United States Penitentiary, Big Sandy

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United States Penitentiary, Big Sandy
LocationMartin County, near Inez, Kentucky, United States
Security classHigh-security (with minimum-security prison camp)
Population1,321 [1,282 at the USP, 39 in prison camp] (April 2022)
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons

The United States Penitentiary, Big Sandy (USP Big Sandy) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in unincorporated Martin County, Kentucky,[1] near the city of Inez. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. The facility also has a satellite prison camp which houses minimum-security male inmates.

USP Big Sandy is located in eastern Kentucky, approximately 133 miles (214 km) from Lexington, 140 miles (230 km) from Frankfort, and 320 miles (510 km) from Washington, DC.[2][3]


USP Big Sandy is located both on a mountaintop removal mining site and a former underground coal mine. Due to the underground mine, the federal government spent $40 million to remediate the site before construction and had to spend additional millions after construction began to fix further issues, making the project the most expensive federal prison project at the time.[4] Harvard University owned the oil and gas rights to the property and was leasing that property to Columbia Gas at the start of the prison construction.[4]

The prison is known for housing multiple high-profile inmates. The facility houses a large number of people who were convicted of crimes in Washington, D.C. due to the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, which gave the Federal Bureau of Prisons custody of sentenced DC felons. As of 2013 up to about 33% had been convicted of DC crimes. Additionally, many federal inmates are sent there because they have been convicted of violent crimes and are now serving long sentences.[5]

Notable incidents[edit]

Numerous violent incidents, mostly stabbings, have occurred at USP Big Sandy since it opened in 2003.


In October 2006, USP Big Sandy inmate Terrell Johnson (16390-047), 33, who was serving a sentence for armed bank robbery, killed inmate Calvin Speight by stabbing him in the neck with a prison-made weapon known as a shank. Johnson pleaded guilty to the charge of second degree murder in August 2008[6] and was sentenced to 26 additional years in prison in 2009. Johnson is currently being held at USP Florence, the high security United States Penitentiary that is part of the Florence Complex in Colorado. He is scheduled for release in 2035.[7]

On November 12, 2006, inmates Darryl Milburne (58478-066) and Dwaune Gravely (12867-050) beat and choked fellow inmate Shamoni Peterson to death. Milburne and Gravely were charged with murder, assault, and evidence tampering. Milburne pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to an additional 17.5 years, while Gravely was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. Milburne was transferred to USP Hazelton and is scheduled for release on January 3, 2025. Gravely is at USP Atlanta.[8]


On November 4, 2007, USP Big Sandy inmate Eric Eymard (17628-045) repeatedly stabbed his cellmate in the neck with a shank. After the assault, Eymard told correctional officers that he had intended to kill his cellmate, who required surgery and hospitalization. On May 21, 2009, while being prepared for transportation from USP Big Sandy to a hearing in Federal District Court in Ashland, Kentucky, Eymard stabbed two correctional officers with a sharp weapon which he had shaped from plexiglas.

As a result of Eymard's attack, one officer was left with cuts to his head and face and the other suffered a puncture wound under his left eye. Eymard subsequently pleaded guilty in connection with both incidents and was sentenced to 45 years in prison, which a federal judge ordered him to serve consecutively to his original sentence.[9] Eymard is now at USP Allenwood.


In early 2008, inmate Steven Michael Reid (11728-018) threw scalding water on a prison unit manager's face and neck. As a result of Reid's assault, the unit manager suffered first and second degree burns to the face, neck, and chest. Reid was sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison in February 2009.[10]

Inmate Adam Oliveri (50045-054) stabbed a correctional officer in the head, back, and arm with a prison-made weapon on October 21, 2008, causing the officer to suffer several injuries. Oliveri was convicted after a three-day trial in 2010 and sentenced to an additional 17 years in prison, extending his release date to 2029.[11][12] Oliveri is now at FCI Schuylkill.

On December 10, 2008, inmate Manuel Cardosa attacked a fellow inmate from behind as the inmate walked in a prison housing unit. Cardosa knocked the victim inmate to the floor and repeatedly jumped with both feet on his victim inmate's head, causing the victim inmate to suffer permanent and life-threatening injuries. Cardosa was sentenced to an additional eight years in prison on October 5, 2009.[13] He was released from prison on April 8, 2019.


John Travis Millner (32011-007) stabbed fellow inmate Vincent Earl Smith, Jr. at USP Big Sandy with a prison-made ice pick before strangling him to death in January 2009. Court records are unclear as to what sparked the conflict between the two men, both from Washington, DC. Millner was already serving a life sentence for shooting and killing a person using a high-powered rifle on New Year's Eve 2002. The Department of Justice considered pursuing the death penalty, but Millner was ultimately sentenced to serve an additional life sentence.[14] Millner is now at ADX Florence.


Steven Michael Reid, who had already been sentenced to 20 additional years in prison connection with a 2008 assault on staff (see above), stabbed a correctional officer in the stomach on June 24, 2010, with a two-foot-long (60 cm) spear-type object made of two rolled up magazines and a sharpened piece of plexiglas. Reid had coated the tip of the weapon with feces. In January 2011, Reid was sentenced to an additional 15 years in prison,[15] and is scheduled for release in 2049.[16] Reid is now at USP Atlanta.

