§20 Federal Bureau of Prison Rules, Policies, and Practices


As a prisoner you must understand the rules, policies and practices of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to make your stay as enjoyable and trouble-free as possible. Life in prison under limitations and restrictions can be difficult, but there are worst punishments and prisons than this facility. County and state facilities tend to be harsher environments with even more restrictions and poorer living conditions.

Most of the constitutional rights of pre-trial detainees and prisoners is covered in another section of this handbook. Rules, policies and practices will be available in the law library or by special request with a “cop-out” or “Inmate Request to Staff” (BP-S148.055) form.

A. Administrative Remedies and Procedure

The first step in the administrative remedy process, if it cannot be resolved satisfactorily with an “Inmate Request to Staff”, is sending the “Informal Resolution” (BP-8.5) to the Correctional Counselor. If resolution cannot be made, then a formal “Administrative Complaint” (BP-09) should be filed with the institution. If the complaint is not resolved, then it can be appealed to the regional and central offices of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

These are only for issues relating to the prisoners confinement, not other legal issues that must be raised in the district court. See, 28 C.F.R. Part 542 – Administrative Remedy; Program Statement 1330.13, Administrative Remedy Program. Inmates are obligated to attempt informal resolution of grievances prior to filing a formal request for administrative remedy. See, 28 C.F.R. §542.13. Once a formal request is filed at the institution level, the warden of that facility has 20-days to investigate and provide the inmate a written response. See, 28 C.F.R. §542.18.

If the inmate is not satisfied with the warden’s response, he or she has 20-days to file a Regional Administrative Remedy Appeal. See, 28 C.F.R. §542.15. Once received, the regional director has 30 days to investigate and respond in writing.

If the inmate is not satisfied with the regional director’s response, he or she has 30-days to file a Central Office Administrative Remedy Appeal. Once received the Administrator, National Inmate Appeals, has 40-days to investigate and respond in writing. After receiving the Administrator’s response, the inmate has-exhausted the BOP’S Administrative Remedy Program.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Pub.L.No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) requires prisoners exhaust administrative remedies before filing lawsuits in federal district court. “No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a) See, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 152 L.Ed.2d 12, 122 S.Ct. 983 (2002); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 149 L.Ed.2d 958, 121 Sect. 1819 (2001).

“[W]here available administrative remedies are as likely as the judicial remedy to provide the desired relief, a district court should dismiss the suit for failure to first exhaust administrative remedies rather than address the merits of the claim. This practice is consistent with the federal court’s policy of exercising judicial restraint in matters within the expertise of prison administrators and will allow speedy and consistent resolution of claims that may concern many prisoners.” Davis v. Keohane, 835 F.2d 1147, 1148,(6th.Cir. 1987). Exhaustion of administrative remedies may not be required for writs of habeas corpus petitions under section 2241. These would be exempt from the administrative remedies requirement as they are not issues that the institution could resolve.

In practice, the Federal Bureau of Prisons often stonewalls the administrative remedy process using it as a stall tactic to avoid responsibility for handling or resolving complaints and grievances. Automatic rejections of grievances can be expected which can take up to six months to complete the process.

B. Making the Best of “Time Served”

Here you are incarcerated in a federal detention center or prison. You know how you got here and for what reasons. If you are guilty of the offense charged, than the sooner you accept responsibility for what you did and accept the consequences, the better your quality of life will be for the time you’ll have to serve.

If you are innocent and have been wrongly convicted, as an estimated 8% are, then you’ll have to exhaust every possible legal remedy to overturn your conviction and still you may have to spend time in prison. This must also be accepted.

Whether a prisoner or not, we’re all doing time. Even the staff working here are doing time. Perhaps they have more physical mobility and a paycheck, and you don’t, but we’re all doing time in this life. This is a good lesson, to become a “master of time” regardless of how or where we’re “doing time.” Making the best of the time you must serve is sound advice.

