United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute

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United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute
Location Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana
Status Operational
Security class High-security (with minimum-security prison camp)
Population 1,480
Opened 1940
Managed by Federal Bureau of Prisons

The United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute (USP Terre Haute) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is part of the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex (FCC Terre Haute) and is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. USP Terre Haute houses a Special Confinement Unit for male federal inmates who have been sentenced to death. FCC Terre Haute is located in the City of Terre Haute, 70 miles (110 km) west of Indianapolis.[1]


A new United States penitentiary was authorized by President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 and established in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1940 on 1,126 acres (4.56 km2) of land. The opening of the prison in this city was partly due to heavy promotion by Terre Haute’s Chamber of Commerce, which eventually went on to raise $50,000 to pay for the property on which the prison was built.[2] The residents of Terre Haute initially embraced the prison due to the impression that it would provide jobs to local residents in addition to helping Terre Haute’s economy while only housing non-violent offenders. E.B. Swope was the prison’s first warden.

The U.S. Public Works Administration issued a $3 million grant to pay for construction of USP Terre Haute in 1938.[2] Construction cost of the institution at the time that it was built was $2,150,000.[2] The architectural design of the prison is a modified telephone pole design with all housing and other facilities opening onto a long central corridor. It was the first penitentiary for adult felons ever to be constructed without a wall. In 2004, the new USP was built on adjoining property, with the old penitentiary becoming a medium-security Federal Correctional Institution.

USP Terre Haute was one of the first federal prisons to emphasize rehabilitation by providing psychological and psychiatric treatment, referring to prisoners by names as opposed to numbers, and allowing prisoners to talk during meals instead of eating in silence. The institution initiated the use of the word "inmate" as opposed to other less-appealing labels such as "convict" or "criminal". It also became one of the first federal prisons to implement educational programs in prisons with sessions devoted to improving the inmates' skills in reading, writing, math, as well as trades.

Camp 5, part of the Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba, is reported to have been based on the design of USP Terre Haute.[3]


USP Terre Haute is a Care Level 3 facility, which means that any inmate sent to Terre Haute who has serious health problems that are not major enough to warrant hospitalization is sent to the USP. This facility is also a tobacco-free institution. This part of the FCC contains six housing units. One of the six housing units is a faith-based unit that can house 125 inmates. When the inmates are not working, they are partaking in faith-based activities. All of the inmates in the USP are allotted seven visit-days a month and 300 minutes of telephone time, which they have to use in increments of 30 minutes or less. The inmates housed here can work at UNICOR, which is a prison industry that makes towels and other accessories for the military. Inmates employed here earn an average of $6.50 to $7.50 a day and some can make up to $12 a day if they are paid by piece as opposed to by the hour.

Death row[edit]

On July 19, 1993, the federal government designated USP Terre Haute as the site where federal death sentences would be carried out, including the establishment of the "Special Confinement Unit," the federal death row for men. The Bureau of Prisons modified USP Terre Haute in 1995 and 1996 so it could house death row functions. On July 13, 1999, the Special Confinement Unit at USP Terre Haute opened, and the BOP transferred male federal death row inmates from other federal prisons and from state prisons to USP Terre Haute.[4] There are currently 58 inmates on death row.[5][6] The federal government chose Terre Haute as the location of the men's death row due to its central location within the United States.[7]

USP Terre Haute houses federal death row. Among those most recently executed at USP Terre Haute were Timothy McVeigh and Juan Raul Garza in 2001, and Louis Jones, Jr., in 2003. McVeigh, who was convicted for his responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing, was the first prisoner executed by the U.S. Government since the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in 1976. The method of execution used by the federal government is lethal injection. On May 15, 2015, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to die via lethal injection.[8] His execution will presumably be performed at USP Terre Haute.[9]

Notable inmates[edit]

The following lists contain the names of current and former notable inmates.


Inmate Name Register Number Execution Date Details
Timothy McVeigh 12076-064 June 11, 2001 Gulf War veteran; convicted in 1997 of planning and carrying out the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people.
Juan Raul Garza 62728-079 June 19, 2001 Drug kingpin; convicted in 1993 of murdering or ordering the murders of three rival drug traffickers, and of importing thousands of pounds of marijuana from Mexico and reselling it to dealers in Texas, Louisiana and Michigan.[10][11]
Louis Jones, Jr. 27265-077 March 18, 2003 Gulf War veteran; convicted in 1995 of the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of US Army Private Tracie Joy McBride at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas.[12]

Death row[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Alejandro Umaña 23077-058 Sentenced to death in 2010 High-ranking member of the international street gang MS-13; convicted of racketeering conspiracy and murder in connection with four gang-related killings; Umaña's story has been featured in several documentaries regarding MS-13.[13][14][15]
Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. 08720-059 Sentenced to death in 2006 Sex offender; convicted in 2006 of interstate kidnapping resulting in death in connection with the 2003 murder of Dru Sjodin.[16]
Len Davis 24325-034 Resentenced to death in 2005[17] Former New Orleans Police officer; convicted in 1996 of ordering the 1994 murder of Kim Groves, a 32-year-old mother of three, in retaliation for Groves' filing an excessive force complaint against him.[18]
Joseph Edward Duncan III 12561-023 Sentenced to death in 2008 Serial child molester and rapist; sentenced to death for a 2005 kidnapping and quadruple murder in Idaho; pleaded guilty in state court to one murder in California and suspected in two other murders in Washington State.[19][20]
Ronell Wilson 71460-053 Resentenced to death in 2013[21] 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; Wilson is the first person sentenced to death in New York since the 1950s.[22][23]
Marvin Gabrion 09184-055 Resentenced to death in 2013 Convicted of the 1997 kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Rachel Timmerman. Gabrion was set to stand trial on rape charges filed by Rachel when she disappeared.[24][25] Gabrion is the first person to be sentenced to death in the state of Michigan since 1937.[26][27]

