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United States Penitentiary, Atlanta

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United States Penitentiary, Atlanta
LocationAtlanta, Georgia
Coordinates33°42′40″N 84°22′7″W / 33.71111°N 84.36861°W / 33.71111; -84.36861
Security classLow-security (with minimum-security prison camp)
Population1,903 (September 2023)
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons
Federal Penitentiary Atlanta 1920 postcard

The United States Penitentiary, Atlanta (USP Atlanta) is a low-security United States federal prison for male inmates in Atlanta, Georgia. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. The facility also has a detention center for pretrial and holdover inmates, and a satellite prison camp for minimum-security male inmates.[1]


Prison in 1939

In 1899, President William McKinley authorized the construction of a new federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia.[2]

Georgia Congressman Leonidas F. Livingston advocated placing the prison in Atlanta. William S. Eames, an architect from St. Louis, Missouri; and U.S. Attorney General John W. Griggs, on April 18, 1899, traveled to Atlanta to select the prison site.[3]

Construction was completed in January 1902 and the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary opened with the transfer of six convicts from the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in upstate New York.[2] They were the beneficiaries of the Three Prisons Act of 1891, which established penitentiaries in Leavenworth, Kansas; Atlanta, Georgia; and McNeil Island, Washington. The first two remain open today, the third closed in 1976. The Atlanta site was the largest Federal prison, with a capacity of 3,000 inmates. Inmate case files presented "mini-biographies of men confined in the penitentiary. Prison officials recorded every detail of their lives - their medical treatments, their visitors, their letters to and from the outside world"[4]

The main prison building was designed by the St. Louis, Missouri architect firm of Eames and Young, which also designed the main building at the United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth.[5] It encompassed 300 acres (1.2 km2) and had a capacity of 1200 inmates. The facility was subsequently renamed the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta when US government created the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1930.

In the 1980s, USP Atlanta was used as a detention center for Cuban refugees from the Mariel Boatlift who were ineligible for release into American society.

USP Atlanta was formerly one of several facilities, including the Federal Transfer Center, Oklahoma City, that were used to house prisoners who are being transferred between prisons.

Notable incidents


1987 riots


In November 1987, Cuban detainees, tired of indefinite confinement and in constant fear of being deported back to Cuba, rioted for 11 days, staged a bloody riot, seizing dozens of hostages and setting fire to the prison. At least one prisoner was killed. Local hospitals reported admitting a total of eight Cubans suffering gunshot wounds, along with two prison guards who were slightly injured.[6]

Notable inmates (current and former)


*Inmates released from custody prior to 1982 are not listed on the Bureau of Prisons website.

Organized crime figures

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Giuseppe "Clutch" Morello Unlisted* Entered USP Atlanta in 1910, released in 1920 Head of the 107th Street Mob and founder of Morello crime family, the precursor to Genovese family; convicted of counterfeiting but numerous arrests for murder and racketeering. from Mike Dash, The First Family, p. 219-223
Ignazio Lupo Unlisted* At USP Atlanta from 1910 to 1920 and from 1936 to 1946. Founder of the Morello crime family; convicted of counterfeiting in 1910; returned to prison in 1936 for racketeering; suspect in numerous Mafia-related murders.[7][8]
Whitey Bulger 02182-748 Entered USP Atlanta in 1956; transferred to Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in 1959.[9] Former Boss of the Boston Irish Mob crew known as the Winter Hill Gang. Imprisoned in 1956 for bank robbery and truck hijacking. Transferred to Alcatraz in 1959.[9]
Meyer Harris Cohen ("Mickey") Unlisted* Cohen was transferred from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary to USP Atlanta in January 1963. He was released in 1972.[10] Gangster based in Los Angeles and boss of the Cohen crime family. He also had strong ties to the Italian American Mafia from the 1930s through 1960s.

