United States Penitentiary, McCreary

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United States Penitentiary, McCreary
LocationMcCreary County,
near Pine Knot, Kentucky
Security classHigh-security (with minimum-security prison camp)
Population1,558 [1,471 at the USP, 87 in prison camp] (April 2022)
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons

The United States Penitentiary, McCreary (USP McCreary) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in unincorporated McCreary County, Kentucky.[1] It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. The facility also has an adjacent minimum-security satellite camp for male offenders.

USP McCreary (the name comes from the surrounding Kentucky county, which has no incorporated towns) is located approximately 88 miles (142 km) north of Knoxville, Tennessee, 125 miles (201 km) south of Lexington, Kentucky and 208 miles (335 km) south of Cincinnati, Ohio.[2]

Facility and programs[edit]

The Education Department at USP McCreary offers a wide variety of academic and vocational programs ranging from Adult Literacy to post-secondary studies through correspondence. All programs are voluntary with the exception of General Education Development (GED) and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. A representative from the Education Department interviews each inmate shortly after their arrival at the institution to determine their educational needs and goals. An inmate who does not have a verifiable high school diploma or GED is required to attend 240 hours of GED classes. For inmates who cannot proficiently speak English, mandatory attendance in ESL classes is required until the inmate is able to pass a certification test.[3]

Notable incidents[edit]

Two correction officers at USP McCreary were stabbed on November 8, 2010. A prison spokesperson told The Associated Press that the officers were conducting routine cell searches when an inmate attacked them with a homemade prison knife. The officers were taken to a local hospital with what officials called serious but non-life-threatening injuries to the chest, back and shoulder. They were later released after treatment. An investigation identified the assailant as 38-year-old James Edward Rose, an inmate with a lengthy criminal history who was serving a sentence for armed bank robbery and witness tampering. Rose was convicted of attempted murder in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison.[4] He is currently being held at the United States Penitentiary, Florence ADX, the federal supermax prison in Colorado which holds inmates who pose the highest security risks and require the tightest controls.[5]

On October 15, 2013, WBIR-TV, an NBC affiliate in Knoxville, reported that 350 federal employees, primarily correctional officers, were working without pay during the 2013 federal government shutdown. The story quoted Don Peace, an employee at USP McCreary and president of the American Federation of Government Employees local, "There are probably 1,700 inmates behind the wall. The staff is putting their life literally on the line every time they come to work and go behind that fence. You don't know if you're going to walk out at night or not and now they're asking us to do that for free or for an IOU. This job is already stressful enough without all of these added things we have no control over." While the correctional officers and other prison employees worked for free, the inmates continued receiving pay for their labor during the shutdown.[6] The shutdown ended on October 17, 2013.[7]

Notable inmates[edit]

