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Federal Bureau of Prisons
Federal Bureau of Prisons Seal.svg
Seal of the Prisons Department
Agency overview
Formed 1930
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agency USA
General nature
Operational structure
Agency executive Harley G. Lappin, Director
Parent agency United States Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Prisons Central Office in Washington, DC
"FBOP" redirects here. For the former bank holding company, see FBOP Corporation.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (often referred to operationally as the BOP)[1] is a federal law enforcement agency subdivision of the United States Department of Justice and is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system. The system also handles prisoners who committed acts considered felonies under the District of Columbia's law.[2]

The Bureau was established in 1930 to provide more progressive and humane care for Federal inmates, to professionalize the prison service, and to ensure consistent and centralized administration of the 11 Federal prisons in operation at the time.

According to its official web site, the Bureau consists of more than 119 institutions, 6 regional offices, its headquarters office in Washington D.C.,[3] 2 staff training centers, and 28 community corrections offices, and is responsible for the custody and care of approximately 207,872 Federal offenders. Approximately 85 percent of these inmates are confined in Bureau-operated correctional facilities or detention centers. The remainder are confined through agreements with state and local governments or through contracts with privately-operated community corrections centers, detention centers, prisons, and juvenile facilities.[4]

The Bureau is also responsible for carrying out all judicially mandated federal executions (other than those carried out under military law) in the United States, and maintains the federal lethal injection chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana.




Before the Bureau of Prisons

The Federal Prison System existed for more than 30 years before the establishment of the Bureau of Prisons. Although its wardens functioned almost autonomously, a Department of Justice official in Washington was nominally in charge of Federal prisons, starting with the passage of the Three Prisons Act in 1891, which authorized the Federal Government's first three penitentiaries.

Until 1907, prison matters were handled by the Justice Department's General Agent. The General Agent was responsible for Justice Department accounts, oversight of internal operations, and certain criminal investigations, as well as prison operations. In 1907, the General Agent's office was abolished, and its functions were distributed among three new offices: the Division of Accounts (which evolved into the Justice Management Division); the Office of the Chief Examiner (which evolved into the Federal Bureau of Investigation); and the Office of the Superintendent of Prisons and Prisoners, later called the Superintendent of Prisons (which evolved into the Bureau of Prisons).

Bureau of Prisons established

Pursuant to Pub. L. No. 71-218, 46 Stat. 325 (1930), the Bureau of Prisons was established within the Department of Justice and charged with the "management and regulation of all Federal penal and correctional institutions." This responsibility covered the administration of the 11 Federal prisons in operation at the time. While time have passed and laws have changed, the Bureau's responsibilities have grown, as has the prison population. At the end of 1930, the agency operated 14 facilities for just over 13,000 inmates. By 1940, the Bureau had grown to 24 facilities with 24,360 inmates. Except for a few fluctuations, the number of inmates did not change significantly between 1940 and 1980, when the population was 24,252. However, the number of facilities almost doubled (from 24 to 44) as the Bureau gradually moved from operating large facilities confining inmates of many security levels to operating smaller facilities that each confined inmates with similar security needs.

As a result of Federal law enforcement efforts and new legislation that dramatically altered sentencing in the Federal criminal justice system, the 1980s brought a significant increase in the number of Federal inmates. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 established determinate sentencing, abolished parole, and reduced good time; additionally, several mandatory minimum sentencing provisions were enacted in 1986, 1988, and 1990. From 1980 to 1989, the inmate population more than doubled, from just over 24,000 to almost 58,000. During the 1990s, the population more than doubled again, reaching approximately 136,000 at the end of 1999 as efforts to combat illegal drugs and illegal immigration contributed to significantly increased conviction rates.

Staffing levels also have risen dramatically in recent years. In 1980, the Bureau had approximately 10,000 employees. That number almost doubled in 10 years to just over 19,000 in 1990. As of June 2003, there were about 34,000 employees in the Bureau.


