once deemed RDAP-eligible, an inmate is placed on a wait list that is ordered by projected
release date (i.e., time remaining to serve, accounting for anticipated good time credit). If housed at an
institution not offering the RDAP, a prisoner will be transferred to one of the 58 programs (49 male, nine
female – see below20) at or around the time of expected entrance into a treatment class, usually within
20-to-24 months of release. There is a potential that movement may delay admission. For RDAPeligible inmates at an institution offering the program, it is not uncommon to be bumped from a class
at the last minute when new prisoners arrive with less time remaining to serve. Displacement from a
class, which is generally 24-to-27 persons in size, can postpone program participation for several
months.
North Central Region
FPC Duluth-Min.
FPC Englewood-Min.
FPC Florence-Min.
FCI Florence-Medium
FPC Greenville-Min.*
FPC Leavenworth-Min.
USP Leavenworth-Med.
FCI Milan-Low
FCI Oxford-Medium
FCI Sandstone-Low
FMC Springfield M
FCI W aseca-Low
FPC Yankton-Min.
*Female facility
^Spanish available
M
Co-occurring disorder
program
PAlso accepts Low

South Central Region
FCI Bastrop-Low^
FPC Beaumont-Min.
FCI Beaumont-Low
FPC Bryan-Min.*
FMC Carswell*,M
FSL El Paso-Low
FCI El Reno-Medium
FCI Forrest City-Low
FCI Forrest City-Medium
FCI Fort W orth-Low
FCI La Tuna-Low^
FCI Seagoville-Low
FPC Texarkana-Min.

Northeast Region
FCI Danbury-Low*
FCI Elkton-Low
FCI Fairton-Medium
FCI Fort Dix-Low
FPC Lewisburg-Min.
FPC-McKean-Min.
Southeast Region
FCI Coleman-Low^
FPC Edgefield-Min.
FCI Jesup-Low
FCI Marianna-Medium
FPC Miami-Min.^
FPC Montgomery-Min.^
FPC Pensacola-Min.
FPC Talladega-Min.
FCI Tallahassee-Low*
FCI Yazoo City-Low
RCI Rivers-Contract

Mid-Atlantic Region
FPC Alderson-Min.*
FPC Beckley-Min.
FCI Beckley-Medium
FCI Butner-Medium P
FPC Cumberland-Min.
FCI Cumberland-Medium
FMC Lexington M
FCI Morgantown-Min.
FCI Petersburg-Medium
W estern Region
FPC Dublin-Min.*
FCI Dublin-Low* ,^
FPC Lompoc-Min.
FPC Phoenix-Min.*
FCI Phoenix-Medium
FPC Sheridan-Min.
FCI Sheridan-Medium
FCI Terminal Island-Low

RDAP has two distinct components that must both be completed: the 500-hour “in custody”
treatment phase and the Community Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment Program (TDAT) phase at
halfway houses and while on home confinement. The residential phase is designed for participants to
reconcile their individual substance abuse issues. To this end, they are placed in a segregated housing
unit, and institutional assignments (work/school) become part-time and secondary to treatment, recovery
and reentry preparation. RDAP participants attend both daily, 3.5-hour classes, which track course
workbooks and include homework, and regular group therapy sessions. Counseling strategies are
intended to compel inmates “to identify, confront, and alter the attitudes, values, and thinking patterns
that lead to criminal and drug-using behavior.” Triad Drug Treatment Evaluation, 65 FEDERAL
PROBATION at 3.
20

Given the vagaries of budgeting and staffing, the authors recommend confirming the existence of an
RDAP program before requesting a judicial placement recommendation to help facilitate clients’ program
participation. This can be done by contacting either the Regional Drug Abuse Coordinator or the institution
directly.

