Articles Posted in Designations

Following conviction, federal defendants, who were released on bond while their cases were pending, are often permitted to surrender voluntarily to their designated places of imprisonment. This practice has several tangible benefits. From the Bureau of Prisons’ perspective, it provides a cost savings since the agency does not have to transport a newly sentenced prisoner from a local jail to the correctional facility at which he will be housed. For the defendant, the practice affords further opportunity to get one’s affairs in order while also lessening one’s security point total since the BOP subtracts three points for self-surrender. The latter can often be the difference between qualifying for minimum-, as opposed to low-, security placement.

Occasionally, a defendant may need to seek an extension of the surrender date. The BOP cannot modify the date. That authority rests exclusively with the court. Among the reasons that an extension may be sought are to allow time for the BOP to complete a defendant’s designation (and assign a facility to which to report) — less of an issue in recent years; to permit a potential re-designation, where BOP has assigned a defendant inconsistent with a judicial recommendation; or to enable religious observance, where the surrender date falls on or just before a religious holiday. Another reason to postpone surrender is where a defendant’s medical circumstances necessitate immediate treatment or aftercare under the supervision of his primary care physician(s). A story out of Alabamahighlights this circumstance:

A federal prosecutor said Tuesday the government opposes Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley’s request to delay his trip to prison until after Christmas.

From the Boston Globe comes confirmation that the Federal Prison Camp in Berlin, New Hampshire has begun accepting prisoners:

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen says a new federal prison in New Hampshire is expected to be housing inmates.
Shaheen congratulated the staff at the Berlin prison on Thursday as she said they started minimum security operations.

According to The Stamford Advocate, a former Greenwich (CT) pastor reported this week to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn (NY) to serve his five-month sentence:

Located near the Gowanus Bay, the prison is classified as an administrative facility, a type of institution intended for the detention of pretrial offenders, dangerous or escape-prone inmates, or for treatment of inmates with medical problems, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The Brooklyn facility is capable of holding male and female inmates in all security categories.

That is the title of a Birmingham News article which surveyed five high-profile Alabamians serving time in the Bureau of Prisons. The differing views on federal prison life provide insight into experiences common to many prisoners (e.g., how to cope with the tedium and make productive use of one’s time).

With respect to designations far from a prisoner’s release residence, 65-year-old John Katopodis, a former county commissioner, was housed at Devens, MA before being transferred to Fort Dix, NJ, and former state senator 72-year-old E.B. McClain was recently moved from “a federal prison camp in Pennsylvania” to a “facility in North Carolina.” There are numerous minimum- and low-security institutions closer to Alabama, which is located in the BOP’s Southeast Region, than those found in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, all in the Bureau’s Northeast Region. As reflected in what McClain told loved ones when in Pennsylvania, proximity most directly impacts visitation and, consequently, a prisoner’s community ties: “I encouraged my family not to travel here to visit [….] The distance is too great[….]”
Katopodis reports being transferred to Fort Dix following three episodes that resulted in SHU placement.

The Bureau of Prisons has reportedlyplaced Allen Stanford at the United States Penitentiary Coleman II, FL to serve his 110-year sentence. If accurate*, this story is notable because it means that the BOP has elected to house a 62-year-old nonviolent “white-collar” offender at a high-security institution. According to the BOP:

At the high security level, more than 70 percent of the inmates are drug offenders, weapons offenders, or robbers, another 10 percent have been convicted of murder, aggravated assault, or kidnapping, and half of the inmates in this population have sentences in excess of 10 years. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of high security inmates have been sanctioned for violating prison rules, and more than 90 percent have a history of violence.
USP designation of an inmate with more than 30 years remaining to serve is technically correct based on application of the Sentence Length Public Safety Factor (PSF). See BOP Program Statement 5100.08, Ch. 5, p. 9. However, it appears that in other similar cases the Bureau offset the impact of the Sentence Length PSF through application of a Lesser Security management variable, which is intended for “circumstances where an inmate represents a lesser security risk […] than the assigned security level.” Id. Ch. 5, p. 5. For instance, Bernie Madoff, who, like Stanford, qualifies for USP placement as a result of his 150-year sentence, is housed at FCI Butner-Medium, NC. Likewise, Enron defendant Jeff Skilling was originally designated to FCI Waseca-Low, MN (then a men’s institution) despite having more than 20 years remaining to serve when he surrendered to federal custody, a fact that should have triggered placement at a medium-security institution.

The Boston Herald reportsthat 61-year-old Catherine Greig, “[c]onvicted of helping 82-year-old mobster beau James ‘Whitey’ Bulger evade capture for 16 years while on the lam together,” has arrived at FCI Waseca-Low, MN. This is notable since Ms. Greig has ties to Quincy, MA, close to where her twin sister reportedly still resides, meaning that the Bureau of Prisons selected an institution south of Minneapolis over FCI Danbury, CT, mere hours from Boston. Experience suggests that such hardships for female prisoners, for whom there are fewer institutions at which to be housed, are not uncommon. Additionally, from the Herald stories it appears that Ms. Greig was transported from Massachusetts to Minnesota by way of the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City, OK, another example of “diesel therapy.”

Continuing with the theme of the Bureau of Prisons’ seeming disregard for prisoners’ proximity to family and loved ones, as well as the ongoing problem of overcrowding, is this New York Times editorial concerning the new women’s facility in Aliceville, Alabama.

But for many of the prisoners, the rural isolation of this expensive facility will hurt their chances of returning permanently to their families and communities after doing their time. Though it is the newest federal prison for women, Aliceville does not reflect the latest thinking about criminal justice policy for incarceration of women.
Experts have long argued that prisoners should be located within a reasonable distance of their families so they can keep connections with their children. Encouraging those connections benefits the criminal justice system by reducing the odds that a prisoner will end up back in prison after she is released. The location of the Aliceville prison works against these goals.[…]

Noted defense attorney and civil libertarian Harvey Silvergate has written a provocative piece for the Boston Phoenix that highlights the issues of far-from-home placements within the BOP, prisoner transport (a.k.a., “diesel therapy”), and inadequate medical attention and care.

At the time of DiMasi’s September 9, 2011, sentencing, US District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf recommended to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) that DiMasi serve his sentence in Ayer. Wolf expressed concern about DiMasi’s then-diagnosed heart condition and the prospect of forcing his cancer-stricken wife to travel long distances for visits.[…]
In December 2011, DiMasi found lumps in his neck and made repeated requests for a medical examination. In January 2012, a prison doctor examined him, determining that the lumps were potentially cancerous and that further testing was required.

Seasoned federal practitioners may recall a time, not so long ago, when the designation of federal offenders was largely a local affair. Community Corrections Offices would process designation packages of newly sentenced defendants and forward placement recommendations to the Regional Designator for final approval. That design ended around early 2006 with the activation of the Designation and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC) in Grand Prairie, Texas, which centralized and consolidated the designation process. Designation teams divided by referring district court(s) have assumed the Community Corrections Office role, and a team of designators (Hotel Team) serves the Regional Designator function.

While the DSCC has certain efficiencies that, among other things, have resulted in a substantial reduction in the average time to complete an initial designation, there appears to be a growing trend of the BOP placing prisoners far from home, well beyond the 500-mile radius from release residence that has historically guided placement. Said differently, with increasing frequency there are reports of prisoners being designated dispersedly throughout the country. There is no official explanation for this trend. However, several considerations seem relevant.

Overcrowding is no doubt a factor. According to the Bureau’s FY 2013 Congressional Budget—Buildings and Facilities:

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