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Losing a friend or family member is never easy. However, when someone you love passes away, being able to attend their funeral or memorial service often helps with the grieving process, and it gives you a chance to say goodbye.
When you are in prison and someone you love passes away, it’s even harder. Not only are you nowhere near your friends and family when you are locked up, but you miss out on major life events and don’t have your support system around when someone you love dies.
A lot of people ask me about prison furloughs, which is a temporary leave from prison that usually last just a couple of days before you are required to return. They are usually escortedㅡbut sometimes unescorted (which means no guards accompany the inmate)ㅡand they can be granted for funerals, medical reasons, or to meet with an employer before you are released (at least that’s how it used to be). Because of high profile cases where furloughed prisoners have committed crimes (does anyone remember Willie Horton?), furloughs are much harder to get even though there is evidence they reduce recidivism.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, furloughs are in no way a reward for good behavior or a means to shorten a criminal sentence. Instead, they are only used to further correctional goals.
So, that leads me to today’s topicㅡcan you leave prison for a funeral?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
When it comes to granting federal prisoners furlough for a funeral, the power is ultimately with the director of the Bureau of Prisons, but it’s the warden of the institution who usually takes care of furlough requests. In the federal system, there are two types of furloughs: a day furlough and an overnight furlough.
A day furlough is within the geographic limits of the commuting area of the institution (approximately a 100-mile radius), which lasts 16 hours or less and ends before midnight.
Day furloughs are generally used to strengthen family ties and to enrich specific institution program experiences. Such trips are frequently associated with inmate organizations inside the institution (Jaycees, Toastmasters, etc.) or with programs (Religion, Education, Recreation, etc).
An overnight furlough falls outside or beyond the criteria of a day furlough.
An inmate can request a furlough to be present during a crisis in the immediate family, or other urgent situations. Immediate family includes mother, father, step-parents, foster parents, brothers and sisters, spouse, and children. They can also request a furlough to participate in the development of release plans, to reestablish family and community ties, and to participate in selected educational, social, civic, religious, and recreational activities which will facilitate release transition.
The criteria for a furlough for a federal prisoner is:
The Warden determines the eligibility of an inmate for furlough in accordance with the inmate’s anticipated release date and the basis for the furlough request. Emergency furloughs for funerals are pretty rare, though. There are rules about how far the inmate is from their release date and whether or not it can be day or overnight.
When it comes down to it, Wardens are very reluctant to grant furlough, especially for a family emergency or a funeral. As I was told so many times when I was locked up, if you don’t like the rules, you shouldn’t have come to prison.
The federal rules are one thing, but the state rules vary based on the state, the security level, and the crime committed. These days, it’s extremely hard to get a furlough for anything. It just doesn’t look good on a public relations level if anything bad happens while the prisoner is outside of prison walls.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
I should also mention that for any furloughㅡstate or federalㅡthe inmate and their family must cover all expenses. So, if you are furloughed with supervision from an officer, you have to pay that officer’s wages, pay for the handcuffs and shackles, and pay for the transportation and lodging. If you can’t pay for it, it won’t happen.
Should inmates be allowed to leave prison for a funeral? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: BOP Furlough Policy https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/5280_008.pdf Willie Horton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Horton
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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