Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island

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Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island
LocationLos Angeles, California
CoordinatesCoordinates: 33°43′40″N 118°16′03″W / 33.7279°N 118.2675°W / 33.7279; -118.2675
Security classLow-security
OpenedJune 1, 1938 (1938-06-01)
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons

The Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island (FCI Terminal Island) is a low-security United States federal prison for male inmates in California. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice.

FCI Terminal Island is located at the entrance to Los Angeles Harbor, between San Pedro and Long Beach.


Aerial photograph of Reservation Point on Terminal Island, with the prison in the top right, above the Coast Guard base

The prison was opened at the southern end of Terminal Island, adjacent to a Coast Guard base, on June 1, 1938, with 610 male, and 40 female prisoners. It consisted of a central quadrangle surrounded by three cell blocks and cost $2 million to construct. In 1942, the U.S. Navy took control of the prison for use as a receiving station and later as a barracks for court-martialed prisoners. The facility was deactivated by the Navy in 1950 and later turned over to the state of California for use as a medical and psychiatric institution.[1]

The state returned control to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in 1955 for conversion into a low-to-medium security federal prison. The prison was coed, with female prisoners housed separately, until 1977, when overcrowding led to the transfer of the women to the federal prison in Pleasanton. The prison was given increased barbed wire and armed guards in the early 1980s in an effort to dispel the facility's "Club Fed" image. A corruption scandal rocked the prison in the early 1980s, resulting in the indictment of six employees on charges of bribes, cover-ups, marijuana sales to inmates, and other corruption. Those indicted included Charles DeSordi, the prison's chief investigator of crimes, the highest-ranking federal prison official ever to be indicted.[1]

Notable inmates (prior to 1982)[edit]

† Inmates released prior to 1982 are not listed on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Qian Xuesen Unlisted† Held at Terminal Island in 1950 (Pre-FCI) on suspicion of Communist sympathies. Chinese-born rocket scientist. Arrested September 1950 and held for two weeks at Terminal Island, released under government supervision. Left the U.S. in 1955 for China; made important contributions to Chinese nuclear, missile, and space programs.[2]
Liz Renay Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island from 1959 to 1961 on a perjury charge. Girlfriend of Los Angeles mob kingpin Mickey Cohen. Convicted of perjury in 1959 and served 27 months at Terminal Island.
Salvatore Bonanno Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island from 1968 to 1972 on a credit card fraud conviction. Consigliere for the Bonanno crime family in New York City in the 1960s and son of former boss Joseph Bonanno.[3][4]
Edward Bunker Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island from 1973 to 1975. Crime fiction writer, screenwriter and actor; wrote No Beast So Fierce while incarcerated at FCI Terminal Island, which was adapted into the movie Straight Time starring Dustin Hoffman. Later appeared in several movies, including Reservoir Dogs.[5]
Al Capone Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island from 1939 to 1940. Leader of the crime syndicate later known as the Chicago Outfit, which smuggled and bootlegged liquor during Prohibition in the 1920s; convicted of tax evasion in 1931.[6]
Henry Hill Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island in the 1970s. Former associate of the Lucchese crime family in New York City; portrayed by Ray Liotta in the 1990 film Goodfellas.[7][8]
Timothy Leary Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island in 1974. Harvard professor and LSD guru; convicted in 1970 of a prior prison escape and marijuana possession.[9]
Charles Manson Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island from 1956 to 1958 for car theft and check fraud. Had served a life sentence for murder at Corcoran State Prison; would later inspire Helter Skelter in murdering Sharon Tate and others in 1969; died in 2017.[10]
Anita O'Day Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island in 1954 on a conviction for heroin possession. Acclaimed jazz singer during the swing era in the 1930s and 1940s.[11]
Mike Rizzitello Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island for nine months in 1987; for violating his parole for associating with organized crime affiliates. Caporegime in the Los Angeles crime family from 1977-1990.
Rosario Gambino Unlisted Held at FCI Terminal Island to serve a 45-year sentence for selling heroin to an undercover police officer in 1984 A soldier of the Cherry Hill Gambinos; a crew in the Gambino crime family.
The Port Chicago 50 Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island from November 1944 to January 1946. 50 African-American sailors convicted of mutiny for refusing to load ammunition onto US Navy ships under unsafe conditions after the Port Chicago disaster, an explosion that killed 320 people, including 202 black sailors.[12]
Flora Purim 2775 Held at FCI Terminal Island in 1976. Brazilian jazz singer at height of career during the mid-70s; convicted c. 1975 of cocaine possession.[13]
Owsley Stanley Unlisted† Held at FCI Terminal Island from 1970 to 1972. Famous LSD chemist, counterculture figure and Grateful Dead sound engineer. Sent to Terminal Island after a judge revoked an earlier release because of a second drug bust.[14]

