05. Prison Designation
"If you are going through hell, keep going."
- Winston Churchill
There are 122 facility compounds across the country that have varying security levels, programs and healthcare levels to meet inmate needs. The BOP, and the BOP alone, has the authority to determine where a person will be incarcerated. While your lawyer have gave the judge a designation recommendation at sentencing, there are many other facets of you and your case that will influence the BOP’s final designation decision.
There is probably nothing more important that knowing where your time will be served and how far that location will be from your family. Generally, the BOP does an excellent job at housing inmates within a 500 mile radius of their home address. Since the indictment, there has been a substantial amount of information gathered on both you and your case. That information will now be summarized and evaluated to determine which prison best meets both your needs and the government requirements for incarceration.
A federal judge has the authority to sentence to a term of imprisonment, fine, establish restitution and order supervised release post prison, but the ultimate decision as to where a defendant will spend his/her prison time is at the sole discretion to the Bureau of Prisons. The following is a list of what a judge CANNOT order:
- Place of Incarceration
- Earlier Commencement of a Federal Sentence
- Credit Towards Sentence For Presentence Custody
- Referral Into RRC (Halfway House) or Home Detention
- Temporary Release On Furlough
- Participation In A Specific Program
- Participation In A Residential Drug Abuse Program
However, the judge can recommend any of the above and the BOP will consider them unless the recommendation violates a statute. The judge does have jurisdiction to order participation in specific programs or placement in community custody as a special condition of either probation or supervised release.
So if a federal judge has limits to where a defendant is sentenced, how do you get to the location that you believe best meets your needs (location and programs specifically)? The answer is that you try your best to get a recommendation from the judge and then back that up with information that best supports your position.
The BOP adopts a judicial recommendation in over 70% of the requests and more than half of all cases that the BOP reviews for designation have some type of federal judge recommendation.
It is important to know that some defendants are remanded into custody immediately and placed into Administrative facilities adjacent to the courthouse or sent to a county jail until the designation process is completed by the BOP. While the defendant gets credit for this time served, it is not a particularly pleasant experience. If you find yourself in this unlikely situation, hang in there. The BOP knows where you are and will get you to your final designation, but it might take a while (weeks or months).
There are documented cases of defendants making a request to the Judge to be taken into custody immediately so that they can begin their sentence. Their rationale is that the sooner they get into prison the sooner they can get out. However, this is a huge mistake if self-surrendering was a possibility. Like those remanded into custody, defendants who request to be taken immediately will find themselves in higher security settings or county jails for weeks or months before landing at their final destination. Going through prison transportation is a miserable experience and the days you spend in this process seem like many days in a prison camp or Low. Take the few weeks to prepare for prison and do not be in a hurry to get the prison term started.