Prison Security Levels Guide

There are 5 security level prisons. Find out who houses who and which one is the worst.

When inmates go into the Federal Bureau of Prisons, they can be placed into one of the five levels of security prisons.

Inmates are put into prisons on their classification score and custody. The Bureau of Prisons’ Designation and Sentence Computation Center calculates the classification score.

At any given time, the inmates’ case manager can recalculate the inmate’s security level to move them to the proper place for them.

Level 1: Minimum Security Prison

In the federal prison’s language, minimum security prisons are known as Federal Prison Camps. These types of prisons is home to inmates who are serving out time for non-violent offenses.

Minimum security prisons offer dormitory-style housing. They also have a low inmate to correctional officer ratio along with little to no perimeter fence.  They usually offer inmates a work program.

Inmates in these prisons typically have less than 10 years left on their sentences with little to no history of violence.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons compiled a list of all federal prisons in the minimum-security category. You can view that list here.

Level 2: Low-Security Prison

Low-Security Prisons in the Federal Prison system are known as Federal Correctional Institution. Just like minimum security prisons, low-security prisons also offer inmates the dormitory-style housing. Their inmate to correctional officer is relatively low too.
Unlike the minimum security prisons, inmates in low security tend to have some history of violence. The prisons are enclosed with fences, without the razor wire like the higher security prisons have.

There usually is not much violence at this level of prison either. Prisoners usually have 20 years or under to be able for this security level prison.

Unfortunately, sex offenders are not allowed to be in low-security prisons.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons compiled a list of all low-security prisons. You can view the list here.

Level 3: Medium Security Prison

In the federal prison definition, medium-security prisons are known as Federal Correctional Institutions. These prisons house their inmates in cells. A majority of their inmates has a violent past.

The Federal Correctional Institutions are enclosed with multiple fences, spools of razor wire, and armed perimeter automobiles that surveys the perimeter 24/7. They do offer their inmates a nice variety of treatment and work programs too.

Their inmate to correctional officer ratio is a lot higher than the previous two security levels. Inmates here usually have sentences up to 30 years to complete.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons compiled a list of all medium-security prisons. You can view the list here.

Level 4: High-Security Prison (Maximum Security)

The high-security prisons are known as United States Penitentiaries. You have probably heard this term in lots of television shows and movies. Penitentiaries are the places where they always housed the real bad convicts.

High-security prisons have a tightly secured border. They can either half walls or multiple fences enclosing their property. They are equipped with armed guard towers.

For inmates, they have either single cell or multiple cell housing. When it comes to inmate to correctional staff ratio, they have the highest. Here in the high-security prisons, the correctional staff keeps close control of all movements inside the prison.

You have probably heard that the United States Penitentiaries is a brutal place to be. Every year inmates die due to gang violence inside the walls of the prison.

The inmates housed in the United State Penitentiaries can be just about anyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be violent offenders. They can be sex offenders and informants. However, these two groups of people do not necessarily last long with all the violent acts that they end up receiving.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons compiled a list of all high-security prisons. You can view the list here.

Level 5: Administrative Security Prisons

The last security level prisons are known as Administrative facilities. These facilities are essential institutions with special missions. They usually hold these following types of offenders:

  • Pretrial Offenders
  • Offenders with serious/chronic Medical Conditions/Problems
  • Dangerous Offenders
  • Violent Offenders
  • Escape-Prone Offenders.

The list of all the federal Administrative facilities includes the following:

  • Metropolitan Correctional Centers (MCCs)-houses the pre-trial offenders and those already sentenced.
  • Metropolitan Detention Centers (MDCs)
  • Federal Detention Centers (FDCs)- houses pre-trial offenders.
  • Federal Medical Centers (FMCs)- houses prisoners who need serious medical attention.
  • Federal Transfer Center (FTC)- houses the prisoners waiting to be transferred to another prison.
  • Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (MCFP)- houses the mentally ill prisoners.
  • Administrative-Maximum Security Penitentiary (ADX).

All the above administrative facilities but the Administrative-Maximum Security Penitentiary can hold inmates at all security levels.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons compiled a list of all Administrative prisons. You can view the list here.

Bonus: Complex Security Level

Yes, there are only 5 security level prisons. This isn’t technically a security level, but nonetheless, it is a type of prison that holds federal inmates.

In the federal prison language, complex security level prisons are known as Federal Correctional Complexes. These facilities all have different missions. They also each have their own security levels and are within close proximity to one another too.

The Federal Correctional Complexes keep their efficiency high because they share the same services. Their staff at these locations are able to gain experience with so many security levels, that they are able to handle any and all situations.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons compiled a list of all complex prisons. You can view the list here.

How Does The Point System Work?

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is the agency who decided who gets assigned to what security level prison using their points system. The federal Bureau of Prisons takes a look at nearly everything when making this decision. Here are the top things they take a look at while deciding where inmates go:

  • History of Violence
  • Prisoner’s Criminal History
  • Time Remaining on Sentence
  • Severity of Current Conviction
  • History of Escape
  • Disciplinary History
  • Age
  • Educational Level.

The point system is different for both females and males. Here is the point system for males:

  • Minimum Security: 0-11 Points
  • Low Security: 12-15 Points
  • Medium Security: 16-23 Points
  • High Security: 24+ Points
  • Administrative Security: All Point Totals.

Here is the point system for females:

  • Minimum Security: 0-15 Points
  • Low Security: 16-30 Points
  • Medium Security: NA
  • High Security: 31+ Points
  • Administrative Security: All Point Totals.

An inmate’s security level is based on a thorough review of their Pre-Sentence Report. Prisoners with 10 years and more are assigned to low-security prisons. Prisoners with 20 years or more are assigned to medium-security prisons. While those prisoners with 30 years or more are assigned to high-security level prisons.

Every year federal prisoners are rescored. Any disciplinary actions that may have occurred over the past year can also result in a rescoring. These rescoring decisions are responsible by the inmate’s case manager.

However, the point totals tend to be based on the person. Most of the time prisoners will spend years at their current prison home before transferring to a different security level prison. Inmates are not transferred every year.

For instance, if you know someone in a medium-security level Indiana women’s prison, and they had a couple of non-violent disciplinary actions, they may not be moved up to a higher security level. They will stay where they are at.

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