Notable inmates (since 1982)[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Mouli Cohen 57613-112 Serving a 22-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2029. Internet music entrepreneur; convicted in 2011 of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion for defrauding celebrities, investors, and a charity dedicated to help the poor of more than $31 million; the story was featured on the CNBC television show American Greed.[15]
Eric McDavid 16209-097 Released from custody in 2015; served 10 years. Member of the ecoterrorist group Earth Liberation Front; convicted in 2007 of conspiring to destroy a northern California dam, a genetics lab, cell phone towers, and other targets.[16][17]
Anthony Elgindy 55479-198 Released from custody in 2013; served 8 years. Former stockbroker; convicted in 2006 of racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, and extortion for using information supplied by a corrupt FBI agent to spread negative publicity about companies through his Web site.[18]
Brian O'Dea 20293-086 Transferred to a Canadian prison in 1992 after serving one year. Major drug trafficker in Canada and author of the book High: Confessions of a Pot Smuggler.
Anthony Parnes 87015-012 Held at FCI Terminal Island from 1987 until his extradition to Great Britain in 1988. British stockbroker who committed a multimillion-dollar fraud against the Guinness liquor company known as the Guinness Affair.[19][20]
Michael Riconosciuto 21309-086 Released from custody in 2017; served 26 years. Computer expert; convicted in 1992 of conspiracy to produce and distribute methamphetamine.[21][22]
Robert Gilbeau 56978-298 Released from custody in 2018; served over 1 year. First active-duty admiral ever to be convicted of a felony. Lied to investigators about relationship with "Fat" Leonard Glenn Francis and pocketed $40,000 in kickbacks.[23]

Facility and services[edit]

All inmates are expected to maintain a regular job assignment, unless medically exempted. Many job assignments are controlled through a performance pay system, which provides monetary payment for work. UNICOR has a separate pay scale. Institutional maintenance jobs are usually the first assignment one will receive. These might include assignments to Food Service, as a unit orderly, or in a maintenance shop. However, a significant number of inmate jobs are available in the Federal Prison Industries. There is a waiting list for factory employment.

UNICOR employs and trains inmates through the operation of, and earnings from, the metal factory that produces high-quality metal products for the Federal government. One must obtain a GED for grade advancement and must participate in the Financial Responsibility Program (if required) to be employed in UNICOR. Federal Prison Industries, a U.S. government employment program, has a shop at FCI Terminal Island that specializes in repairing, refurbishing, and reconditioning furniture, office equipment, tires, and other government property.[24]


All inmates are required to obtain a GED before their release. College courses are offered through Coastline Community College.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gnerre, Sam (August 25, 2010). "Terminal Island's 'Big House'". South Bay Daily Breeze.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Qian Xuesen:". Daily Telegraph. November 22, 2009. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  3. ^ "Bill Bonanno, 75, Mob Family Member, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  4. ^ Ann W. O'Neill (July 18, 1999). "Crime Story Doesn't Pay as He Expected". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ "Edward Bunker, Ex-Convict and Novelist, Is Dead at 71". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  6. ^ "FBI — Al Capone". FBI.gov. Archived from the original on July 6, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  7. ^ "Terminal Island". Mafia Today. Archived from the original on December 8, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  8. ^ "Henry Hill, Mobster and Movie Inspiration, Dies at 69". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  9. ^ Julia Lipkins (August 15, 2012). "Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: A Buddy Film Starring Timothy Leary and G. Gordon Liddy". New York Public Library. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  10. ^ Emmons, Nuel (1986). Manson in His Own Words. New York: Grove Press. pp. 77–78.
  11. ^ Chris Morris. "Jazz great Anita O'Day dies at 87". The Hollywood Reporter. AP. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  12. ^ "Port Chicago Disaster". Usmm.org. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  13. ^ Richard Trubo (July 10, 1976). "Flora Purim Turns Prison Into Positive Experience". Lakeland Ledger. Lakeland, Florida. p. 5D. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  14. ^ Margalit Fox (March 14, 2011). "Owsley Stanley, Artisan of Acid, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times.
  15. ^ "American Greed: Dealing in Deceit". CNBC. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  16. ^ "FBI — Using Intel Against Eco-Terrorists". FBI.
  17. ^ "20-year sentence for ecoterrorist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  18. ^ "6-Year Sentence in Trading Case". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  19. ^ "American Tied to British Fraud Case Arrested". Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ "Parnes to repay ₤2m to Guinness". The Glasgow Herald. October 28, 1987. p. 3. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  21. ^ "Jury Says Guilty -- Man Claims Frame-Up But Faces 20-Year Term After Verdict On Seven Drug-Related Charges". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. January 19, 1992. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  22. ^ "The Riconosciuto Letters, Exhibit "B"". Educate-yourself.org. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  23. ^ "Former admiral sentenced to 18 months in 'Fat Leonard' case". Washington Post. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  24. ^ "FCI Terminal Island". Bop.gov. Retrieved July 10, 2015.

External links[edit]