United States Penitentiary - Atwater

United States Penitentiary - Atwater is located in Merced County, California. The high-security facility was opened in 2001 on land previously used for Castle Air Force Base and houses a population of approximately 1,200 male offenders. The total number of offenders includes the 108 inmates housed in the minimum security prison camp that is also located on the premises. 

Once an offender arrives at USP,Atwater, the admission and orientation process begins. A series of evaluations are conducted during the entrance screening process to record social, mental, and physical health assessment. This 28-day introductory program is used to identify the current state of an inmate, create a map to success while in detainment, and to chart progress all the way through to release. This time also serves as a period of adjustment into prison life by providing each inmate with the rules, regulations, and expectations during their stay.

Offenders staying at the minimum security satellite campus start with an admissions and orientation program that mirrors that of the USP before being assigned to a housing unit. However, the objective of the entrance program is to provide a period of adjustment into incarcerated life.

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United States Penitentiary - Atwater

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Visiting Hours and Rules

Visiting hours are on Saturdays, Sundays, and federally recognized holidays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Each inmate is allowed a maximum of 4 adults per visit and no more children than those adults can supervise. All minors must be a child or sibling of the inmate.

Authorized visitors who can visit an inmate include family, friends, and associates that have an established relationship with the prisoner prior to confinement. The relationship must be verifiable and you can't visit unless you are on the inmate’s visiting list.

The inmates are responsible for submitting their visitors list to a correctional counselor. The counselor will provide them with a visiting questionnaire for each requested visitor. It is up to the inmate to mail these questionnaires out and letting the potential visitor know that they need to fill it out and return the form back for submission to their unit manager.

The unit team will determine if a visitor application is approved, and they make the decision based on constructive and security factors. The process takes about a week, and the unit staff will notify them when a requested visitor has been approved or refused. Inmates will notify the visitor of the Unit Team decision by mail, email or phone. This process is the same for both adult and minor visitors.

Once you are approved for visitation and you arrive at the facility, it is important to park in the visitor parking section of the parking lot. Follow the road signs to the designated visitor parking area. Don’t forget to lock your car and pocket your keys. Your property is your responsibility and the prison will not be held liable for any lost, stolen or damaged property during your visit.

All visitors are subject to visual and pat search by an officer, and they will also be scanned buy a metal detector. Any item that you bring into the facility will be opened and searched by a staff member, and anyone who refuses a search of themselves or their property will not be allowed to visit the inmate.

You can bring up to $30 in change to the visiting room to use for vending machines, but all of your other property must be left in your vehicle. You cannot bring any food items into the visit. However, you will be allowed to bring a clear, plastic diaper bag with two diapers, plastic bottle, and one blanket if you have an infant. All baby food must be in unopened, sealed containers.

You must bring a valid photo ID with you to the visit. This can be a state or federal ID card, a valid state driver's license, a current passport, or resident alien card. Birth certificates or Mexican Consular identifications are not valid forms of ID.

You must adhere to the visitation dress code outlined below.

  • No shirts that are low cut or revealing, no tank tops or halter tops.
  • No clothes that are see-through, extremely tight, or reveal the mid drift.
  • No sleeveless or strapless dresses, no swimsuits.
  • No bandanas, camouflage, military clothing or boating that resemble security uniforms.
  • No gang or obscene and or distracting messages, shapes or designs.
  • No coats or jackets or hooded sweatshirts.
  • No hats with the exception of religiously recognized headwear.
  • No sunglasses or excessive jewelry.
  • All dresses and skirts must hit the knee.
  • No open-toed shoes, sandals, or flip-flops.
  • No athletic or sports attire.

Physical Address

ATWATER, CA  95301

Driving Directions: 

General Phone Number & Email Address

ATW/[email protected]

Inmate Mailing Address(es)

P.O. BOX 019001
ATWATER, CA  95301

There is no limit on the amount of mail that inmates receive, but all correspondence must have the inmates complete name, registration number, facility name, and address.

You can only send cards or letters to this address. Paperback books and magazines must come directly from the publisher via a subscription or mail order.

Inmates cannot receive packages through the mail, with the exception of a package of release day clothing. You can't send the release day package until 30 days prior to the scheduled release date.

