Federal Bureau of Prisons

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Federal Bureau of Prisons
Seal of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.svg
Seal of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Flag of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.svg
Flag of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Agency overview
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Motto Correctional Excellence. Respect. Integrity.
Employees 39,925
Annual budget 6.445 billion USD (FY 2013)
Agency executive
  • Charles E. Samuels, Jr., Director
Parent agency Department of Justice
Website www.bop.gov
The Federal Home Loan Bank Board Building, which houses the main office of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, DC

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is a United States federal law enforcement agency. A subdivision of the U.S. Department of Justice, the BOP is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system. The system handles inmates who have violated, or are accused of violating, federal law. The BOP also holds inmates who have committed felonies in Washington, DC.

The BOP is also responsible for carrying out all judicially ordered federal executions (other than those carried out under military law) in the United States.


The Federal Prison System existed for more than 30 years before the BOP was established. Although its wardens functioned almost autonomously, the Superintendent of Prisons, a Department of Justice official in Washington, was nominally in charge of Federal prisons,[1] starting with the passage of the "Three Prisons Act' in 1891, which authorized the Federal Government's first three penitentiaries: USP Leavenworth, USP Atlanta, and USP McNeil Island with limited supervision by the United States Department of Justice afterwards.[2]

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 later evolved by 1908, into the Bureau of Investigation, and later by the early 1920s into the Federal Bureau of Investigation); and the Office of the Superintendent of Prisons and Prisoners, later called the Superintendent of Prisons (which then evolved by 1930 into the Bureau of Prisons).

Pursuant to Pub. L. No. 71-218, 46 Stat. 325 (1930), the Bureau of Prisons was established by the U.S. Congress within the U.S. Department of Justice (which itself was created in 1870, to be headed by the Attorney General, whose office was first established in the first Presidential Cabinet under President Washington and created in 1789, along with the Secretaries of State, Treasury and War). he new Prison Bureau now under the Administration of the 31st President Herbert Hoover, (1874-1964), and was charged with the "management and regulation of all Federal penal and correctional institutions."[3] This responsibility covered the administration of the 11 federal prisons in operation at the time. By the end of the year 1930, the system had already expanded to 14 institutions with 13,000 inmates. By a decade later in 1940, the Federal prison system had 24 institutions with 24,360 incarcerated.


As of 2015, 63% of BOP employees are white, 21% are black, 12% are Hispanic, 2% are Asian and 8% identify themselves as another race. 73% are male.[4]

All BOP employees undergo 200 hours of formal training in their first year of employment. Employees must also complete additional 120 hours of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia.[5]

Inmate population[edit]

As of 2015, US federal prisons currently hold approximately 205,000 inmates in 122 facilities.

Also as of 2015, 59% of federal inmates are white and 38% are black; 93% are male.[6]

Juvenile inmates[edit]

According to the BOP, most of the juveniles it receives have committed violent crimes and have "an unfavorable history of responding to interventions and preventive measures in the community."[7]

The BOP contracts with facilities that house juvenile offenders. Title 18 U.S.C. 5039 specifies that "No juvenile committed, whether pursuant to an adjudication of delinquency or conviction for an offense, to the custody of the Attorney General may be placed or retained in an adult jail or correctional institution in which he has regular contact with adults incarcerated because they have been convicted of a crime or are awaiting trial on criminal charges." The definition includes secure facilities and community-based correctional facilities. Federally sentenced juveniles may be moved into federal adult facilities at certain points; juveniles sentenced as adults are moved into adult facilities when they turn 18. Juveniles sentenced as juveniles are moved into adult facilities when they turn 21.[8]

Death row inmates[edit]

United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, the location of the federal death row for men and the federal execution chamber

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 reinstituted the federal death penalty.[9] On July 19, 1993, the federal government designated the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute in Indiana as the site where federal inmates sentenced to death would be held and executed. The Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Texas holds the female inmates who have been sentenced to death.

Overpopulation and responses[edit]

Parole was abolished for federal inmates in 1987 and inmates must serve at least 85% of their original sentence before being considered for good-behavior release.[citation needed] In addition, strict-sentencing guidelines were adopted in response to rising crime rates in the 1980s and early 1990s, especially for drug-related offenses.[10][11] US violent crime has dropped since then, but some analysts and activists believe that other factors played a much more significant part in falling crime rates. In addition, they hold that strict federal sentencing guidelines have led to overcrowding and needlessly incarcerated thousands of non-violent drug offenders who would be better served by drug treatment programs.[12]

The yearly increases in the federal inmate population have raised concerns from criminal justice experts and even among DOJ officials themselves. Michael Horowitz, the DOJ Inspector General, wrote a memorandum concerning this issue:

"First, despite a slight decrease in the total number of federal inmates in fiscal year (FY) 2014, the Department projects that the costs of the federal prison system will continue to increase in the years ahead, consuming a large share of the Department’s budget. Second, federal prisons remain significantly overcrowded and therefore face a number of important safety and security issues."[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roberts, John W. (1997). "The Federal Bureau of Prisons: Its Mission, Its History, and Its Partnership with Probation and Pretrial Services". Federal Probation 61: 53. ISSN 0014-9128. OCLC 2062391. 
  2. ^ Bosworth, Mary (2002). The U.S. Federal Prison System. p. 4. ISBN 0761923047. 
  3. ^ "Statutory Authority to Contract With the Private Sector for Secure Facilities". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Staff Statistics". Federal Bureau of Prisons. US Department of Justice. September 26, 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  5. ^ "World-class correctional instruction". Federal Bureau of Prisons: About Our Facilities. US Department of Justice. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  6. ^ "Federal Bureau of Prisons: Inmates Statistics". Federal Bureau of Prisons. US Department of Justice. September 26, 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  7. ^ "Juveniles in the Bureau." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 1, 2010.
  8. ^ "Community Corrections FAQs." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved September 14, 2010.
  9. ^ "The Bureau Celebrates 80th Anniversary." Federal Bureau of Prisons. May 14, 2010. Retrieved on October 3, 2010.
  10. ^ "Federal Bureau of Prisons - Statistics". Federal Bureau of Prisons. US Department of Justice. November 2, 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  11. ^ La Vigne, Nancy; Samuels, Julie (December 12, 2012). "The Growth & Increasing Cost of the Federal Prison System: Drivers and Potential Solutions" (PDF). urban.org. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  12. ^ Schwartzapfel, Beth (July 23, 2015). "Federal Prisons Could Release 1,000 Times More Drug Offenders Than Obama Did". The Marshall Project. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  13. ^ Cohen, Andrew (November 17, 2014). "Obama’s Prison Crisis". The Marshall Project. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]