By Christopher Zoukis

The topic of sex offenders in the Federal Bureau of Prisons is very taboo. As such, not many news outlets, prison consultants, or attorneys like to publicly touch upon it. 

We at the Prison Law Blog are not like these entities. When we see a need, we strive to fulfill it.  Here you will find basic information on sex offenders and where they are placed throughout the U.S. prison system.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a total inmate population of 215,383; at present, 11,699 are incarcerated for federal sex offenses (most often possession, receipt, or production of child pornography).  This amounts to 6.1% of the Federal Bureau of Prisons entire inmate population.

There are 162 federal institutions (62 of which are true stand-alone prisons). For the vast majority, these are general character prisons, tasked with housing a broad swath of inmates convicted of any number of federal crimes. While these prisons are of many different security levels, they are regular prisons, housing all variety of offenders (including federal sex offenders).

Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP) Prisons

Due to the special needs of incarcerated sex offenders (e.g., enhanced monitoring for offending behaviors, protection from other inmates, the sometimes more sophisticated criminality of this population, etc.), the Federal Bureau of Prisons has 10 prisons which specifically house sex offenders. These are called Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP) institutions, which house inmates with a variety of instant offenses, but also a stronger psychology department, which takes a more active role in the monitoring of sex offender populations for deviant or "risk relevant" behaviors.

According to the BOP, "This higher concentration of sex offenders within a [SOMP] institution helps offenders feel more comfortable acknowledging their concerns and seeking treatment." While this could be the case for some, it is more likely that incarcerated sex offenders are happy to merely be at a prison where they aren't going to be assaulted, and, possibly killed for the nature of their instant offense, or for a prior conviction of similar character.

The sad fact is that the stories are true. Incarcerated sex offenders have a rough time in prison. At the higher security levels (e.g., high and medium security federal prisons), they tend to be harassed, attacked, and brutalized. This is part of an institutional culture if not supported by the prison administration, then accepted by it as inevitable. This creates real problems for incarcerated sex offenders who often must "check in" to the Special Housing Unit (i.e., solitary confinement) for their own protection. If not, they are known to be "beat off" a yard, where a group of fellow prisoners knock the sex offender to the ground (often in the chow hall or in front of the lieutenant's office), and stomp them in sight of the prison guards. When this happens, the guards know it's time for the sex offender to be placed in the hole for their own protection (called Protective Custody) and possibly transferred elsewhere.

In an effort to protect inmate sex offender populations, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has tasked a total of 10 prisons to specifically house sex offenders (either those who are in prison for a sexual offense or those who have one in their criminal history). These are the SOMP prisons. Due to the higher percentage of sex offenders at these prison (some suggest upwards of 40-60% of the inmate population at these prisons), they tend to be much easier prisons, where inmates incarcerated of less savory crimes can survive.

Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP) Prisons in the Federal Bureau of Prison

Administrative Security Sex Offender Prisons

  • 1. FMC Carswell (Fort Worth, TX)
  • 2. FMC Devens (Ayers, MA)

Low Security Sex Offender Prisons

  • 3. FCI Elkton (Elkton, OH)
  • 4. FCI Englewood (Littleton, CO)
  • 5. FCI Seagoville (Seagoville, TX)

Medium Security Sex Offender Prisons

  • 6. FCI Marianna (Marianna, FL)
  • 7. USP Marion (Marion, IL)
  • 8. FCI Petersburg Medium (Petersburg, VA)
  • 9. FCI Tucson (Tucson, AZ)

High Security Sex Offender Prisons

  • 10. USP Tucson (Tucson, AZ)

Sex Offender Treatment Programs in Federal Prisons

At these institutions, the Federal Bureau of Prisons also offers their Sex Offender Treatment Programs (SOTP). The BOP offers both residential (SOTP-R) and non-residential sex offender (SOTP-NR) treatment programs. The difference is in the intensity of the programs, residential or non-residential treatment modality, and which inmates can enroll in this voluntary treatment. Federal prisoners can learn more about these treatment programs, and can enroll in them, by speaking with a member of their prison's Psychology Department or by reading our blog post on the Federal Bureau of Prisons' recently promulgated sex offender management program statement.

Non-Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP-NR)

The Federal Bureau of Prisons' Non-Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program is offered at all of the above mentioned federal prisons, with the exception of FMC Devens and USP Marion.  This program is restricted to "offenders evaluated to have low to moderate risk of reoffending."  The program lasts 9 to 12 months and participants meet 2 to 3 times each week in their prison's Psychology Department for the treatment sessions.  According to the BOP, program participants "learn basic skills and concepts to help them understand their past offenses and to reduce the risk of future offending," through various levels of treatment.

Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP-R)

The Federal Bureau of Prisons' Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program is, at present, offered only at USP Marion and FMC Devens. Program participation is restricted to "offenders with an elevated risk of reoffending." This program is 12 to 18 months in duration and participants engage in treatment 5 days each week. Due to the residential treatment modality, monitoring, supervision, and treatment is intensive. According to the BOP, "Participants benefit from a therapeutic community on a residential housing unit where they work to reduce their risk of future offending." The residential housing units also have increased conduct regulations, i.e., restrictions on certain media and recreational activities, such as role playing games.