Established in 1930, The Federal Bureau of Prisons is an agency managed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Responsible for setting the standard for federal prisons scattered throughout the United States, it oversees the supervision of over 200,000 federal inmates, and ensures that prison sentences are carried out as ordered by a Federal District Court. Decisions about inmate facility placement, security, self-help programs for detainees, and other related issues are addressed and supervised by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The central office and headquarters is located in Washington, D.C., where the National Institute of Corrections and eight other divisions operate.
Determining the location that a convicted federal offender will carry out a prison sentence is one of the responsibilities of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The bureau analyzes the security needs of the convict, the availability of prisons local to him or her, and other inmate requirements, such as medical or mental health treatment. Administrative issues also determine the location where a prisoner will carry-out his or her judgment. For example, a facility’s current inmate capacity and available staffing may influence a decision to place an offender at one location over another.
While an inmate is serving his or her sentence, the Federal Bureau of Prisons oversees various programs that help the prisoner acquire the necessary skills to function outside of the controlled environment. Literacy and English classes, adult education courses, and library services are usually made available to inmates so they can learn to thrive in a working environment. Other programs that teach social skills and coping strategies, like parenting classes and substance abuse treatment, are designed to prevent the relapse of negative behavior. These generally assist inmates by giving them the skills to function more effectively in society.
Many times, an inmate is transferred to a residential re-entry center — also known as half-way house — to assist in the transition to community living following long-term incarceration. The bureau oversees multiple minimum security centers throughout the United States. Sometimes, however, an inmate does not qualify for release, such as those ordered to serve a life sentence. Other times, a convict may be sentenced to death, and he or she will be housed in a maximum security prison until the punishment is implemented.
Of all facilities governed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the most famous, although no longer used for prisoner confinement, was Alcatraz. Located on a desolate island off the coast of San Francisco, California, the maximum security penitentiary was in operation from 1934 through 1963. Infamous criminals, like Al Capone and George “Machine-Gun” Kelly, were housed at the island prison. The facility was closed in 1963, but in the fall of 1973, Alcatraz became a national park and is now visited by people from all over the world, who tour the island where some of the most notorious criminals in the U.S. were once contained.