Introduction to Federal Prison

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is a subdivision of the United States Department of Justice and is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system.

federal prison

What is the purpose of a federal prison?

A federal prison protects society by detaining offenders in a controlled environment that is secure, humane, safe, and cost-efficient. Additionally, it is the goal of the federal prison to offer self-improvement opportunities that will assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens. Upon an inmate’s arrival at a federal prison, they are thoroughly evaluated by staff. During this evaluation, an inmate’s specific medical and mental health will be assessed and he or she assigned to programs that will best serve their needs during their time spent in the facility.

Throughout their time in the institution, inmates receive occupational training and education that will assist them in developing positive life skills. Often, through this education and training, inmates develop a sense of personal responsibility and a respect for others and that will help them succeed once they have left the facility.

What is the difference between federal, state and local prisons?

The primary difference between a federal prison and all other prisons is that only criminals who have been convicted of violating federal laws can be housed there.

What types of federal prisons are there?

Minimum Security Prisons are also known as Federal Prison Camps and possess the following characteristics:

  • Dormitory-style housing;
  • A low staff-to-inmate ratio;
  • Limited or no perimeter fencing.

These institutions are work-based and are often located near other prison facilities or military bases. Generally, the work performed in the minimum security federal prison assists in the day-to-day functions of the adjacent prison or military base.

Low Security Prisons are also known as Federal Correctional Institutions possess the following characteristics:

  • Dormitory-style or cubicle housing;
  • Double-fenced perimeters;
  • A higher staff-to-inmate ratio than minimum security prisons;
  • A strong work program.

Medium Security Prisons can be either Federal Correctional Institutions or United States Penitentiaries and possess the following characteristics:

  • Cell-type housing;
  • Double-fenced perimeters with electronic detection systems;
  • A high staff-to-inmate ratio;
  • Strict controls within the facility.

High Security Prisons are also known as United States Penitentiaries and possess the following characteristics:

  • Cell-type housing;
  • Highly secured perimeters;
  • An extremely high staff-to-inmate ratio;
  • Close control of all movement throughout the facility.

Correctional Complexes are complexes that house several federal prison facilities of different security levels. These complexes are often more efficient as they share resources and staff.

Administrative Facilities are institutions with unique missions that serve the needs of a particular group of inmates. Examples of the special-needs inmates are as follows:

  • Pretrial offenders;
  • Inmates with serious or chronic medical problems;
  • Extremely violent or escape-prone inmates.

Administrative facilities include:

  • Metropolitan Correctional Centers;
  • Metropolitan Detention Centers;
  • Federal Detention Centers;
  • Federal Medical Centers;
  • Federal Transfer Centers;
  • Medical Center for Federal Prisoners;
  • Administrative-Maximum U.S. Penitentiary.

Satellite Camps Several Bureau of Prisons institutions incorporate small, minimum security camps adjacent to the main facility. These camps provide inmate labor to the main institution and to off-site work programs.

How can you locate an inmate?

The following link will provide you with information as to the location of a particular inmate:

How can you learn more about a particular federal prison?

The following link will provide you with contact information for the facility you wish to learn more about:

For more information, click here:

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