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 Overview of The Federal Prison System 

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Michael Santos

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The Federal Prison System

Summary of blog: This blog will break down the many different divisions of the federal prison system.

We know that the Bureau of Prisons is a massive bureaucracy. It includes many different divisions. People who want to master federal prison should broaden their understanding of how it operates. The more people understand, the more likely they become to get on the best trajectory.

Masters seek to understand more so that they can influence more.

Going To Federal Prison? Wondering What Life Is Like On The Inside? We Can Help!

In later blogs, we will discuss custody and classification levels in greater detail. For now, we can provide a brief overview here. The Bureau of Prisons categorizes people in accordance with security levels. Consider the following:

• ADX: This designation refers to an Administrative-Maximum U.S. Penitentiary. It is the highest level of security. Most people who serve time in an ADX start in a lower-security prison. They make decisions in prison that result in new criminal charges, or disciplinary problems. When a team or staff member identifies people in prison as being sufficiently disruptive, they may send them to an ADX penitentiary.

• SMU: This designation refers to a Special Management Unit. Like the ADX, the SMU is a highly restrictive prison. Staff members may send people to an SMU when they want to restrict their communication. Although most people who are in an SMU have violent histories, it’s important to remember the adage “The pen is mightier than the sword.” If staff members consider a prisoner to be a prolific writer, and the prisoner writes content that staff members consider inflammatory, they may confine the person in an SMU.

• USP: This designation refers to a United States Penitentiary. In the broader community, people consider the word penitentiary as being synonymous with prison. But in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the word penitentiary has a different meaning and connotation. It means high-security. People going to a USP live in restrictive conditions. Staff members consider USPs to be more volatile. They govern USPs in response to population levels that include higher percentages of people who have violent, volatile, and disruptive histories.

FCI: This designation refers to a Federal Correctional Institution. The FCI includes both medium-security and low-security prisons.

The Federal Prison System

• FSL: This designation refers to a Federal Satellite Low-Security Prison. The people in an FSL have the custody scoring of people in a camp. But they have some issue that prevents them from going to a camp. For example, they may have a detainer of some type, or they may have longer than 10 years to serve.

• SCP: This designation refers to a Satellite Prison Camp. The camp is adjacent to a secure prison, and the inmates in the camp provide labor that keeps the prison operating.

• FPC: This designation refers to a federal prison camp. It is frequently a stand-alone camp, meaning it is not tied to another prison, as with the SCP.

• FCC: This designation refers to a Federal Correctional Complex. A complex will have several prisons of different security levels in a single location. People in one prison do not mix with people in another prison, but they’re all in the same geographical location.

• FDC, MCC, or MDC: These designations refer detention centers. People in detention centers, ordinarily, await outcomes of judicial proceedings. Although some people serve the entire term in detention centers, or they are assigned to the work cadre—performing maintenance on the prison, they are not necessarily serving time.

• FMC: This designation refers to a Federal Medical Center. People who need medical attention may serve all or a portion of their time in an FMC.

• FTC: This designation refers to the Federal Transfer Center, in Oklahoma. Prisoners may spend time in the FTC while traveling to other institutions, or they may serve their sentence in the FTC if they’re part of a work cadre.

The Federal Prison System

• CI: This designation refers to a privately operated federal prison. I served time at Taft Federal Prison Camp, a privately operated system.

• CO and RO: This designation refers to the Central Office and the Regional Office. We can use our understanding of the regional office and the central office to influence our placement or to influence favorable outcomes.

Mastering the federal prison system requires some knowledge of the different types of institutions. The more we know about the Bureau of Prisons and the staff, the better we can position ourselves to get to the best possible environment, at the soonest possible time. Through our course on mastering prison, our team teaches strategies on how to master any type of prison environment.

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