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How is an inmate's security level determined?

There are five security levels: minimum, low, medium, high, and administrative. The BOP determines an inmate’s security level by taking into consideration factors such as criminal history score, age, education level, drug/alcohol abuse, mental stability, responsibility demonstrated, family/community ties, history of violence, history of escapes/attempts, detainers, severity of the offense, and length of sentence.

Classifications are reviewed approximately once every twelve months. The BOP looks at the months to release date, percentage of time served, program participation, living skills, disciplinary findings, as well as the initial factors listed above.

BOP institutions are classified into one of five security levels: minimum, low, medium, high, and administrative. Classification is based upon the level of security and supervision the inmate requires, as well as the inmate’s program needs, such as substance abuse, educational/vocational training and/or counseling. The BOP attempts to designate inmates to facilities commensurate with their security and program needs within a 500 mile radius of their release residence. Placement is determined by the severity of instant offense as well as any prior violent or drug related convictions. Factors that determine an inmate’s security level are found in the Presentence Investigation Report and include age, education level, pending charges or outstanding warrants, as well as the total criminal history points from the Presentence Investigation Report and the J&C order. While incarcerated, requests for transfers to lower security level facilities may be impacted by incident reports, time remaining to serve, and personal responsibility (such as following programming and plans and maintaining good conduct while incarcerated).

For additional information regarding designations see
http://www.bop.gov/inmate_programs/designations.jsp and click on Program Statement 5100.08 and scroll to Chapter 5, Page 9.

How do warrants affect designation?

An inmate with outstanding warrants and detainers/warrants will be housed in a higher level security prison and may be ineligible for halfway house placement.

Can an inmate request placement in a facility where a family member is currently serving time?

An inmate may request placement in a facility where a family member is currently held, with the understanding the request may be denied. Additionally, safety concerns with codefendants may be a designation issue.

How can a judge best influence the BOP's designation of a defendant to a particular institution?

The Judge should list designation requests as a judicial recommendation on the J&C Order. A judicial recommendation should be specific and list all of the recommendations (e.g., FCI McKean, RDAP, close to home). By doing so, the BOP can try to satisfy at least some of the recommendations, if unable to satisfy all of them. While BOP staff are not mandated to follow judicial recommendations, they look favorably upon the recommendations and make efforts to follow them, if appropriate and available.

Do medical issues impact designation?

There are four levels which determine an inmate’s medical needs. A Level 1 inmate is characterized as healthy overall. Level 2 inmates are medically stable, but may have chronic conditions which can be managed independently or with quarterly reviews. Most BOP facilities are classified as a Care Level 2 facility. Level 3 institutions can manage fragile outpatient, or those who may need some daily living assistance. Finally, inmates who are classified as Level 4 medically are those with intractable or terminal medical conditions. It is noted that as an inmate’s medical care level changes, his designation may change.

Most federal prisons have a full-time medical staff on hand and a local community hospital which provides contract services for inmates in need of inpatient care due to a medical emergency.

Can a defendant’s medical classification be determined prior to sentencing?

Yes. In certain circumstances, medical records may be provided to the BOP for review prior to sentencing. The BOP will evaluate the defendant’s medical situation and provide a letter to the Court indicating a probable Care Level Classification based upon the information provided.

Where are the BOP medical facilities?

Inmates in need of special medical attention due to complex health problems will be designated to one of the BOP’s six major medical centers. These centers are located in Carswell, TX (for female inmates only and the only Care Level 4 facility for females); Devens, MA; Lexington, KY; Rochester, MN; Butner, NC; and Springfield, MO.

When will medical issues be addressed?

Medical issues will be evaluated during an intake screening conducted during the first day of imprisonment.

Can a judge order halfway house placement?

Judges can make judicial recommendations for the last six months of sentence to be served at a halfway house. The BOP will determine the inmate’s eligibility and will typically make efforts to follow judicial recommendations, when possible.

How does designation work in the case of serving a sentence due to revocation?

The designation process due to revocation is the same process as an initial designation process unless there were extenuating circumstances (i.e., new violent offense).