Need Answers to Your Questions?

We have 53 different criminal justice systems in the United States, each with its own rules and regulations. They are formal systems adhering to a criminal code. If authorities have charged a person with a crime, that person should learn all that will follow—including what happens after a judge imposes a sentence.

The earlier a person understands what happens after the judge imposes a sentence, the more effectively a person can prepare for the best possible outcome.

Many people don’t understand what happens after sentencing. As a result, they miss opportunities that could qualify them for an earlier release date.

Who am I?

I’m Michael Santos, founder of Prison Professors. In 1987, authorities arrested me and charged me with a crime. Since I’d never been arrested before, I only wanted to get out of custody. I hired a lawyer in Miami to defend against the charges that prosecutors brought in Seattle. I made a series of bad decisions that resulted in a sentence that was far longer than I would have served if I had known more about what would happen next.

To the extent that you would like the whole story, click the following link to access a free copy of Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term. It will show you every step of the journey, including how I would have gotten a better outcome if I had known more.


After a judge imposes a sentence in the federal system, a process unfolds that transfers the person from the judicial branch of government to the executive branch of government. Within a few days after the judge says, “I hereby sentence you to the custody of the attorney general,” the judge loses jurisdiction. That means the judge will not have any further concern over the person unless the person or his lawyer files a post-conviction motion that vests the judge with jurisdiction again.

The Bureau of Prisons:

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is an enormous bureaucracy organized under the Department of Justice. The director of the BOP reports to the Attorney General of the United States. Typically, a director rose through the ranks of the Bureau of Prisons, an organization with more than 35,000 employees and more than 150,000 people serving time. As such, the director will not have any involvement with an individual serving a sentence. The following link will help people who want to read about the organization’s leadership:


The director and the deputy director oversee many divisions, including the following:

  • Administration Division
  • Information, Policy, and Public Affairs Division
  • Correctional Program Division
  • National Institute of Corrections
  • Health Services Division
  • Office of General Counsel
  • Human Services Division
  • Federal Prison Industries
  • National Institute of Corrections
  • Office of General Counsel
  • Program Review Division
  • Reentry Services Division

A person that wants to create an effective advocacy campaign should understand these different divisions. The well-informed person will know how to interact with the division to work toward the best outcome.

BOP Organization / Regions:

The BOP operates more than 100 offices and facilities across the United States. A basic understanding of the separate facilities and the purposes they serve would be helpful for individual advocacy efforts. If a person needs to bring pressure, the person needs to know how to navigate to the correct person, in the correct facility or office, in the correction region.

We published the following article to provide more insight into the BOP’s organization and what a person should know about the staff hierarchy:

BOP Custody and Classification:

After the judge imposes the sentence, administrators at the BOP’s office in Grand Prairie, Texas, will review the person’s PSR, the judge’s Statement of Reasons, and the Judgment order. From that information, the administrator will consider factors that determine the region and facility where the person will serve the sentence.

For a summary article on Custody and Classification, please read the following:

BOP Programs:

Once a person transitions from the judicial system to the Bureau of Prisons, the person will want to work toward making the experience as productive as possible. To be effective, a person should start by defining success.

What is the best possible outcome?

That depends on what a person wants. Some people want to get out of prison at the earliest possible time. Consider the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad do you want to get out early?
  • What tools, tactics, and resources will you develop to advance prospects for early release?
  • In what ways will you build an extraordinary and compelling record?

If a person defines success as trying to build a prison reputation, responses to the questions above won’t be as relevant. 

A person who wants to transition to society early should learn everything possible about BOP programs. Learn how those programs can influence an earlier transition to society—whether to a halfway house, home confinement, or an earlier release date.

In this era of the First-Step Act, understanding programs is essential. But asking a person to understand all the programs available in a massive government bureaucracy is like asking a person to understand everything about supply-side economics. There are too many factors to cover in a simple app. For that reason, we’ll provide the basics below, with links to additional resources that can help:

  • The BOP operates one program that can reduce the sentence by six months, nine months, or 12 months, depending upon the original sentence length. Learn more about the RDAP program with this link.
  • Numerous other programs can help a person adjust in the best possible way. They may help a person build a record suggesting that the person has an extraordinary-and-compelling adjustment, which can help support a petition for compassionate release. For more insight into those programs, read through the many articles on our consulting page:

 Our Prison Professors App will continue to evolve with additional articles and links to helpful resources.

For this reason, we encourage our visitors to subscribe and check back weekly. Subscribers should also feel free to submit questions. Members of our team will happily answer to the best of our ability.

Need Answers to Your Questions?

We Have Updated Our Terms And Conditions

We have updated our Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Terms of Service page. To review the latest version, please click on Terms of Use. If at any time you choose not to accept these terms, please do not use this site.