United States Penitentiary - Big Sandy

United States Penitentiary, Big Sandy, or USP Big Sandy, is a high-security facility with an adjacent minimum-security satellite camp. There are a total of 1,324 male offenders incarcerated at this facility located in Inez, Kentucky -  1,229 at the USP and 95 at the camp.

Inmates at the USP are housed in one or two-person cells, and inmates at the camp are housed in dormitories.

USP Big Sandy is well-known for housing high-profile inmates because of the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997. That federal law gave the Federal Bureau of Prison custody of felons who were sentenced in Washington DC. Approximately one-third of the prisoners at USP Big Sandy were convicted of DC crimes.

Many federal inmates are sent to Big Sandy because they were convicted of violent crimes and are serving long sentences.

Notable inmates include Charles McArthur Emmanuel, AKA Charles “Chuckie” Taylor, Jr. He is the son of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, and he was convicted in 2008 of crimes related to the torture of his father’s political and military opponents.

He is serving a 97-year sentence, and is the first US citizen to be prosecuted for committing act of torture outside of the United States.

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United States Penitentiary - Big Sandy

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Visiting Hours and Rules

VIsiting at USP Big Sandy’s prison camp has been suspended until further notice

The visiting hours for the USP are on Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal Holidays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

A maximum number of five visitors may visit an inmate at one time, including children. All children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Getting on the Approved Visit List

Authorized visitors who can visit an inmate include family, friends, and associates. You can't visit an inmate unless he puts you on the visiting list.

Everyone must fill out a visitor form, and they must have a relationship with the inmate prior to incarceration. If a potential visitor does not have a prior relationship with the inmate, their request will be reviewed by the warden.

Once the inmate requests to add someone to their visit list, a correctional counselor will provide them with a visiting form, and the inmate is responsible for mailing these out and letting the potential visitor know that they need to fill out the form and return it to the institution staff.

The unit team will do a background check and determine if a visitor application is approved. They make their decision based on constructive and security factors. The process takes about a week, and the unit staff will notify the inmate when the requested visitor is approved or refused.

It is the inmate’s responsibility to notify the visitor of the decision, and the process is the same for both adult and minor visitors.

Basic Visit Procedures and Rules

If you are 16 years of age or older, you must bring a valid photo ID with you to the visit, like a state or federal ID card, driver's license, or current passport. Birth certificates are not valid forms of ID.

All visitors are subject to a visual and pat search by an officer. You will also be scanned by a metal detector.

Any item 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 with the inmate.

Only the following articles are authorized to be carried into the institution by visitors:

1. Photo identification
2. Essential medication (will be limited to the amount needed during the visiting period and controlled by the Visiting Room Officer) 

Cellular phones, car keys, pagers, and handbags are not permitted in the institution and may not be stored in visitor lockers. Visitors are required to leave these items in their vehicles. Car keys may be stored in the visitor lockers.

The following items will be permitted, per child, when infants are visiting:

1. Two (2) Diapers
2. One (1) small package of baby wipes (unopened)
3. One (1) change of infant clothing
4. One (1) see through baby bottle with contents
5. One (1) small jar of baby food
6. One (1) receiving blanket 

All authorized items entering the visiting room must be carried in a clear plastic container or bag not to exceed 10 inches by 10 inches.

Visitors may not bring anything into the institution to be given to an inmate. It is not permissible for visitors to bring an item of any kind to give an inmate, including papers of any kind that require review or a signature during social visits. In addition, visitors may not receive any items from an inmate.

Visitors will be expected to wear clothing which is within the bounds of good taste.

Visitors will not be allowed to wear low-cut or see-through clothing, tube or tank tops, backless clothing, camouflage, khaki, or green-colored clothing, slits in dresses above the bend of the knee, or any other apparel of a suggestive or revealing nature (e.g., skin tight clothing, miniskirts, short culottes or sleeveless clothing).

Dresses and skirts must be knee length. Shorts will not be allowed for visitors over the age of sixteen. Open-toed shoes, sandals, or “flip-flops” are not authorized in the Visitation Room. Nylon jogging suits are allowed to be worn.

The Operations Lieutenant or Institution Duty Officer will be consulted prior to denying a visitor entry into the institution because of his/her attire.

Physical Address

INEZ, KY  41224

Driving Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/eBsC32hy7Fw

General Phone Number & Email Address

Phone: 606-433-2400
Email: BSY/[email protected]

Inmate Mailing Address(es)

For inmates at the USP:
P.O. BOX 2068
INEZ, KY 41224

For inmates at the Camp:
P.O. BOX 2068
INEZ, KY 41224

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

You can only send cards or letters to these addresses. Paperback books, newspapers, 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

Federal inmates are not allowed to have cellphones and they can't receive inbound calls. They can make outbound calls during approved hours, and they must pay for them with the money that is on their personal account or call collect.

Inmates will use TRULINCS to call to both landline and cell phones. This is also how inmates are able to send and receive emails. Your number must be added to the contact list for approval.

All phone calls are limited to 15 minutes, and will be monitored and recorded.

How to Send Money

Sending money is one of most important things you can do for an inmate. The prison will issue each prisoner the minimum amount of clothing and hygiene items, and provide them with three meals a day. But, it is extremely difficult for prisoners to have any level of comfort when living with just the items that are prison-issued.

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:

  • Wait until an inmate has physically arrived at USP Big Sandy.
  • Gather the information you'll need. Which includes the inmate’s name and number.
  • Visit moneygram.com to complete your payment.

Information needed to complete MoneyGram payment:

  • Account Number: Inmate's eight-digit register number with no spaces or dashes, followed immediately by the inmate's last name (example: 12345678DOE).
  • Company Name: Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • City & State: Washington, DC
  • Receive Code is always: 7932
  • 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, 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

  • The Challenge Program
  • Stress Management
  • Anger Management
  • Impact of Crime on Victims Class
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Drug Education Course
  • Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP)
  • Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program (NR-DAP)
  • Parenting
  • Adult continuing education (ACE) classes
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • GED
  • High School Diploma (via paid correspondence)
  • Post-Secondary Programs (via paid correspondence)
  • Advanced Occupational Education in Data Entry, Major Appliance Repair, and Receptionist
  • UNICOR facility produces clothing and textiles
  • Indoor and outdoor recreation
  • Hobbycraft program

Pictures of United States Penitentiary - Big Sandy

Careers at United States Penitentiary - Big Sandy

If you are interested in pursuing a career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, you can find available positions at USP Big Sandy by visiting USAJobs.gov. The salaries at the facility begin around $40,000 and can go up into the six-figure range, depending on the position.

Reviews from employees at USP Big Sandy say that it is a competitive, yet productive work environment, and there is never a dull moment. The work/life balance is above average, and the salary and benefits are good.