19-1056

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

Anecdotal evidence suggests that approximately one-third of RDAP participants fail to complete
the program. Tardiness, incomplete assignments, and institutional rules violations can all result in
expulsion from the program and the loss of any anticipated time credit. Those who reach TDAT are
expected to work and prepare for reentry while being subject to added conditions, like group counseling,
random urinalysis, and a lower violation threshold than other halfway house residents. These demands
continue throughout the period of pre-release confinement, including home confinement. As at the
institution, a rules violation can result in loss of § 3621(e) credit, as well as transfer back to a prisoner’s
parent institution for the remaining sentence.
19.05.02 Sex Offender Management and Treatment Programs
Pursuant to the Adam Walsh Act, the BOP is obliged to house a sex offender management
program (SOMP) and a sex offender treatment program (SOTP) at an institution within each of its six
Regions. SOMPs must provide “appropriate treatment, monitoring, and supervision of sex offenders”
while the SOTPs “provide treatment to sex offender[s] . . . deemed by the Bureau of Prisons to be in
need of and suitable for residential treatment.” See 18 U.S.C. § 3621(f).
Placement in an SOMP can be compelled, though not all prisoners with sex offense convictions
are designated to one. Rather, the BOP’s announced design is to fill SOMPs with individuals identified
as the most serious sexual offenders or having the most serious histories.21 The goals of the program are:
(1) to pre-screen releasing sex offenders to determine civil commitment applicability; (2) to control sex
offenders’ risk of inappropriate sexual conduct during confinement; and (3) to provide non-residential
sex offender treatment. SOMPs are located at FMC Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts; the Federal
Correctional Institutions in Petersburg, Virginia (Medium), Marianna, Florida (Medium), Marion,
Illinois (Medium), Seagoville, Texas (Low); and at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona
(High). “Assignment is made in accordance with the security level of the individual.” BOP, LEGAL
RESOURCE GUIDE TO THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS at 29 (Nov. 2008). SOMPs are managed like
administrative institutions, that is, they house individuals of varying security levels (for instance, lowand medium-security inmates).
Participation in SOTPs is voluntary, with FMC Devens operating the only program as of 2009.
The SOTP “is a therapeutic community, housed in a 112-bed specialized unit. The program employs
a wide range of cognitive-behavioral and relapse prevention techniques to help the sex offender manage
his sexual deviance both within the institution and in preparation for release.” LEGAL RESOURCE GUIDE
at 29. Given the BOP’s approach to ‘treatment’ and the possibility of civil commitment, Fifth
Amendment considerations argue strongly against clients’ participation. A decision addressing a BOP
‘study’ of prisoners participating in the SOTP at FCI Butner, North Carolina (since disbanded) highlights
the myriad criticisms:
As [Dan L. Rogers, PhD] testified, the program is ‘highly coercive.’ Unless offenders
continue to admit to further sexual crimes, whether or not they actually committed those
crimes, the offenders are discharged from the program. Consequently, the subjects in this
Study had an incentive to lie, despite the fact that participation in the program would not
21

When SOMPs were first brought on-line, filling beds took precedent over the need to segregate serious
sexual offenders from the general prisoner population. Moving forward, less serious offenders (e.g., possession
of child pornography cases) will be transitioned out of SOMPs into FCI general populations, or not placed in the
program at all.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1057