Bureau of Prisons Officers and employees are granted powers of arrest under Title 18, section 3050 of the United States Code under which they may:

(1) make arrests on or off of Bureau of Prisons property without warrant for violations of the following provisions regardless of where the violation may occur: sections 111 (assaulting officers), 751 (escape), and 752 (assisting escape) of title 18, United States Code, and section 1826 (c) (escape) of title 28, United States Code;

(2) make arrests on Bureau of Prisons premises or reservation land of a penal, detention, or correctional facility without warrant for violations occurring thereon of the following provisions: sections 661 (theft), 1361 (depredation of property), 1363 (destruction of property), 1791 (contraband), 1792 (mutiny and riot), and 1793 (trespass) of title 18, United States Code; and

(3) arrest without warrant for any other offense described in title 18 or 21 of the United States Code, if committed on the premises or reservation of a penal or correctional facility of the Bureau of Prisons if necessary to safeguard security, good order, or government property; if such officer or employee has reasonable grounds to believe that the arrested person is guilty of such offense, and if there is likelihood of such person’s escaping before an arrest warrant can be obtained. If the arrested person is a fugitive from custody, such prisoner shall be returned to custody. Officers and employees of the said Bureau of Prisons may carry firearms under such rules and regulations as the Attorney General may prescribe.[5]


All Bureau of Prisons employees undergo 200 hours of formal training in the first year of employment. All Bureau of Prisons employees must also complete 120 hours of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, unincorporated Glynn County, Georgia.[6] There, Bureau employees receive training in correctional techniques, ethics, control techniques, applicable laws, self-defense, report writing, interacting with inmates, and firearms. With few exceptions, all Bureau of Prisons employees must qualify with three types of firearms: 9mm pistol, 12-gauge shotgun, and an M-16 rifle.

Types of Federal Prisons


By Name

  • Federal Correctional Complexes (FCC) are BOP installations that have multiple facilities with different missions and security levels located within close proximity to one another.
  • Federal Correctional Institutions (FCI) are Low and Medium Security facilities.
  • Federal Detention Centers (FDC) are inmate reception and transfer centers.
  • Federal Medical Centers (FMC) handle inmates requiring medical or psychiatric care.
  • Federal Prison Camps (FPC) are for minimum security inmates. The facilities have low inmate to staff ratios, have dormitory housing, and have little to no perimeter fencing. Many prison camps are located next to larger prison facilities and military bases; inmates at prison camps often serve the labor needs of larger institutions and bases.
  • Federal Transfer Centers
  • U.S. Penitentiaries (USP) are for inmates classified for High (Maximum) Security.
  • Metropolitan Correctional Centers (MCC)
  • Metropolitan Detention Centers (MDC)

By Classification

  • Maximum and High Security inmates are sent to U.S. Penitentiaries (USP).
  • Medium and Low Security inmates are sent to Federal Correctional Institutions (FCI).
  • Minimum Security inmates are sent to Federal Prison Camps (FPC).
  • Inmates requiring special medical or psychiatric care are sent to Federal Medical Centers (FMC).

Prisons with female inmates

28 facilities in the Federal Bureau of Prisons house female inmates. The Federal Bureau of Prisons refers to the seven facilities that house only female inmates as the "Big Seven." The facilities are Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, Federal Prison Camp, Bryan, Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury, Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, Federal Correctional Institution, Tallahassee, and Federal Correctional Institution, Waseca; of them, Dublin and Tallahassee each have one small male detention unit. The other 21 facilities that house female inmates have mixed populations.[8] Of the regions of the United States defined by the Bureau of Prisons, each region has one of the "Big Seven" facilities, with the exception of the South Central Region, which has two of the facilities.[9]

Contract facilities

About 15% of the inmates under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons are in facilities operated by third parties. Most of them are in facilities operated by private companies. Others are in facilities operated by local and state governments. Some are in community corrections centers operated by private companies. The bureau uses contract facilities to manage its own prison population. The bureau stated that contract facilities are "especially useful" for housing low security, specialized groups of people, such as sentenced criminal aliens.[10]

Special prison populations

Juvenile prisoners

Historically the juvenile population within the Federal Bureau of Prisons mostly consisted of Native Americans. This is because the most severe crimes committed on Indian Reservations are usually taken to federal court. More than 72% of federal juvenile inmates were required to have been placed in secure facilities for violent offenses and were from Arizona, the District of Columbia, Montana, and South Dakota.[11]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Central Detention Facility." District of Columbia Department of Corrections. Retrieved on January 1, 2010.
  3. ^ "About BOP." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on November 16, 2009.
  4. ^ BOP: About The Bureau of Prisons
  5. ^ US CODE: Title 18,3050. Bureau of Prisons employees’ powers
  6. ^ "Correctional Officers." Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor. Retrieved on January 6, 2010.
  7. ^ "Prison Types & General Information." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 6, 2010.
  8. ^ "Institutions Housing Female Offenders." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on December 30, 2009.
  9. ^ "Bureau Facilities Map of Institutions Housing Female Offenders." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on December 30, 2009.
  10. ^ "CI Rivers Contact Information." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 12, 2010.
  11. ^ "Juveniles in the Bureau." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 1, 2010.

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