Getting Designated To Federal Prison

Last week, I had the privilege of conducting a training session for federal public defenders in Richmond, VA. I was invited to give the training by Kenneth Troccoli, a federal public defender in Alexandria, VA. Ken’s commitment to his work and this training impressed me. It is clear he and his colleagues are committed to doing all they can to help their clients obtain the best possible outcome at sentencing.

One of the lawyers in the room asked me about the designation process after a defendant is sentenced. I shared the following with him and wanted to share with those who follow my blog.

After the judge imposes sentence, a designator for the Bureau of Prisons will assign the individual to report to a particular prison. BOP policy states that:

individuals ordinarily will be placed in prisons with the lowest classification rating for which the prisoner is eligible within 500 miles of his residence.

Those that want to see the locations of all federal prisons may visit

The system is crowded. It may not always be possible for the BOP to designate a person to serve the sentence in an institution within 500 miles of the person’s residence.

• Some regions have fewer prisons than other regions.
• Some people may want to participate in programs that are only available in prisons outside of the region.
• Some people may need specialized medical care that is only available outside of the region.

The First Step Act includes a provision regarding this 500-mile guideline. And people may be able to participate in programs, or advocate for themselves to influence a transfer to a specific prison.

But it’s important to remember that judges sentence people “To the custody of the Attorney General,” BOP officials have enormous discretion with regard to where a person serves the sentence.

If a judge authorizes a person to self-surrender, but traveling to the prison is too costly, the person has the the option of accepting free transportation through the prisoner transport system. If the option is available, our team recommends surrendering voluntarily to state or federal prison. Avoid traveling in chains and steel cuffs if given the option.

Justin Paperny

P.S. Grab a free copy of my new book, Prepare, here.