Federal Prisons | Federal Bureau of Prisons

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.

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.

Federal Prison | Federal Prisons

Federal Prisons Directory

Below is a list of every Federal Bureau of Prisons facility. Click on the respective link to view our online profile for each facility. You can also quickly find contact information in our BOP Contact Directory and Halfway House Contact Directory.

Buy a copy of Christopher Zoukis’s Directory of Federal Prisons: The Unofficial Guide to Bureau of Prisons Institutions (Middle Street Publishing, 2020) for an updated and more comprehensive profiling of every federal prison. This guide contains extensive information about every federal prison, including interviews with inmates currently serving time at many federal prisons. And for detailed information about life in federal prison, pick up a copy of Christopher Zoukis’ Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2017).

Federal Prisons | Federal Bureau of Prisons

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.

The majority of federal prisoners are housed in low-security (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 prisons house 12.4 percent of federal inmates.

Federal Prisons Directory

Below is a list of every Federal Bureau of Prisons facility. Click on the respective link to view our online profile for each facility. You can also quickly find contact information in our BOP Contact Directory and Halfway House Contact Directory.

Buy a copy of Christopher Zoukis’s Directory of Federal Prisons: The Unofficial Guide to Bureau of Prisons Institutions (Middle Street Publishing, 2020) for an updated and more comprehensive profiling of every federal prison. This guide contains extensive information about every federal prison, including interviews with inmates currently serving time at many federal prisons. And for detailed information about life in federal prison, pick up a copy of Christopher Zoukis’ Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2017).

Administrative Offices

Regional Offices

Mid-Atlantic Region (MXR)

North Central Region (NCR)

Northeast Region (NER)

South Central Region (SCR)

Southeast Region (SER)

Western Regin (WXR)

Federal Prisons by State

Private Prisons

Residential Rentry Management Locations

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Federal Prison Organization

The Bureau is administratively organized in a top-down fashion. The Central Office, located in Washington, D.C., consists of the Director, the General Counsel, and the executive-level offices of the Health Services, Correctional Programs and Information, Policy and Public Affairs divisions. Under the Central Office are six geographically-organized Regional Offices. Regional Offices oversee the individual institutions in their geographic area.

The federal facilities are divided amongst six geographic regions governed by a regional office headed by a regional director. The six regions include the Mid-Atlantic Region (MXR), North Central Region (NCR), Northeast Region (NER), South Central Region (SCR), Southeast Region (SER), and Western Region (WXR). Each office is overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prison’s Central Office in Washington, DC. Each of the 127 federal prisons has its own institutional makeup, policies, procedures, and general mode of operation.

At the institutional level, operations are generally divided between administrative functions and correctional/security functions. The Warden is the top administrator. Reporting to the Warden are various Associate Wardens, Unit Managers, Case Managers, Correctional Counselors, and other administrators. The Captain is in charge of all correctional and security-related matters. Beneath the Captain are the lieutenants and front-line correctional officers.

Federal Prison Security Levels

Each Bureau facility is assigned one of five security levels. Minimum-security prisons, also known as camps, generally have no fences, few security measures, and a low staff-to-inmate ratio. Low and medium-security prisons, also known as Federal Correctional Institutions (FCIs), have multiple barbed-wire fences, armed perimeter security patrols, and a higher staff-to-inmate ratio. High-security federal prisons are known as United States Penitentiaries (USPs) and are usually surrounded by 40 to 50-foot walls, gun towers, and house violent or long-term prisoners.

Administrative prisons have a variety of missions. Federal Medical Centers (FMCs), Federal Detention Centers (FDCs), and Federal Transfer Centers (FTCs) handle major medical issues, pretrial detention, and inmate movement, respectively. Inmates of all security levels may be held in these administrative facilities. The Administrative Maximum facility, also known as ADX Florence or ADMAX, is the Bureau’s “super-max” prison. Only the highest security-level prisoners are held in this underground concrete bunker. See Chapter 2 for more information on BOP facility security levels.