Inmate name Register number Status Details
Corey Hamlet 27912-050 Serving a life sentence. Leader of the Grape Street Crips in Newark, NJ; Convicted of six homicides and ten attempted murders.[8]
Cristóbal Véliz 88389-054 Serving a life sentence. Responsible for the Murders of Bernice and Ben Novack Jr.
Ronell Wilson 71460-053 Serving a life sentence, now at USP Florence - High Gang leader in Staten Island, New York; murdered NYPD Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews, who were conducting a sting operation to buy an illegal gun in 2003.[9][10]
Thomas Pitera 29465-053 Serving a life sentence.[11] Former hitman for the Bonanno Crime Family in New York City; convicted in 1992 of murder and murder conspiracy for torturing and murdering six people, as well as racketeering for operating a large drug trafficking operation.[12]
Ricky Mungia 26372-077 Serving a life sentence, now at USP Pollock[13] White supremacist; convicted of civil rights violations for a shooting spree targeting African-Americans in Lubbock, Texas, which killed one man and wounded two others, in an attempt to start a nationwide race war. His co-defendants, Eli Mungia and Roy Martin are housed at USP Big Sandy and ADX Florence respectively.[14][15]
Brendt Christensen 22127-026 Serving a life sentence, now at USP Coleman II. Kidnapped, raped, and murdered a Chinese student at the University of Illinois.
Tim Durham 60452-112 Serving a 50-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2056.[16] American lawyer and financier; convicted in 2012 of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud for cheating his clients out of $200 million in a Ponzi scheme; his story was featured on the CNBC television show American Greed.[17][18][19]
Haji Bagcho 29820-016 Released in 2022. Drug trafficker.
Russell Defreitas 64347-053 Serving a life sentence. Convicted in 2010 for conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack at JFK Airport.
Carl Mark Force 58633-037 Released on October 9th, 2020. Former DEA Agent convicted of money laundering, obstruction of justice, and "extortion under color of official right" during the investigation of the Silk Road online drug marketplace.[20]
John DeRoss 10451-054 Serving a life sentence. Transferred to FCI Cumberland. Former Underboss of the Colombo crime family and perpetrator of the 1999 Cutolo murder, and the 1991 Campanella attempted murder.
Kenneth McGriff 26301-053 Serving a life sentence. Founder of the "Supreme Team," a violent gang which sold crack cocaine in Queens, NY. Convicted in 2007 of murder, racketeering, and drug trafficking.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani 02476-748 Serving a life sentence. Al-Qaeda terrorist convicted for his role in the bombing of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He was on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list from its inception in October 2001. In 2004, he was captured and detained by Pakistani forces in a joint operation with the United States, and was held until June 9, 2009, at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He was then sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States and sent to ADX Florence, but then later transferred to USP McCreary.
Gerald Rubalcaba 02552-748 Serving a life sentence. One of the five highest ranking members in the Nuestra Familia prison gang. He and 4 other "generals" were tried under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act and sentenced to life imprisonment for overseeing a gang that distributed cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine within prison systems. Rubalcaba was transferred into USP McCreary from ADX Florence in July 2020.
Chevie Kehoe 21300-009 Serving 3 life sentences, now at USP Big Sandy. 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 USP Florence - High from ADX Florence in 2019, and subsequently to McCreary in December 2020.
Christopher Jeburk 09029-021 Serving a life sentence, now at USP Allenwood. Bank robberies, kidnappings, jail and prisons escapes, case featured on TV show The FBI Files.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP: McCreary County, KY" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. p. 9 (PDF p. 10/13). Retrieved 2022-08-15. United States Penitentiary McCreary
  2. ^ "USP McCreary". Federal Bureau of Prisons.
  3. ^ "USP/SCP McCreary - Admissions & Orientation Handbook" (PDF). Federal Bureau of Prisons. January 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  4. ^ "Federal inmate sentenced to 105 years". McCreary County Record. October 4, 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Inmate Locator - Register # 10820-007". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  6. ^ Matheny, Jim (October 15, 2013). "Shutdown prison employees required to work without pay". NBC Universal. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  7. ^ Yoder, Eric (October 16, 2013). "What ending the shutdown means for federal employees". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Long-Time Leader of Violent Grape Street Crips Street Gang and Two Members Convicted of Racketeering Conspiracy". United States Attorney's Office.
  9. ^ Brick, Michael (February 6, 2007). "Detectives' Killer Breaks Windows in Jail". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  10. ^ Hays, Tom (July 24, 2013). "Ronell Wilson, NY Cop Killer, Gets Death Penalty". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Tommy Pitera". bio. A&E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  12. ^ Lubasch, Anthony (July 2, 1992). "Federal Jurors Considering Death Penalty for Mobster". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Knafo, Saki (January 25, 2014). "Sentenced To Life In Prison For Selling Marijuana". Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  14. ^ Associated Press (April 8, 1996). "Life Sentences for 3 Men in Racial Attacks". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Selected Case Summaries - Hate Crimes - US v. Mungia". US Department of Justice. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  16. ^ Olson, Scott (June 26, 2015). "Durham fails to convince judge to reduce 50-year sentence". Indianapolis Business Journal. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  17. ^ Chapman, Sandra (November 30, 2012). "Tim Durham sentenced to 50 years in fraud case". WTHR 13 Indiana. 2015 WorldNow and WTHR. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  18. ^ "Case Updates: U.S. v. Timothy S. Durham, James F. Cochran, and Rick D. Snow". US Department of Justice. US Government. June 26, 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  19. ^ "American Greed: The Playboy of Indiana". CNBC. CNBC Network. January 22, 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  20. ^ Sarah Jeong (Oct 20, 2015). "DEA Agent Who Faked a Murder and Took Bitcoins from Silk Road Explains Himself". Vice.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°41′17″N 84°23′18″W / 36.68806°N 84.38833°W / 36.68806; -84.38833