By George Hook

Unlike in the States’ prison systems where a prisoner is confined to a single State and the choice of where to “do time” is limited to the few facilities in that State, in the federal system a prisoner may wind up in almost any of the federal prison facilities in any of the 40 States where such facilities are located.  Even though the mindset and function of the Designation and Sentence Computation Center (“DSCC”), located in Grand Prairie, Texas, which is responsible for initial designations is far from those of a travel agency, its mission is to make the best placement of prisoners possible, given all the different factors at play. 

Security level is the most determinative.  That limits where an inmate may go based on the nature of offense, whether violent or not, sentence time, affiliations, target characteristics, and, unfortunately these days, location overcrowding.  These factors are beyond the control of the prisoner.  But the prisoner can affect the DSCC’s decision by providing input as to such matters as DSCC would not otherwise be aware.  The DSCC will be aware of family ties and try to accommodate family visitations so that won’t be necessary for the prisoner to address unless unusual circumstances necessitate an accommodation other than the obvious. 

What the DSCC will have no inkling about is the prisoner’s educational wishes.  Of course, federal statute and regulation mandate General Educational Development (“GED”) and English as a Second Language (“ESL”) for those who need them.  But the DSCC will be clueless as to the choices that prisoners would make as to Adult Continuing Education (“ACE”) and Occupational Education Preferences (“OEP”) and the abilities that dictate which are most feasible for each particular prisoner.  Learning this will be deemed important to the DSCC because proper placement based on ACE and OEP may result in happy prisoners.  The DSCC wants happy prisoners because they are thought to be more compliant and therefore less trouble.  Additionally, these programs, diligently pursued and successfully completed, are more likely to result in ex-convicts who are more able to sustain themselves after prison and less likely to recidivate.  This is a “win-win” situation for everyone, especially now that the federal government is in a budget crunch. 

The prisoners’ preferences should be conveyed timely by defense counsel to the sentencing judge.  Giving educational goals as reason for a specific location will substantiate the selection and make more likely that the judge will recommend it and that DSCC will designate it.  So the prisoner and his attorney will need to discuss specifically what ACE and OEP offerings are available at which prison facilities and convey those to the judge so that this may be included as a reason for the selection of LOCATION. 

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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