On August 14, 1963, fellow inmate Burl Estes McDonald scaled the wall of a secure compound within USP Atlanta, entered an electronics repair training facility and wielding a three-foot iron pipe, snuck up from behind and bludgeoned the unsuspecting Cohen into unconsciousness. Cohen sustained a critical head injury resulting from shards of skull fragments that had to be removed from brain tissue which had hemorrhaged. He underwent extensive neurosurgery and following a two-week coma, doctors inserted a steel plate to replace the mangled bone fragments in the rear skull region.[10][11]

Jimmy Burke Unlisted* Released from custody in 1978; served 6 years. Associate of the Lucchese crime family; convicted in 1972 of extortion with fellow associate Henry Hill; suspected mastermind of the 1978 Lufthansa Heist, in which nearly $6 million in cash and jewels were stolen at JFK Airport; Burke and Hill were portrayed in the 1990 film Goodfellas.[12]
Al Capone Unlisted* Transferred to Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in 1934. Leader of the Chicago Outfit, which smuggled and bootlegged liquor during Prohibition in the 1920s; convicted of tax evasion in 1931.[13][14]
Vincent Papa Unlisted* Murdered at USP Atlanta in 1977. Associate of the Lucchese crime family; convicted in 1975 masterminding the theft of heroin seized during the French Connection investigation from the New York City Police Department property office from 1969 to 1972.[15][16]
Nicodemo Domenico "Little Nicky" Scarfo Sr. 09813–050 Scarfo began his sentence at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. He was later transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, where he died of natural causes on January 13, 2017. Nicodemo Domenico "Little Nicky" Scarfo Sr. (March 8, 1929 – January 13, 2017) was a member of the American Mafia who became the boss of the Philadelphia crime family after the deaths of Angelo Bruno and Phil Testa.


Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Carlo Ponzi Unlisted* Released from custody in 1924 after serving 3 years. Inventor of the financial fraud known as Ponzi scheme; convicted of mail fraud in 1920.[17][18][19]
Charles W. Morse Unlisted* Pardoned in 1912 after serving 2 years, as he feigned terminal illness. Imprisoned 1910 for frauds and corrupt business practices. In 1912 Morse drank soapwater with chemicals to appear seriously ill. He managed to be released for medical treatment in Germany, as he claimed to have Bright's disease.[20]
Robert E. Inganamorte Jr. 42497-074 Released from USP Atlanta in 2008 on supervised release. Imprisoned for conspiracy to possess and utter counterfeit securities with the intent to defraud the United States of America in excess of 1.7 million dollars. Due to improper search and seizure after his initial arrest he was only convicted of 9,997 dollars in damages.

Political figures

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Eugene V. Debs 9653[21] Released in 1921 after his sentence was commuted by US President Warren G. Harding. Founding member of Industrial Workers of the World and US Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America; convicted of sedition in 1918 for promoting opposition to the military draft during World War I under both the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918; received over 900,000 votes while incarcerated in 1920.[22]
Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher Unlisted* Released in 1962 as part of a prisoner exchange with the Soviet Union. Convicted of espionage with relation to the Hollow Nickel Case and sentenced to 45 years' imprisonment[23]
Marcus Garvey Unlisted* Released from custody in 1927 after serving 4 years. Founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and leading figure in the Black Nationalist and Pan Africanist movements; convicted of mail fraud in 1923 for promoting the Black Star Line, a UNIA business dedicated to the transportation of goods and eventually throughout the African global economy.[24][25]
Pedro Albizu Campos Unlisted* Transferred to a hospital prison in 1943 and released in 1947 after serving 10 years. President of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party from 1930 to 1965; convicted in 1936 of sedition in connection with the assassination of Puerto Rican Police Chief Elisha Riggs, which was in retaliation for the Río Piedras massacre, during which police killed four unarmed party supporters.[26]
Enrique Tarrio 98721-004 Transferred to Federal Correctional Institution, Manchester, Release Date: 12/05/2040 Convicted of Seditious conspiracy and other things in the January 6 United States Capitol attack.

