Federal Pretrial Primer 3: Getting the Prison you Want

This is the third and final installment of PCR Consultants’ primer on the federal pretrial phase of incarceration. The institution where one eventually does time is equally as important as how much time he or she will spend inside.

Your Next Destination

Are some Institutions Better than Others?

The short answer is: yes. Once it becomes clear that a prison sentence is unavoidable, the next question is always about where a defendant will do his or her time. This is not only an important question, it is the ONLY question that can make a meaningful difference to quality of life when doing time, and how soon an inmate can leave.

A lot of questions need to be answered, but this is where lawyers tend to fall very short. Lawyers can know a ton about criminal defense, but also know almost nothing about the inner workings of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The BOP uses its own set of standards to determine what security level an inmate “requires”. A future inmate of the BOP might assume that he belongs in a camp because he has no prior criminal record at all, but this isn’t always true.

If a sentence is too long, security levels increase. If it is too short, the certain camp a defendant asked to go to may no be given to him because it offers programs that require a sentence be certain length to qualify for placement there. At this point a judge’s opinion is only advisory, and the future inmate is fully at the mercy of the BOP. However, there is good news.

A sentencing judge can make a recommendation to the BOP of where he or she wishes to be incarcerated. If (and this is a huge ‘if’) that judge makes a recommendation for placement which is within BOP regulations for security level and program needs, that recommendation is granted a large majority of the time. If not, a future BOP resident can be sent literally ANYWHERE in the country that has room for them. Avoiding this mistake can mean months of time taken away in a halfway house and even up to a year off an inmate’s sentence for participation in the BOP’s residential drug and alcohol program.

Because lawyers make their money in criminal defense, most don’t spend the time to make truly informed decisions on what to ask the judge to recommend. This mistake is costly, but the cost of it is only apparent after one is already behind bars and its months-too-late to correct the problem. Prison Consultants, good ones anyway, have first-hand knowledge of the BOP process of inmate designation and which institutions are better and worse, closest to home, and have the programs available for each client’s specific needs.

Thank you for reading this primer. There will be many more to come which detail life inside the BOP, what to expect from a halfway house, and what’s in store for a released convict with the US Probation Office.