Notable inmates (current and former)[edit]

Name BOP Number Status Details
Charles McArther Emmanuel, "Chuckie Taylor" 76556-004 Serving a 97-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2090. transferred to USP Lee Son of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor; convicted in 2008 of crimes related to the torture of his father's political and military opponents in Liberia between 1999 and 2003; the first prosecution of a US citizen for committing acts of torture outside the US.[17][18][19]
Vincent Basciano 30694-054 Serving 2 life sentences.[20] Transferred to USP Atlanta Former boss of the Bonanno Crime Family in 2004 after Boss Joseph Massino was arrested; convicted in 2006 of murder, conspiracy and racketeering; convicted in 2011 of ordering the 2004 murder of Bonanno associate Randolph Pizzolo.[21][22]
Kodak Black 18149-104 Serving a 46 month sentence; scheduled for release on October 7, 2022. Transferred to USP Thomson. Sentence commuted on January 20, 2021, by President Donald Trump Serving a 46 month sentence for falsifying information on a background form to purchase a firearm.
Auburn Calloway 14601-076 Serving consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole. Hijacker of Federal Express Flight 705 in 1994.
Chevie Kehoe 21300-009 Transferred to USP Lewisburg. White supremacist convicted on charges of racketeering, racketeering in aid of murder and robbery conspiracy in connection to the kidnapping, torture and murders of William and Nancy Mueller and their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell. Co-defendant Daniel Lewis Lee was executed for the murders at United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute on July 14, 2020. Transferred into Big Sandy from USP McCreary in April 2021.
El Sayyid Nosair 35074-054 Serving a life sentence. Egyptian-born American citizen, convicted of involvement in the 1993 New York City landmark bomb plot. He had earlier been tried for, but acquitted of, the 1990 New York City assassination of Meir Kahane, a Jewish religious figure and far-right Israeli politician. He later admitted to have committed this assassination as well.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP: Martin County, KY" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. p. 6 (PDF p. 7/13). Retrieved 2022-08-14. United States Penitentiary Big Sandy
  2. ^ "USP Big Sandy". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Archived from the original on April 23, 2008. "USP Big Sandy is located in eastern Kentucky approximately 133 miles from Frankfort, 140 miles from Lexington, and 321 miles from Washington, DC."
  3. ^ Ellis, Alan and J. Michael Henderson. Federal Prison Guidebook. James Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0966443624, 9780966443622. p. 220.
  4. ^ a b Schept, Judah (2022). Coals, Cages, Crisis. NYU Press. pp. 29, 42, 78. ISBN 9781479858972.
  5. ^ "Feds May Seek Death Sentence In Ky. Inmate Slaying". CBS (Cleveland). Associated Press. 14 September 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2018. () "Big Sandy is known for housing high-profile inmates. And because the federal Bureau of Prisons automatically takes custody of people convicted in Washington, at any time, up to a third of the facility's 1,445 inmates were convicted in the city. Additionally, many inmates are sent there because of violent crimes or with long sentences, Golden said."
  6. ^ "Former Inmate Sentenced for Murder of Another Inmate". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Inmate Locator: Terrell L. Johnson". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  8. ^ "U.S. v. Gravely, Criminal No. 09-13-GFVT-02 | Casetext Search + Citator". casetext.com. Retrieved 2022-03-01.
  9. ^ "Former USP Big Sandy Inmate Sentenced 45 Years for Assault with Intent to Murder Inmate and Other Charges". Federal Bureau of Investigation. August 19, 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Former USP Big Sandy Inmate Sentenced to 20 Years for Assault of a Federal Officer". Federal Bureau of Investigation. February 25, 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Inmate Locator: Register # 50045-054". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Big Sandy Inmate Sentenced to 17.5 Years for Assaulting a Federal Corrections Officer". Federal Bureau of Investigation. September 2, 2010. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  13. ^ "Big Sandy Inmate Gets More Than Eight Years in Prison for Violent Assault". Federal Bureau of Investigation. October 6, 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  14. ^ Associated Press (September 14, 2013). "Feds May Seek Death Sentence In Ky. Inmate Slaying". CBS Local (Cleveland). Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  15. ^ Clark, Ashlee (January 7, 2010). "Big Sandy inmate sentenced for stabbing officer with feces-covered weapon". kentucky.com. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  16. ^ "Inmate Locator: Register # 11728-018". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  17. ^ Associated Press (February 11, 2009). "Ex-Liberian Head's Son Indicted On Torture". CBS News. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  18. ^ "Roy Belfast, Jr., A/K/A Chuckie Taylor, Sentenced on Torture Charges". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  19. ^ "Ex-Liberian dictator Charles Taylor's son sentenced to 97 years in US jail". Telegraph Media Group (UK). January 9, 2009. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  20. ^ Marzulli, John (August 24, 2015). "EXCLUSIVE: Mobster Vinny Gorgeous rewarded with move from Colorado Supermax". New York Daily News. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  21. ^ Rashbaum, William K. (2006-05-10). "Former Salon Owner Is Convicted of Racketeering, but Not Murder". The New York Times.
  22. ^ O'Connor, Anahad (2011-06-01). "Vincent Basciano Sentenced to Life, Not Death". The New York Times.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°46′17″N 82°38′45″W / 37.77139°N 82.64583°W / 37.77139; -82.64583