shorten their sentences. Rogers testified that the Study’s ‘whole approach’ is rejected by
the treatment and scientific community.
United States v. Johnson, 588 F. Supp. 2d 997 (S.D. Iowa 2008) (citations omitted).
The Adam Walsh Act also provided for the civil commitment of sex offenders upon completion
of their federal terms of imprisonment. Information disclosed through treatment within the BOP is
weighed in determining whether an individual prisoner should be committed. The United States Court
of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down 18 U.S.C. § 4248’s civil commitment provisions as
unconstitutional. United States v. Comstock, 551 F.3d 274 (4th Cir.) (“forcible, indefinite civil
commitment . . . cannot be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause
or any other provision of the Constitution”), cert. granted, 129 S. Ct. 2828 (2009); but see United States
v. Tom, 565 F.3d 497 (8th Cir. 2009). Nonetheless, counsel should remind clients that participation in
a SOMP or a SOTP could affect them negatively at any future civil commitment proceeding, that they
have a Fifth Amendment right to refuse to discuss their sexual histories, and that any institutional penalty
(e.g., loss of privileges) for failure to participate may well be minor compared to the risk of lifetime civil
commitment. For more discussion of the Adam Walsh Act and its implications, see Chapter 25.
19.05.03 Challenge/BRAVE Programs (P.S. 5330.11)
The Challenge Program is an intensive, co-occurring disorders program for high security male
inmates that targets drug use (there are no High-security RDAPs), mental illness and antisocial attitudes
and behaviors. The residential program is located at USP Allenwood (PA), USP Atwater (CA), USP
Beaumont (TX), USP Big Sandy (KY), USP Coleman (FL), USP Coleman I (FL), USP Florence (CO),
USP Lee (VA), USP Pollock (LA), USP Terre Haute (IN), and USP Victorville (CA). It offers a 500hour drug abuse track and a mental illness track based on a clinical case management model, with hours
based on need. There is a 1:20 staff-to-prisoner ratio.
The Bureau Rehabilitation and Values Enhancement (BRAVE) Program, located at FCI Beckley
(WV) is designed for young male offenders (less than 32 years old) serving their first federal
commitment and sentences of 60 months or more. It is intended to address institutional adjustment,
antisocial attitudes and behaviors, and motivation to change. Participants in the six-month, 350-hour
program are segregated from other prisoners.
Both programs use interventions that are reportedly supported empirically, including cognitive
behavioral techniques delivered in a modified therapeutic community environment. The BOP claims
that these programs have been demonstrated to reduce participant misconduct by more than 50 percent.
19.05.04 Resolve Program (P.S. 5330.11)
The Resolve Program is a trauma treatment program for female prisoners provided at all female
institutions excluding FTCs, FDCs, and MDCs (transfer and metropolitan detention facilities). It
consists of both a Trauma in Life Workshop and a non-residential treatment program that employs
evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral treatment. The Workshop, which is designed for those within the
first 12 months of their sentences and is structured around a journal/guide entitled Trauma in Life, targets
those with traumatic life event histories (e.g., childhood abuse or neglect, rape, domestic violence), those
suffering from Axis I or Axis II disorders associated with a traumatic life event, and those seeking to

19-1058

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

learn more about trauma and its potential impact (e.g., effect of physical abuse of children). Workshop
graduates who suffer from an Axis I or Axis II disorder associated with a traumatic life event are
encouraged to participate in the non-residential program, which has two phases. Phase I entails 12
weeks of one-hour group sessions. Phase II is specialized and works with individuals within one of three
groups: Maintenance Skills Group, Cognitive Processing Therapy Group, and Dialectical Behavior
Therapy Skills Training Group.
19.05.05 Life Connections
Established in 2002, the Life Connections Program is an offshoot of President George H.W.
Bush’s Faith Based and Community Initiative. Operating at FMC Carswell (TX), USP Leavenworth
(KS), FCI Milan (MI), FCI Petersburg (VA), and USP Terre Haute (IN) under the direction of the BOP’s
Religious Services Branch, the multi-phase, multi-faith program strives to reduce recidivism by instilling
values and character through a curriculum of personal, social and moral development focused on
prisoners’ faith commitment. Participants, who must volunteer for the program and be approved by the
referring institution’s chaplain and the warden, are placed in same-faith study and prayer groups led by
contracted spiritual guides. Over the course of the 18-month program, inmates learn about reentryrelated and other subjects (e.g., ethical decision-making, anger management, victim restitution,
responsible parenting, budgeting, marriage enrichment, religious tolerance, respect) from the perspective
of the group’s sacred text (e.g., Bible, Torah, Quran) and philosophical perspective. Participants are
further required to complete 500 hours’ community service; partake in victim impact programs;
complete 150 hours’ addiction programming; provide financial and emotional support to their families
through weekly correspondence; maintain a regular journal; and establish re-entry goals and action steps.
Given the program demands, participants may be unable to participate as fully in general population
activities, such as work.
19.05.06 Mothers and Infants Nurturing Together (MINT)
At the discretion of the Unit Team, female prisoners who are pregnant at the time of commitment
can participate in MINT, a halfway house-based program, subject to satisfying eligibility criteria: in the
last three months of pregnancy, less than five years remaining to serve and furlough eligible (see supra).
In addition to pre- and post-natal programs, such as childbirth, parenting and coping skills classes, MINT
offers substance abuse treatment, physical and sexual abuse counseling, self-esteem building programs,
life skills training, and educational and vocational programs. MINT is managed by private social service
agencies under contract with BOP.
Either the expectant mother or a guardian must assume financial responsibility for the child’s
medical care while residing at a MINT facility. Additionally, prior to birth, the mother must arrange for
a custodian to assume care of the child. Staff and outside social service agencies are available to aid
with placement. Once the child is born, the mother has three months to bond before being returned to
her referring institution to complete her sentence, though certain program locations can authorize an
extended bonding period.
19.05.07 Communication Management Unit (CMU)
Established in 2006 at FCI Terre Haute (IN), the Communication Management Unit is a selfcontained housing unit (i.e., separate from the main institution’s general population) intended to provide