Whether it’s a few months, a few years, or a mandatory minimum of five, ten or twenty years, the sooner you accept the sentence the better. Otherwise you’ll suffer needlessly. Then utilize the time you have to better yourself, to get an education or training, to read, write or draw artwork, to be as productive as possible given the limitations and restrictions. Life isn’t over, as the old proverb says, “until the fat lady sings.”

Life and time is precious and sacred, meant to be appreciated. Count your blessings every day. There are worst situations you could be in than prison. Take this time to write letters to friends and family and resolve any conflicts or incompletion from the past. Prison brings about change in relationships. For many, prison has actually strengthened and deepened interpersonal relationships. For others, relationships devolve and dissolve. Accept this as soon as possible. Prison is not only difficult for the prisoner, but for those in relationship with the prisoner on the outside who experience limitations and restrictions upon their lives too. Have compassion for all concerned.

C. Supervised Release and Probation

If the court imposes a term of imprisonment, the court must impose a term of supervised release to follow the imprisonment. Supervised release is a replacement for parole supervision. Offenders are subject to the authority of the district court and the probation office in the district to which the defendant is released.

The defendant must report to the probation office within 72 hours of release from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.

Some of the conditions of supervised release as ordered by the district court include:

  • Shall not commit another federal, state, or local crime
  • Shall not unlawfully possess or use a controlled substance
  • Shall submit to a drug test within 15 days of supervision and periodically
  • Shall not possess a firearm, ammunition, destructive device or weapon
  • Shall cooperate in the collection of DNA
  • Shall pay a fine or restitution in accordance with a Schedule of Payments

Standard conditions of supervision include:

  • Shall not leave the judicial district without permission of the officer or court
  • Shall report to the probation officer and submit truthful report
  • Shall answer truthfully all inquiries
  • Shall support his or her dependents and meet family responsibilities
  • Shall work regularly at a lawful occupation
  • Shall notify ten days prior to change in residence or employment
  • Shall refrain from excessive use of alcohol
  • Shall not engage in criminal activity or associate with any known felon
  • Shall permit the probation officer to visit without notice and confiscate contraband
  • Shall notify probation officer within 72 hours of arrest or being questioned by law enforcement officer
  • Shall notify third parties of risks occasioned by defendant’s criminal record and permit probation officer to make such notifications
  • Provide access to any requested financial information

The court may also impose special conditions for supervised release and criminal monetary penalties including assessment fees, fines and restitution to victims with a schedule of payments.

Probation applies to a small number of cases with low offense levels and low criminal history. If you violate the terms of the supervised release, you can be returned to prison for the full amount of the term of supervised release. Though it can only be revoked by a judge, occasionally even weak charges by a probation officer can result in a violation without evidence to support it.

Terms of supervised release are generally one to five years.

D. Home Free at Last

Prison is not forever even though it may seem that way while you’re doing time. Eventually the prison doors will open and you’ll be able to breathe the air, put your feet on the ground and smell the roses. You’ll be able to taste the sweetness of freedom again and really appreciate what you have. How easy it is to take such freedom for granted when we have it.

The day will come when you’ll be released on probation or supervised release. The day will also come when you’ll be cut loose of those restrictions and be able to move even more freely. You will come home, sooner or later.

We’ve all made mistakes in life, only a few which landed us in prison. Always do the best you can to learn from your mistakes and use better judgment in the future. Always remember that every action has an equal and opposing reaction, a consequence. Be aware of the consequences of your actions and avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.

Enjoy your life and loved ones. This is as good as it gets, You’re home free at last!

5 thoughts on “§20 Federal Bureau of Prison Rules, Policies, and Practices

  1. My husband was released on house arrest for 29 days. He was told he had to return to Mdoc without a reason. Today the commissioner email and said the state auditors office had strong oppositions of his release.
    Is this legal can we sue?

  2. Something needs be done. About the federal officers having sexual relations with the inmates. Especially the camp inmate with access to house repairs and cleaning duties.

  3. does anyone know who or what i should or could contact, to file a complaint about lack of medical care at a federal holding facility?


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