Public officials

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Ed Norris 41115-037 Released from custody in 2005; served 6 months. Baltimore Police Commissioner from 2000 to 2002; pleaded guilty in 2004 to misusing police department funds for personal expenses and tax fraud.[27][28][29]
George A. Caldwell Unlisted* Released from custody in 1941 after serving 1 year and pardoned by US President Harry Truman. Louisiana General contractor who supervised the construction of 26 public buildings; convicted in 1940 of tax evasion and accepting kickbacks in connection with the Louisiana Hayride scandals in 1939 and 1940.
William Colbeck Unlisted* Released in 1940 after serving 16 years. Politician and organized crime figure in St. Louis; convicted in 1924 of two 1923 armed robberies which netted over $2 million.[30]


Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Roy Gardner Unlisted* Served several years of a 75-year sentence at USP Atlanta; attempted to escape in 1926. Notorious bank robber and escape artist; stole over $350,000 in cash and securities from banks and mail trains in 1920 and 1921.[31][32]
Willie Aikens 01732-031 Released in 2008; served 14 years. Former Major League Baseball player; convicted in 1994 of selling crack-cocaine.[33]
Christopher Jeburk 09029-021 Currently serving a life sentence. Now at USP Allenwood. Bank robber and former FBI Ten Most Wanted fugitive; kidnapped bank teller Amy Shaw and her family, then escaped from prison twice before he could be sentenced for his crimes.[34][35] Several weeks into his sentence, he was transferred here from Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary after a sharp-eyed prison guard caught him trying to escape a third time by hanging on to a laundry truck before it could reach the front gate.
Larry Lawton 52224-004 Released in 2007; served three years in Atlanta, later transferred to FCI Coleman and others. Ex-jewel thief and Gambino crime family associate. Lawton now helps and inspires younger people to stay out of prison and change their life path.
Christopher "B.G." Dorsey 31969-034 Scheduled for release in 2024. Currently at FCI Herlong. Better known by his stage name B.G. (acronym for Baby Gangsta), is an American rapper from New Orleans, Louisiana. On July 18, 2012, B.G. was sentenced to 14 years in a federal prison for gun possession and witness tampering.[36][37]
Paul Nicholas Miller 32607-509 Was serving a 41-month sentence; released from custody on July 3, 2023. American far-right political commentator and streamer, known online as 'GypsyCrusader'. Miller is best known for his cosplays of various characters, most notably Joker. Miller was indicted on charges of possessing a firearm as convicted felon and possession of unregistered rifle on February 25, 2021, stemming from an incident that took place in January 2018.[38]
Alan Li, MD 07507-506 Serving a 10-year sentence with a scheduled release in 2030, followed by 10 years of supervised release.[39] Currently at FCI Elkton. Li was a resident emergency medicine physician at Mount Sinai Medical Center when he was arrested and charged by the FBI in May 2022 for attempted child sex trafficking.[40]
Daniel Kilgore 96225-020 Was serving a 6-year sentence; released from custody on April 13, 2020. Peanut Corporation of America manager convicted of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and the sale of misbranded and adulterated food.