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1059

increased monitoring of prisoner communication (mail/telephone). The CMU is purportedly for those
convicted of, or associated with, international or domestic terrorism; sex offenders who attempt
repeatedly to contact their victims; those who attempt to coordinate illegal activities while incarcerated
through approved communication methods; and those with extensive disciplinary histories related to the
misuse/abuse of approved communication methods. However, given the reportedly disproportionate
number of Arab-speaking and Muslim prisoners in the CMU, there is significant concern about profiling
as well as the program’s legality.
19.05.08

Early Release for Extraordinary and Compelling Circumstances (P.S.
5050.46; 18 U.S.C. §§ 3582(c)(1)(A), 4205(g); U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13)

Upon motion of the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, a sentencing court may reduce a term of
imprisonment, after considering 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), if it finds, inter alia, extraordinary and compelling
reasons that are consistent with Sentencing Commission policy statements. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)A).
The Commission has determined that reductions may be appropriate where a prisoner poses no danger
to public safety and “is suffering from a terminal illness; is suffering from a permanent physical or
medical condition, or is experiencing deteriorating physical or mental health because of the aging
process, that substantially diminishes [his ability] to provide self-care within the environment of a
correctional facility and for which conventional treatment promises no substantial improvement”; “[t]he
death or incapacitation of the [prisoner]’s only family member capable of caring for [his] minor child
or minor children”; or some combination of factors, as determined by the BOP Director -- individual
rehabilitation, standing alone, is insufficient. U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13. Notwithstanding this clear statutory
mandate and far-reaching Commission policy, as a practical matter the BOP files § 3582(c)(1)(A) (a.k.a.,
compassionate release) motions only when a prisoner is on his death bed, and not always then. See P.S.
5050.46, Compassionate Release; Procedures for Implementation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 3582(c)(1)(A) &
4205(g).
19.05.09 Furloughs (P.S. 5280.07)
A furlough is an authorized, unescorted absence from an institution intended to advance
recognized correctional goals. There are two kinds of furloughs: day and overnight. A day furlough
consists of a trip to a location within 100 miles of the granting institution that lasts no more than 16
hours and ends before midnight. Because the stated purpose for day furloughs is “to strengthen family
ties and to enrich specific institution program experiences,” they are typically granted to inmates wishing
to attend a momentous family event (e.g., a child’s wedding) or to engage in institution-sponsored
activities within the community. Technically, overnight furloughs can extend to 30 days when unique
circumstances present themselves, but they ordinarily last three-to-seven days. Unlike day furloughs,
there are no stated restrictions on the proximity of an inmate’s overnight furlough destination from her
designated federal facility.
Before an inmate is considered for a furlough, he must generally: (a) be listed as community
custody; (b) be deemed physically and mentally capable; (c) have demonstrated “sufficient
responsibility” so as to assure compliance with furlough requirements; and (d) (1) within two years of
anticipated release for a day furlough, or (2) within 18 months of anticipated release for an overnight
furlough to a location within the institution’s “commuting area,” or (3) within 12 months of anticipated
release for an overnight furlough outside of the commuting area. Furthermore, furloughs are generally
unavailable to inmates convicted of serious crimes against the person or those “whose presence in the

