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Bureau of Prisons – Transfers

Overview of Transfers

Transfers (also known as re-designations) come in many forms within the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Most transfers are initiated by the BOP itself, with little to no input from the inmate or their family. However, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Below I’ll list the common types of transfers, what they mean, and why they happen.

Transfers within the BOP are governed by the Program Statement 5100.08. “Program Statements” are the rules that the BOP creates for itself to comply with National law.

Types of Transfers

There are thirty-one (31) different types of transfers within the BOP. Most of these types of transfers are influenced by an inmate because they are only for security or administrative purposes. However, some transfers are able to be affected by the inmate themselves. The most common transfers for both types are listed below:

Institution Classifications Transfer: This type of transfer occurs when an inmate’s security level has changed.

  1. “Lesser Security” transfers occurs when “a decrease in the inmate’s security level is indicated by the Custody Classification Form.” When conduct has been clear for enough time, points are deducted from the inmate’s record. When these points drop below the threshold of their current institutions security level, transfer is considered. Transfer doesn’t always occur, but if an inmate knows his security point total, he may initiate a request for the transfer to spur the BOP to transfer him to a different prison.
  2. “Greater Security” transfers work just the opposite way
  3. “Custody Level Changes” indicate that a transfer is appropriate and work much the same way as the above security-level-related transfers

Nearer Release Transfers:: These transfers move the inmate closer to their legal residence or release destination (if they are different), as long as this transfer is consistent with their security level. This transfer is only considered after 18 consecutive months of clear conduct have been observed in general population. These transfers are often made together with Lesser Security transfers, occur within the last year or two of an inmate’s sentence, and transfer the inmate to within 500 miles of the home of record.

**2019-2020 Update **

The First Step Act of 2018 changed the criteria for the 500-mile radius here. Before this law, that 500 miles was considered “nautical miles” in a straight line (as the crow flies), which translated to 575.34 standard straight-line miles. The new law makes this definition to 500 standard-driving miles, which makes these nearer release transfers much more accessible to visitors from home.

The First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-391 (Summary of BOP Changes)

Program Participation: This type of transfer is common when an inmate is eligible for specific programs offered by the BOP. Most commonly, this is used for participation in the Residential Drug Treatment Program (RDAP). Not only can this transfer bring an inmate closer to home, it can lower his security level and take up to a year off his sentence.

Of the 31 different types of transfers, these are the types that can most commonly be influenced by an inmate themselves. To learn more about these and other types of transfers, read the full text of Chapter 7 in Program Statement 5100.08.

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