How to Get an Inmate Transferred

You might be surprised to find out that there is quite the process behind which prison an inmate is housed in after they are sentenced. They don’t just put you anywhere they have an available bed. 

Instead, there is a process called “Receiving & Orientation” or “Classification” where an inmate is evaluated when they are first place into the custody of the Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons.

There are numerous factors that determine what prison an inmate is housed in to serve their sentence. Those include: the location of the crime, the nature of the crime committed (violent, non-violent, drug-related, or sexual), the length of sentence, the inmate’s custody level, the inmate behavior, and the inmate’s physical and mental health. Another factor is if someone is court-ordered to complete a treatment program or work program. 

Because of the detailed process behind where an inmate is housed, getting a transfer isn’t easy. This leads us to today’s blog post: how to get an inmate transferred. 

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • Why do inmates get transferred?
  • Can an inmate request a prison transfer?
  • How long does an inmate transfer take?

Why do inmates get transferred?

When the Federal Bureau of Prisons or Department of Corrections transfers an inmate, there is always a reason behind it. An inmate’s custody level may have decreased, they could be within a few months of being released, the inmate’s safety could be in question, or they have been assigned to a program that’s only offered at a separate facility.

Those are the general reasons, but there are also transfers made on a case-by-case basis for the safety and security of the inmates and staff. 

Can an inmate request a prison transfer?

Yes, an inmate can request a prison transfer, but it’s not easy to get an approval. When an inmate desires a transfer, they must first make a written request to their case worker so the classification committee can review it. 

As a rule, the committee will speak to the inmate about their request. They will then make their recommendation to the warden. It’s the warden who has the ultimate authority when it comes to approving or denying an inmate transfer. 

If an inmate’s request is denied, they are allowed to file an appeal and solicit help from an organization like the ACLU if the request is due to substandard living conditions.

Family members can’t request an inmate transfer, but they can write a letter in support of an inmate’s request if the reason behind the transfer is to be closer to family. Prison officials will tell you that visits and consistent communication with friends and family is critical in inmate rehabilitation, but they don’t often make decisions to support that claim.

Many inmates are housed in prisons hours away from home, which makes it extremely difficult for family and friends to visit. Inmates can request a transfer so they can be closer to family, but there is no guarantee that request will be granted.

At the federal level, they do have a “Nearer Release Transfer” option specifically for the purpose of placing an inmate closer to their family. These transfers can move the inmate closer to his legal residence where his family lives or if his family has moved, closer to their new residence.

How long does an inmate transfer take?

The request process usually takes about a week to get a response from the classification committee or the warden. But, sometimes it can take longer because they are never in a hurry to do anything in prison.

If the request is approved, the transfer could take hours or weeks depending on the situation. The time it takes depends on things like transportation arrangements and bed availability at the new facility. 

Transfers can also happen without family members knowing about it, but the inmate is supposed to be allowed a phone call or special letter to their most frequent visitor to inform them of the move. 

However, that doesn’t always happen. If you are looking for your inmate, the BOP has an inmate locator on their website. And, most state’s DOC websites also have the same option. The only information you need is the inmate’s name and DOC number.

Do you think inmates should be allowed to transfer prisons to be close to family? Let us know in the comments below.


Inmate Transfers

Transfers of Prisoners

About the Author Natalie

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.

  • Kris says:

    Their system of placement in federal is cruel! My husband is 73 years old, and I am 68 years old. We live in Southern California. The judge requested for him placement at Terminal Island. Guess where he ended up. El Paso Texas! Because Bop has the final say so. There is no way in heaven or hack I can make it to El Paso. I can’t afford it. Or even the time to drive there. So I guess for the next several years, if my husband is alive that long, and I am, I will not get to see him at all until he is released. Tell me that is not cruel and unusual punishment, not only for my husband but for me, and I did absolutely nothing wrong.

  • Debbie Allred says:

    Yes!!! Absolutely!! They need to be as close as they can to family. Especially their children!

  • Sarah Haddox says:

    Yes I believe they should be aloud to be closer I think it helps in their rehabilitation

  • Tammy Fox says:

    Hello well yes I have a son that far away from where I am plus I am on federal paper myself and cant leave the state with thou asking my P.O. .so my family not able to go the 500 mile or more to visit my son it takes alot outer my son to not be able to have a visit. Help

  • LINDA says:

    Yes of course it not only helps inmate but Parents as well especially elderly and sever illnesses,as well as there young children especially teenagers

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