19-1060

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

community could attract undue public attention, create unusual concern, or depreciate the seriousness
of the offense.” One notable exception is the “Emergency Furlough,” which permits attendance to a
certifiable “family crisis or other urgent situation” and are available to an inmate confined at his initially
designated institution for less than 90 days as well as to those with more than two years remaining to
serve.
No matter the furlough type, an inmate remains under BOP custody even when away from the
institution. This means: (a) that he is expected to adhere to prescribed rules; (b) that sanctions can be
imposed for rules violations committed away from the institution; (c) that failure to timely return to the
institution makes one an “escapee”; and (d) that time spent on furlough is credited towards one’s
sentence. Additionally, the cost of a furlough (i.e., transportation, lodging, food) is the inmate’s and/or
his family’s responsibility. There is no known provision for indigent inmates.
The involvement of counsel in a furlough request both expedites a decision and improves the
chances that the request will be granted.
19.05.10 Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program
Pursuant to the Second Chance Act, on February 5, 2009, the BOP created a two-year pilot
program to determine the effectiveness of placing certain elderly offenders on home detention, to include
a nursing home or residential long-term care facility, earlier than the law otherwise allows. See 18
U.S.C. § 3624(c)(2). To be eligible, a prisoner must be at least 65 years old as of September 30, 2010
and have “served the greater of 10 years or 75 percent of the term of imprisonment to which the offender
was sentenced,” with multiple terms aggregated. In other words, the individual must have served at least
ten years and whatever time served must be greater than 75 percent of the sentence imposed (not
counting good conduct time reductions).22 Those sentenced to life imprisonment are ineligible. Other
eligibility criteria include that the individual have no escape history and not be serving time for a “crime
of violence” (18 U.S.C. § 16), a sex offense, an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries,
espionage, or censorship. The operations memorandum includes an appendix listing disqualifying
offenses.
19.06 ATTORNEY-CLIENT INTERACTION
The BOP purports to recognize the right to confidential and private communication between
attorney and client, but such communications are not automatically afforded protected status. Telephone
calls between attorney and client are only assured confidentiality if the call originates from the institution
and is placed by institution staff on secured lines at the inmate’s request. Even then, it is common for
inmates to call from a staff member’s office, with one or more persons in the room. Unless counsel
22

Assuming one earns all good time credit, to serve ten years or more one must have been sentenced to
at least 138 months’ imprisonment. Note, however, that because the law allows for a prisoner to serve the final
ten percent of his sentence under home confinement, up to six months, the pilot program has no true benefit for
such individuals. Rather, counsel must identify otherwise eligible clients sentenced to more than 138 months
and work to maximize their placement in the program. For instance, someone sentenced to 140 months’
imprisonment can expect to serve about 122 months in federal custody (assuming no RDAP reduction).
Inasmuch as that individual would otherwise be eligible for home confinement around 116 months, the position
should be taken that BOP consider pilot program participation at 114 months despite having not yet served ten
years.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19-1061