Non-death row[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Jay Scott Ballinger 05989-028 Serving a life sentence Satanist and self-described “Missionary of Lucifer”; convicted in 2000 and 2001 of setting fires at 26 churches in eight states in the 1990s, including one which caused the death of Firefighter Loy Williams of the Commerce Fire Department in Georgia.[28][29]
Russell Wasendorf 12191-029 Serving a 50-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2056 Peregrine Financial Group founder; pleaded guilty in 2012 to mail fraud, embezzlement and making false statements for stealing over $100 million from the clients over a 20-year period and falsifying documents to cover up the fraud.[30][31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BOP: FCI Terre Haute". Bop.gov. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  2. ^ a b c Taylor, Zach (May 6, 2001), "Penitentiary opened to great fanfare", Tribune-Star 
  3. ^ Catherine Herridge (January 31, 2009). "Inside Guantanamo Bay, a Study in Contrasts". Fox News. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  4. ^ "Special Confinement Unit Opens at USP Terre Haute." Federal Bureau of Prisons. July 13, 1999. Retrieved on October 3, 2010.
  5. ^ "Federal Death Row Prisoners | Death Penalty Information Center". Deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  6. ^ "The Bureau Celebrates 80th Anniversary." Federal Bureau of Prisons. May 14, 2010. Retrieved on October 3, 2010.
  7. ^ Huppke, Rex W. "EXECUTION: Terre Haute, Ind. dreads execution of Timothy McVeigh." Associated Press at the Southeast Missourian. Friday April 6, 2001. 2A (continued from 1A). Retrieved from Google News (2/16) on October 14, 2010. "The planning for this day began when mcveigh was moved to Terre Haute along with the 19 other federal death row inmates in 1999[...]"
  8. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/16/us/dzhokhar-tsarnaev-death-sentence.html
  9. ^ http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2015/04/09/how-tsarnaev-will-die-sentenced-die/db6AiRsTO4N7D4MGyxMnHL/story.html?p1=related_article_page
  10. ^ "Who is Juan Raul Garza? - CNN". Articles.cnn.com. June 18, 2001. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  11. ^ "BOP: Federal Executions". Bop.gov. July 8, 1942. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  12. ^ "Louis Jones, Jr. #837". Clarkprosecutor.org. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  13. ^ "MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to Death for Double Murder". Fox News. July 27, 2010. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  14. ^ Markon, Jerry (April 29, 2010). "MS-13 gang member sentenced to death in N.C". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  15. ^ "FBI — MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to Death After Conviction on Racketeering Charges Related to Double Murders". Fbi.gov. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  16. ^ "Rodriguez sentenced to die for killing Dru Sjodin". StarTribune.com. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  17. ^ Looseleaf Law (October 27, 2005). "Former New Orleans policeman again sentenced to death". Policeone.com. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  18. ^ BOB HERBERTPublished: September 15, 1995 (September 15, 1995). "In America; Killer Cops - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  19. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8485031/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/idaho-suspects-records-show-violent-history
  20. ^ http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20121216/NEWS03/712169838
  21. ^ Secret, Mosi (July 24, 2013). "Killer of Two Undercover Detectives Is Sent Back to Death Row". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  22. ^ Brick, Michael (February 6, 2007). "Detectives' Killer Breaks Windows in Jail". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  23. ^ Hays, Tom (July 24, 2013). "Ronell Wilson, NY Cop Killer, Gets Death Penalty". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  24. ^ "Court of appeals affirms death penalty for Gabrion". Cedar Springs Post. June 7, 2013. 
  25. ^ Agar, John (May 28, 2013). "Marvin Gabrion's death penalty reinstated in 1997 killing of young mother". MLIVE. 
  26. ^ "First Federal Death Sentence in Non-death penalty state overturned". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  27. ^ "Court divided on Marvin Gabrion death penalty appeal". The Grand Rapids Press. March 14, 2008. 
  28. ^ "'Missionary of Lucifer' Sentenced to 42 Years - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  29. ^ http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200114872.pdf
  30. ^ "Peregrine Financial Group CEO Pleads Guilty To Fraud, Embezzlement, And Lying To Regulators". US Department of Justice. September 17, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  31. ^ Reuters (2012). "Peregrine CEO Wasendorf pleads guilty in $100 million embezzlement scheme". Thomson Reuters. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  32. ^ Huffstutter, P.J. (January 31, 2013). "Peregrine Financial's Ex-CEO sentenced to 50 years in jail". Fox Business. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°24′45″N 87°27′15″W / 39.4126°N 87.4542°W / 39.4126; -87.4542