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Federal Prison Guidebook Reviews

Henry J. Sadowski Reviews Federal Prison Guidebook for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
By Alan Ellis, Todd A. Bussert & J. Michael Henderson
James Publishing (2015)

About the Reviewer: Henry J. Sadowski served as Northeast Regional Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Prisons until he retired in 2011. The opinions expressed in reviews are those of the reviewers and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of NACDL.

My viewpoint on the 2015-2017 edition of the Federal Prison Guidebook is different from prior reviewers: I retired three years ago as Northeast Regional Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). I remember the first version issued in 1998. I felt (former NACDL president) Alan Ellis’ initial guidebook filled the void resulting from the BOP decision to discontinue its own Directory of Federal Prisons. With each revision, Ellis enlisted other experts in the field as co-authors and expanded the scope of the Guidebook from a mere prison directory to almost an encyclopedia of anything pertaining to federal incarceration and sentencing. I can now admit freely that, even when I was in the BOP, I often consulted the Guidebook to answer questions about federal institutions, especially those outside the Northeast Region. Not surprisingly, given my 35 years in the Department of Justice, I disagree with some of the legal positions. It is per- haps more accurate to say I am aware of the legal counterarguments since I defended the BOP positions for many years. I will not use this review to quibble with the legal positions taken since I recognize the perspective of the authors as advocates for the inmates. That said, the Federal Prison Guidebook is an essential resource providing vital information not just for defense attorneys, but for judges, probation officers, U.S. Attorneys, and, especially, clients and their families.

For those few who are not familiar, the Guidebook is essentially two books in one: (1) detailed listings of all the federal institutions and (2) substantive legal and practical guidance. For each institution, the federal prisons section includes location, directions, history, judicial district, security level, programs offered, type of housing (dorm vs. cell), phones, commissary, mail, visiting, and local hotels. This information is geared to assist defense attorneys to help sentenced clients and their families to adjust to incarceration. This same theme surfaces in the other section of the Guidebook addressing legal and practical guidance. There are 11 chapters in this section. Without detailing each one, suffice it to say that each chapter is necessary reading for any defense attorney with a client facing possible incarceration. The optimal time to read these chapters is before sentencing.

Three chapters stand out as crucial. The first chapter is a plain language walk through most aspects of BOP policies and concludes with a useful glossary of BOP lingo. The second chapter reviews the BOP designation process and offers suggestions on how to obtain a favorable institution placement. The institution designated by the BOP could have significant impact on the living conditions of the inmate and on the burdens on the inmate’s family. Finally, the chapter titled “How to Do Time” should be required reading for any inmate entering federal prison. This chapter is in an interview format with answers provided by former BOP staff. The issues addressed include what to bring, how to solve problems, what medical care is available, and what inmate families should expect. This chapter (like the other parts of the book) is bursting with practical common sense advice.

For those with prior versions of the Guidebook, we all know law is not stagnant; neither is the BOP. The revised version is an important tool to utilize in staying abreast of continual changes in federal sentencing and in the BOP. The Guidebook is an excellent reference and a great starting point whenever questions about federal sentencing and the BOP arise.


Doug Berman’s Sentencing Law and Policy blog
Posted on: Thursday, October 04, 2012 9:51 AM
Subject: Updated edition of a terrific federal sentencing and prison resource

Federal Prison Guidebook for Defense AttorneysWhenever I am asked questions about federal prison realities, I always urge folks to seek more information from Alan Ellis, who has literally write the book (actually, a number of books) on these matters. My faith in Alan Ellis as the go-to resource was confirmed this past week when I received in the mail the latest, greatest, updated edition of the Federal Prison Guidebook authored by him (now along with J. Michael Henderson and Todd Bussert).

This webpage not only provides information about the book and ordering, but also reprints a selection of a few of the innumerable practice pointers in this terrific federal sentencing and corrections resource. And here is how the page explains the book’s scope and contents:

Federal prison placement, profiles, and tips. How to ensure that your client gets into the best possible prison and is released at the earliest opportunity.

Although it is Bureau of Prisons policy to place an individual in the least restrictive facility within 500 miles of the inmate’s release residence, many inmates end up far from their families in harsher conditions than necessary. It doesn’t have to be that way.

You can take three steps to ensure that your clients do their time in the best possible facilities. First, learn how the BOP classifies its facilities, and the characteristics of each type of facility. Second, understand how the BOP decides what type of prison is appropriate. Finally, learn how to increase the odds of a favorable placement.

For assistance with all three steps, turn to Alan Ellis and Michael Henderson’s Federal Prison Guidebook .

In addition, this detailed brochure concerning the book from the publisher provides even more information about this valuable resource.

From Doug Berman’s Sentencing Law and Policy blog, October 4, 2012.

Click here for the PDF version of this book review.

The Law Offices of Alan Ellis specializing In Federal Sentencing, Appeals, 2255 Habeas Corpus