knows that she is speaking with her client privately, on an unmonitored line, do not assume that the call
is protected communication. See, e.g., United States v. Hatcher, 323 F.3d 666 (8th Cir. 2003) (privilege
implicitly waived by knowledge of recording device used to monitor calls).
Written communication between attorney and client is opened only in the presence of the inmate
to insure the absence of contraband -- the contents are not to be read. Cf. Sallier v. Brooks, 343 F.3d 868
(6th Cir. 2003). However, this protection is offered only when the outside of the envelope is marked
“SPECIAL MAIL - OPEN ONLY IN THE PRESENCE OF THE INMATE” and counsel’s first and last
names appear followed by “Attorney at Law”; a return address showing only the name and address of
the office or law firm is insufficient, as is “Jane Doe, Esquire.” See 28 C.F.R. § 540.19(b). An extra
measure to protect communication is the inclusion of a privacy warning cover sheet. As an example,
the author includes a cover sheet in all correspondence to incarcerated clients which reads:
IMPORTANT
PRIVILEGED ATTORNEY-CLIENT COMMUNICATION
IF YOU ARE NOT THE ADDRESSEE,
DO NOT READ THE CONTENTS OF THIS MAIL
This is legal mail. If the envelope was properly marked ‘Special Mail: Open Only In
Presence of Inmate’ and if your attorney’s name was on the outside of the envelope, it
should have been opened in your presence so you could see it opened. If this letter came
to you already opened, and if you did not see the institution staff open it in your presence,
please report it to your lawyer immediately. The institution staff is permitted to open
legal mail to look for contraband, but that must be done in your presence and the contents
of the letter must not be read by the officer.
Federal inmates are prohibited from possessing their presentence reports and the Statement of
Reasons section of their judgment orders.23 There are practical limits on the volume of legal materials
inmates can maintain in their direct possession (i.e., bunk area). Many institutions issue “legal lockers”
to inmates during the pendency of appeals or post-conviction proceedings. When case information
exceeds capacity, the institution will most often store it in the library under staff control, where it is
available to the client for review. Counsel should contact the institution before forwarding a substantial
amount of legal materials or any item stored electronically (i.e., on disk) to confirm arrangements for
storage and client access.
Finally, counsel should be aware that unlike other administrative agencies, the BOP does not
copy attorneys on correspondence sent to their clients or generally acknowledge counsel’s existence.
Said another way, while the BOP will generally respond to your direct inquiries (subject to the clientprisoner signing necessary release forms), it will not allow you to interject yourself into the disciplinary
hearing process or send you copies of responses to administrative remedy appeals that you have filed on
your client’s behalf.

23

To the extent an inmate needs to review these documents, the Unit Team must allow the inmate to see
them and take notes on them.

19-1062

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

19.07 RESOURCES
There are a plethora of prison guidebooks available today. Alan Ellis’s is the most ubiquitous.
Few, however, offer any more than what is freely available on the Bureau’s website, http://www.
bop.gov, elsewhere on the Internet, from other counsel, or former clients. One book of note is Professor
Mary Bosworth’s THE U.S. FEDERAL PRISON SYSTEM (Sage Publications 2002), which offers a
sociological perspective on many aspects of BOP programs and practices, blending official positions
with views from prisoners and their family members.
Another useful tool is
http://www.MichaelSantos.net, the website of a federal prisoner currently serving a 45-year sentence that
contains articles providing first-person insight into the correctional experience. Finally, there are blogs,
such as the Ninth Circuit Blog (http://circuit9.blogspot.com/), to which Chief Deputy Federal Public
Defender Steve Sady regularly contributes;24 as well as listservs, like BOPWatch (available at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BOPWatch/) and that run by FedCURE (available at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FedCURE-org/); and discussion forums, like PrisonTalk.com. A number
of attorneys subscribe to BOPWatch, many of whom are able and willing to respond to questions
concerning BOP policy and practice. FedCURE and PrisonTalk are ‘places’ where many family
members of the incarcerated congregate and share information.

24

Those interested in prison-related litigation should read Steve Sady and Lynne Deffebach’s excellent
articles: Stephen R. Sady & Lynn Deffebach, The Sentencing Commission, The Bureau of Prisons, And The Need
For Full Implementation Of Existing Ameliorative Statutes To Address Unwarranted And Unauthorized OverIncarceration, June 2008, http://or.fd.org/symp2.final%20for%20pdf.pdf and Stephen R. Sady & Lynn
Deffebach, Update on BOP Issues Affecting Clients Before and After Sentencing, February 2007,
http://or.fd.org/BOPNotesOnIssuesJan07.pdf.

 

 

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