Designation and Sentence Computation Center

The Designation and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC) is the stand-alone BOP office tasked with calculating an inmate’s sentence and determining where he or she will be housed. Staff at the DSCC, located in Grand Prairie, Texas, consider various factors when designating inmates. Such factors include inmate-specific information (e.g., history of violence, age, sentence length, medical needs, etc.) and Bureau-specific information (e.g., population considerations, specific security issues, etc.). See Chapter 3 for more information on DSCC and the designation process.

Inmate Demographics

As of May 1, 2019, the Bureau of Prisons housed 180,501 inmates in its institutions. Most inmates are held in either low- or medium-security FCIs (37.7 percent in low-security FCIs and 30 percent in medium-security FCIs). About 16.5 percent of all inmates live in minimum-security camps. United States Penitentiaries hold 11.9 percent of all federal prisoners.

The average age of a federal prisoner is 36. Most federal prisoners are male — 93 percent. Over 58 percent of the Bureau’s population is white or Hispanic, and 37.7 percent is black. Most federal inmates are serving a 5- to 10-year sentence (over 25 percent) for a drug-related crime (over 45 percent).

The Bureau employs over 35,000 individuals. Just under three-quarters of all BOP staff are male. Most are white, non-Hispanic (62.8 percent). About 21.5 percent of all Bureau employees are black, and 12.2 percent are Hispanic.

About 83 percent of the Bureau’s population is housed in BOP-operated facilities. The remaining inmates live in one of the 12 facilities owned or operated by for-profit contractors, such as CoreCivic or the GEO Group, or other types of housing (e.g., halfway house, home confinement, etc.).

History of the Federal Bureau of Prisons

The history of the Federal Bureau of Prisons started before the agency ever existed. In 1789, the federal court system was created. For most of the next century, federal prisoners were housed in local or state facilities. By the late 1890s, seven prisons had been established to house federal prisoners.

The official start of the Federal Bureau of Prisons is credited to the so-called Three Prisons Act of 1891. This identified for Congress three sites for the federal government’s first penitentiaries. Congress was slow in developing these three facilities. Six years had passed between passing the Three Prisons Act and breaking ground for the United States Penitentiary Leavenworth. In total, it took twenty-five years for USP Leavenworth to be constructed. The penitentiary was constructed by inmates who lived in an adjacent old military fort.

Following the construction of USP Leavenworth, USP Atlanta (GA) was opened in 1902, and USP McNeil Island (WA) was opened in 1909. USP McNeil Island had previously been a territorial jail built in 1875. The first federal prison for women, Federal Prison Camp Alderson, opened in 1928. The infamous Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay was opened in 1934.

Congress formally established the Federal Bureau of Prisons was formally established in 1930. The goal of the prison system was, according to the BOP, “[to] provide more progressive and humane care for Federal inmates, to professionalize the prison service, and to ensure consistent and centralized administration of the 11 federal prisons in operation at the time.

By the end of 1930, the federal prison system operated fourteen institutions that housed over 13,000 federal inmates. Ten years later, the Federal Bureau of Prisons had expanded to twenty-four institutions that housed over 24,360 federal inmates. According to the Bureau, “[e]xcept for a few fluctuations, the number of inmates did not change significantly between 1940 and 1980 (when the population was 24,252)

Although the number of federal inmates did not increase, the number of institutions nearly doubled from 24 to 44 by 1980. From 1980 to 1989, the federal prison system experienced significant inmate population growth, from 24,000 to approximately 58,000 federal prisoners. Between 1987 and 1992 alone, the Bureau opened twenty new federal prisons. Through the 1990s, the inmate population doubled again, reaching 136,000 by the end of 1999. Much of this growth was “[due to] efforts to combat illegal drugs, weapons, and immigration violations.”

From the 1990s to the present, the Bureau of Prisons’ population has grown to 195,947 men and women, as of May 2016. During fiscal year 2012, the Bureau had an operating budget of approximately $6.6 billion, second only to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s $8 billion. While the Bureau has continued to add bed- pace by building new facilities and revamping old ones at significant expense, its prisons now hover at about 140 percent of designed capacity.

This overcrowding was deemed a hazard to staff, inmates, and the public in a recent Government Accountability Office report called Bureau of Prisons: Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure The house is becoming more expensive, more crowded, and is crumbling, yet no solutions or plans are currently being implemented to find a path out of the overburdened reality.