How to Call an Inmate

Inmates are not allowed to receive inbound calls or have a cell phone. They are allowed specific times to make outbound calls that can last up to 15 minutes per call.

All calls are subject to monitoring and recording They must use their own money to pay for phone calls or they can call collect. TRULINCS is a third party service used for phone and email correspondents. All numbers must be approved by adding it to their TRULINCS contact list.

Prices vary for local, long distance, and international calls. Starting at $.06 on up to $.99 per minute. There is also a connection fee that varies as well from $.06-$.56.

You can find more detailed information online at the Federal Bureau of Prisons website or at TRULINCS official website.

How to Send Money

Inmates can receive outside funds while incarcerated at a BOP-managed facility, which are deposited into their commissary accounts.

Postal Service

For federal prisoners, you can send money through the United States Postal Service by MONEY ORDER to the following address:

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Inmate Name
Eight-Digit Register Number
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001

Send the funds to the address above. Replace the second line with the inmate's valid, full committed name. Replace the third line with the inmate's eight digit register number. Never send money directly to the prison. If you are using the postal service, you must always send your money order to the bureau of prisons using the above address.


You can send an inmate funds electronically using MoneyGram's Express Payment Program.

To send funds using this method, please read and follow these steps carefully:

  1. Wait until an inmate has physically arrived at a Aliceville FCI.

  2. Gather the information you'll need. Which includes the inmate’s name and number.

  3. Visit moneygram.com to complete your payment.

Information needed to complete MoneyGram payment:

  1. Account Number: Inmate's eight-digit register number with no spaces or dashes, followed immediately by the inmate's last name (example: 12345678DOE).

  2. Company Name: Federal Bureau of Prisons

  3. City & State: Washington, DC

  4. Receive Code is always: 7932

  5. Beneficiary: Inmate's full committed name

Western Union

If you would like to see a sample Western Union form click here. On their website, they have a special form for sending money to inmates, and you go directly to it by clicking here.

You will need to know the inmate’s full name and number, and you can pay with a debit or credit card at westernunion.com.

Remember, any time you send money to an inmate you must always include their name and registration number on everything.

There are a few things that inmates can spend their money on. This includes phone calls, emails, magazine subscriptions, and commissary.  The commissary is the prison store, where inmates can buy things like beverages, meals and snacks, OTC medications, stationary, personal hygiene items, clothing, or other miscellaneous products.

Please be aware that prisoners have their own economy inside the prison walls just like we do in the real world. Inmates that have a lot of money can do a lot of things both legal and illegal. Prisoners can potentially use the money in their account to buy things for other inmates in exchange for drugs and paraphernalia. This activity is illegal and can get an inmate in a lot of trouble.

Is important to keep track of how much money you are sending your incarcerated loved one, and watch out for any suspicious behavior.

​Programs For ​Inmates

Maximum security campus:

All inmates are required to maintain a job assignment.

  • Drug Abuse Education
  • Mandatory literacy program
  • General Education Program
  • ESL program - English as Second language
  • Occupational education and apprenticeship opportunities
  • Parenting programs to help enhances relationships with their children during incarceration and after release to civilization
  • Leisure Library and Electronic Law Library services
  • Wellness programs to gain nutrition knowledge
  • Art and Hobby Craft programs

Minimum security campus:

All inmates are required to maintain a job assignment.

  • Drug Abuse Education is offered to all inmates that have used illegal drugs or alcohol prior to confinement.
  • Non Residential Drug Program offers counseling, non-residential group counseling, and non-residential transitional services for qualified inmates.
  • Recreational and Leisure activities include leather craft, painting, sketching, and bead craft. The recreational field is used for softball, track and field, soccer ,volleyball, and structured wellness classes.

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Careers at United States Penitentiary - Atwater

If your interested in pursuing a career at this facility start your search with USAjobs.gov. There also is a direct link to career opportunities located on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

The feedback from this location often mentions the stressful work environment, and potential employees should possess a high level of patience if seeking employment dealing directly with the inmates. The compensation is good with available overtime offered regularly.

The salary range for USP Atwater is anywhere from $40,000.00 to the six figures if in the medical profession or other specialty. Benefit packages are offered to all full-time staff members.