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The Federal Bureau of Prisons incarcerates 154,859 federal prisoners across 37 states. These inmates are held in 127 stand-alone federal prisons, 68 satellite prison camps, and 12 private prisons.
In fiscal year 2019, 76,656 criminal defendants were sentenced in federal courts. This constitutes a 10.2 percent increase in federal criminal sentencing over fiscal year 2018. This is the single largest percentage increase in federal criminal sentencing in the past 15 years.
“Federal inmates are housed in a variety of facilities across the United States,” explains Christopher Zoukis, Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, “These range from relatively soft Federal Prison Camps to extremely violent and lawless U.S. Penitentiaries with nicknames such as ‘Bloody Beaumont’ and ‘Victimville.’”
The majority of federal prisoners are housed in low-security federal prisons (36.6%) and medium-security federal prisons (31.6%). Minimum-security prisons, or Federal Prison Camps, house 16 percent of federal inmates, while high-security federal prisons house 12.4 percent of federal inmates.
“The significant number of inmates housed across the United States creates a real problem for prisoners and their families,” said Zoukis. “Finding where an incarcerated loved one is incarcerated can be a real challenge.” He continued, “The fear of losing a loved one in prison is a real fear and occurs every day.”
The Zoukis Consulting Group created an online portal to help family members and friends of prisoners find their incarcerated loved ones. This Inmate Search Portal provides family members with links to each state prison system’s and the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ inmate locator databases.
“The other hard-to-appreciate issue is the culture of each institution,” explains Zoukis. “While we think of prisons as a standardized experience, this just isn’t the case.”
Each federal prison has its own unique culture, and these cultures spur folklore-like names. For example, USP Victorville in California is known by the nickname “Victimville.” USP Beaumont in Texas is known by an equally nefarious name, “Bloody Beaumont.” In contrast, FCI Petersburg Medium in Petersburg, Virginia, is known amongst inmates as “Sweetersburg,” while Federal Prison Camp Alderson, where Martha Stewart was incarcerated, is known as “Camp Cupcake.”
“One of the acute problems our clients experience is understanding the culture of individual federal prisons before arrival,” said Zoukis. “This is critical because if the institution is particularly violent or experiences significant prison politics, new arrivals need to know so they can develop a plan for how to interact with other inmates, and how to react to the typical initiation rituals at the various security levels.”
To help shed light into each institution’s culture, Zoukis both interviewed and surveyed inmates at most federal prisons. He also conducted literature reviews, supported by numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. His objective was deceptively simple: to catalog each federal prisons’ inmate offerings and appreciate each institution’s culture.
“The end product of this several-years effort was the publication of my Directory of Federal Prisons,” said Zoukis. “The book profiles every federal prison in the United States, particularly focusing on the culture of each institution.”
Each prison profile also contains data on whether current inmates believe LGBT inmates, sex offenders, and informants are safe to reside at each facility, and the prevalence of prison politics, or the prison gang culture, of each institution.
An extension of this project is the publication of the Zoukis Consulting Group’s Federal Prison Resource Portal on the firm’s website. This resource portal includes profiles of every federal prison. While not as exhaustive as the profiles in his Directory of Federal Prisons, this web portal provides free information of use to anyone interested in federal prisons and their inmate offerings.
“Going to federal prison is never simple or easy,” explains Zoukis. “But armed with an informational framework from which to make good decisions, new arrivals can land on their feet, improve their quality of life, and make it through the experience as relatively unscathed as possible.”
About the Zoukis Consulting Group
The Zoukis Consulting Group is the premier federal prison consultancy, specializing in federal prison preparation, resolution of in-prison matters, and reentry success. Our objective is for our clients to serve the least amount of time in the best federal prisons with the earliest opportunity for release. They can be found online at https://www.prisonerresource.com.
About Christopher Zoukis
Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group. He is the author of the Director of Federal Prisons, Federal Prison Handbook, and Prison Education Guide. Mr. Zoukis is also a law student at the University of California, Davis School of Law, where he is a member of the UC Davis Law Review and Trial Practice Honors Board. He is also the vice president of the Criminal Law Association and Students Against Mass Incarceration.