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 Filing Grievances 

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Michael Santos

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Time in prison brings complexities, and when those complexities surface, an administrative remedy may lead to a reversal of the problem.

Administrative Remedy Program:

When prisoners have a grievance with any staff member or BOP policy, they are free to use the Administrative Remedy Program in their search for relief. This procedure offers the BOP an opportunity to review a prisoner’s formal grievance at various administrative levels.

To advance this process, prisoners should follow the chain of command. That means they should document their efforts to resolve the issue informally. If they fail to document those efforts, and if they fail to submit that documentation in the process, the staff members who review the grievance may reject the grievance and instruct the inmate to follow the chain of command.

Prisoners do not have a right to counsel through the administrative-remedy process. When they’re ready to file a formal grievance, they may seek assistance from another prisoner who is familiar with the process, or they may prepare the documentation on their own.

At Prison Professor, we offer full training on how to launch an effective Administrative Remedy proceeding; those proceedings are necessary for individuals who want to advance a complaint to the judicial system.

In most civil actions against the Bureau of Prisons, an inmate must first exhaust his administrative remedy proceedings before he can file a motion in court. For issues of a Constitutional magnitude, Prison Professor urges clients to seek counsel from an attorney who is skillful in litigating against the Bureau of Prisons. Prison Professor does not offer legal advice, but we are more than qualified to advise on the administrative remedy procedure in the Bureau of Prisons.

After the inmate has tried to resolve the grievance informally, the inmate must request an Administrative Remedy form from the Counselor. It’s crucial that the inmate launch this action in a timely manner, because Administrative Remedy rules will only allow a grievance to take place within a short amount of time before it becomes time barred. The deadline for completion of an informal resolution and submission of a formal written Administrative Remedy Request is 20 calendar days following the date on which the basis for the Request occurred.


When an inmate requests an Administrative Remedy form, the Counselor will ask the inmate whether he made an attempt to resolve the matter informally. Then the Counselor may attempt to intervene. If the inmate chooses to move forward with the formal filing of the grievance, the Counselor must issue a Form BP-229, more commonly known as the “BP-9 Form.” An inmate may only cite one grievance on each BP-9 that he submits. The inmate may write in plain English on the BP-9, and he may attach one continuation page. Once the inmate submits the BP-9, institutional staff must respond within 20 calendar days. If a staff member does not respond within 20 calendar days, the staff member may tell the inmate that they he is taking a 20-day extension. All BP-9 grievances are resolved at the institutional level.


If the inmate doesn’t receive the response that he wants from the BP-9, he may advance the formal grievance. The next step is to request a “BP-10” from the Counselor, and the Counselor must provide the inmate with Form BP-230. The inmate will write out his complaint on the BP-10 and send the form, together with his BP-9, to the Regional Director’s office. Again, time is of the essence. The inmate must submit the BP-10 within 20 days of the time that he received the BP-9 response, or he will be time barred from proceeding with the Administrative Remedy procedure. The Regional Director’s office must respond to the BP-10 within 30 calendar days, but the Regional Director may extend that date by an additional 30 days.


If the inmate is still not satisfied, he may appeal to the Central Office. To appeal to the Central Office, the inmate must request a BP-11 form from the Counselor. When the inmate asks, the Counselor will provide Form BP-231, and the inmate will write his complaint. He must attach both the BP-9 and the BP-10 to the documents that he sends to the Central Office. The Central Office will answer the BP-11 within 40 calendar days, or extend the date by an additional 20 calendar days.

Sensitive Complaints:

If the inmate is filing a grievance about a sensitive issue, and feels that he cannot express his grievance to the counselor or to any staff member in the institution, he may file a Sensitive Complaint directly to the Regional Director. When an inmate wants to file a “Sensitive Complaint,” he must request the appropriate form from his Counselor, and send the form directly to the Regional Director, clearly marking “Sensitive” on the envelope. The Regional Director will make the determination of whether the issue truly is sensitive.

Once the issue has exhausted his efforts at Administrative Remedy, he can work with an attorney or file a motion in federal court. He must maintain full documentation of all his efforts at Administrative Remedy before proceeding.

Final word on Administrative Remedy:

When seeking assistance through the Administrative Remedy system, individuals should follow appropriate procedures and protocols. That means they must obtain the forms through appropriate channels. We caution individuals from trying to circumvent any stage of the process.

Only ask for forms from the assigned counselor. The Bureau of Prisons staff members will look for any opportunity to dismiss and administrative remedy appeal. If an inmate files his request for administrative remedy on a form that he did not receive through proper channels, a staff member may dismiss the form. Inmates who have legitimate complaints sometimes find their requests for relief dismissed because they did not adhere to the strict procedure of obtaining forms from an assigned counselor, or because they failed to adhere to established timelines.

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