See also



  1. ^ "USP Atlanta". Bop.gov. September 2, 2015. Archived from the original on May 18, 2007. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "History of Atlanta - 1782 - 1900s". Rootsweb.ancestry.com. April 27, 2002. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  3. ^ Garrett, Franklin Miller. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, Volume 2. University of Georgia Press, June 1, 1969. ISBN 0820302643, 9780820302645. p. 422 Archived February 18, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "The National Archives Catalog". Archives.gov. Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  5. ^ Hewes, Carolyn (February 25, 1927). "Landmarks Association of St. Louis :: Architects :: Thomas Crane Young, FAIA (1858-1934)". Landmarks-stl.org. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  6. ^ May, Lee; Ostrow, Ronald J. (November 24, 1987). "Cubans Riot, Seize Dozens in Atlanta : One Dies, Prison Set Ablaze; Meese Offers to Reassess Refugees' Cases". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  7. ^ Jon Black. "Ignazio Lupo". GangRule. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  8. ^ Thomas P. Hunt. "The American Mafia - Ignazio Lupo". Onewal.com. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Whitey Bulger". Bio.com. A&E Television Networks, LLC. Archived from the original on January 29, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Mickey-Cohen-Page-3 » Page 1 of 1". www.alcatrazhistory.com. Archived from the original on March 9, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  11. ^ "Star-News - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Archived from the original on June 3, 2021. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  12. ^ "James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke, Gangster, 64, of 'Wiseguy' Fame". The New York Times. April 17, 1996. Archived from the original on April 20, 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  13. ^ "History Files - Al Capone". Chicagohs.org. Archived from the original on October 9, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  14. ^ "This Week in Atlanta History: Al Capone enters the Atlanta federal penitentiary - Five Points - Blogs". Atlanta Magazine. Archived from the original on May 10, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  15. ^ Wheatley, Thomas. "A Rogue's Gallery of those who spent time at the Atlanta Federal pen". Clatl.com. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  16. ^ "United States of America, Appellee, v. Vincent Papa, Defendant-appellant, 533 F.2d 815 (2d Cir. 1976) :: Justia". Law.justia.com. Archived from the original on September 13, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  17. ^ "Home - Mr Stinge - Helping you maximise money". www.mrstinge.com. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012.
  18. ^ "Charles Ponzi". Nndb.com. Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  19. ^ "The Worlds Greatest Con Artists". Archived from the original on June 22, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  20. ^ Robert F. Bruner and Sean D. Carr, The Panic of 1907. Lessons Learned From the Market's Perfect Storm, p. 183. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. ISBN 978-0-470-15263-8
  21. ^ "Eugene Debs Got 1 Million Votes For President—As Convict Number 9653". progressive.org. November 2, 2016. Archived from the original on June 24, 2020. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  22. ^ "Eugene V. Debs Foundation". Debsfoundation.org. Archived from the original on May 9, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  23. ^ Whittell, Giles. (2010). A True Story of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies. Broadway Books. New York. ISBN 978-0-7679-3107-6
  24. ^ "American Experience | Marcus Garvey | Timeline". Pbs.org. Archived from the original on April 27, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  25. ^ "About Marcus Garvey and the Black Star Line". English.illinois.edu. June 10, 1940. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  26. ^ Tenopia, Tia (September 13, 2010). "Biography – Pedro Albizu Campos". Latinopia.com. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  27. ^ "Norris enters plea of guilty to corruption". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  28. ^ "Norris gets 6 months in prison". Baltimore Sun. June 22, 2004. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  29. ^ "Norris to be released from prison tomorrow". Baltimore Sun. January 18, 2005. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  30. ^ "Feature Articles 159". AmericanMafia.com. Archived from the original on October 30, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  31. ^ "Roy Gardner". www.outlawlegends.freeservers.com. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013.
  32. ^ Colt, Duane (December 29, 2011). "the Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History". HistoryLink.org. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  33. ^ Corson, Pete. "The Atlanta Federal Penitentiary's Hollywood connections". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on October 8, 2021. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  34. ^ "A Fugitive's on the Loose - New York Daily News". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on August 15, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  35. ^ "Jeburk's cohort admits 5 robberies". chronicle.augusta.com. Archived from the original on September 5, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  36. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Feds Hating On Rapper B.G.'s Attempt To Be Released From Prison Early - AllHipHop". December 4, 2020. Archived from the original on October 8, 2021. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  37. ^ "The Source |Prosecutors Seeking to Block B.G.'s Request for Early Release". December 6, 2020. Archived from the original on October 8, 2021. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  38. ^ "Florida Man Who Called for Race-Based Civil War Sentenced on Multiple Firearms Offenses". www.justice.gov. September 28, 2021. Archived from the original on November 5, 2021. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  39. ^ "Former Mount Sinai EM resident Alan Li, MD sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for attempted child sex trafficking". maroonmed.com.
  40. ^ "Ex-Resident at Miami Beach's Mount Sinai Arrested for Attempted Sex Trafficking: FBI". NBC 6 South Florida. May 24, 2022. Retrieved April 12, 2023.