Solicit Support from Senators and Congressional Reps when advocating from federal prison. When members of Congress make an inquiry, wardens or other BOP leaders take action.
Support from Members of Congress
Justice-impacted people who go into federal prison may face challenges that require a self-advocacy campaign to resolve. For example, they may feel as if the BOP is failing to provide:
- Adequate attention to their needs for medical treatment,
- Designation to the prisons that will suit their needs best,
- Access to education or communication with the broader community, or
- Compliance with the First Step Act.
Frustrations are certainly part of the prison experience. But when a person feels as if the agency violates Constitutionally protected rights, the person should know and understand how to advocate for himself, and how to solicit help from influential people—such as members of Congress.
In most cases, the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires people in federal prison to file a request for administrative remedy. We’ve covered administrative remedy in an earlier article which readers can access through the following link:
Besides using the formal mechanism of administrative remedy to resolve disputes, it’s sometimes appropriate to bring outside attention to the problem.
Recently, we interviewed a subject matter expert who retired from the Bureau of Prisons as a warden. He told us that any time he received an inquiry from a member of Congress, he acted quickly.
Members of Congress have a duty to respond to the needs of their constituents. Although a person in federal prison may not be a voter, that person is still a constituent. Family members may also be constituents, and they may write on a person’s behalf.
Sometimes it’s helpful to have a template for a letter.
We modified an actual letter that we worked on with a member of our community. Others may use this letter as a template, inserting the relevant parts that suit their challenge. The letter below asks for assistance with a designation for medical reasons. When modifying the letter, indicate the specific problem and request a reasonable solution.
After writing the letter, the person should send to the following people:
- Congressional representatives from the writer’s district,
- Congressional representative of the district where the prison is located,
- Congressional representatives’ office in Washington DC.
How to Write Letters to Congress for Support of People in Prison
- Write the letter on your letterhead, or type your contact information and the date at top of letter
Name of Member of Congress
District Office and DC Office
Send to both the district and to DC
- Regarding: Requesting your support in advocacy with the Bureau of Prisons
Dear (Senator or Congressional Rep),
I am writing with a request for your intervention and assistance for my (husband/wife/son/daughter/partner, Insert name). After a federal judge sentenced Insert name to serve an (Insert number) month sentence, and a federal judge recommended that he serve that sentence at the (Insert location), administrators with the Federal Bureau of Prisons designated (Insert Name) to serve the sentence at a federal detention center in (Insert location).
As a loyal constituent, I implore you to make an inquiry with the Bureau of Prisons on (Insert name) behalf. We request that the Bureau of Prison redesignate (Insert name) to serve the sentence at the (Insert request).
We are deeply worried about (Insert name) serving the sentence at (Insert location) because of his need for medical attention.
Besides his well-documented need for medical care, (Insert name) assignment to (Insert location) violates provisions of the First Step Act, Section 401. That section specifically states that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
“…place the prisoner in a facility as close as practicable to the prisoner’s primary residence, and to the extent practicable, in a facility within 500 driving miles of that residence. The Bureau shall, subject to consideration of the factors described in the preceding sentence and the prisoner’s preference for staying at his or her current facility or being transferred, transfer prisoners to facilities that are closer to the prisoner’s primary residence even if the prisoner is already in a facility within 500 driving miles of that residence.”First Step Act
Please note that (Insert location) is over (Insert number of) miles from our home in Atherton, whereas (Insert location) is (Insert number) miles away, a much more convenient distance for my family to visit him.
(Insert Name) assignment to (Insert location) also violates the First Step Act, Section 401, which states that in assigning prisoners to facilities, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) shall consider “recommendations of the sentencing court” as well as “the prisoner’s mental and medical health needs.”
The sentencing court specifically recommended “(Insert location)” because of (Insert name) health complications (see attached recommendation).
(Insert name) is 74 years old and he suffers from heart disease, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy along with a history of malignant melanoma. These healthcare issues are more appropriately addressed at a Level 3 facility (e.g., Insert name) in comparison to a Level 2 facility (e.g., Insert name).
The Bureau of Prisons categorizes (Insert name) as a low-security inmate, consistent with the security level at Insert name.
For these reasons, we respectfully request that your office use all its authority to inquire why the BOP designated (Insert name) to (Insert location) rather than a medical center that is within 500 miles of his home. We implore you to ask the BOP to consider for an immediate redesignation to (Insert location), or transition him to home confinement pursuant to the CARES Act.
Insert signature and name of constituent