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.

    • Mimee says:

      I am so sorry that you’re going through this. The justice system is seriously messed up. Not much of it is fair, in my opinion. I pray you will see your husband again. Blessings to you!

  • 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

  • Christie says:

    Of course they should. They are still human beings.

  • Tracie says:

    Yes! I firmly believe that the inmates should be closer to home. I haven’t seen my son in 10 years because I can’t travel far. I really dont understand why they put them so far out were their families can’t come and visit them. It’s hard trying get get transportation and gas money to those far out prisons it’s so heartbroken. Who can I contact about moving inmates closer to home?

    • Mimee says:

      I am so sorry for the pain you are going through. I am praying for you and your son. My son is going to jail in a month or so and I am so heartbroken because he is not guilty of the charge he was coerced into pleading guilty to and unless you have a ton of money you can’t get a good attorney to represent you at trial so many people are talked into plea deals that aren’t really deals in the long run. Blessings to you! I pray you see your son soon!

  • Lana says:

    Yes no doubt. The first step act states a prisoner to not me further then 500 miles from their home. My daughter is 1,349 miles from home she’s in FPC Bryan Texas she’s suppose to be in Arizona final destination.

  • Rosann scheets says:

    I’m curious on how I can get ahold of someone that I can talk to about how I can request a prison transfer from Tennessee to Missouri .

  • Nae’ says:

    My brother who is incarcerated upstate NY and has not seen our mother in 11 years because of her illness, knee issues, and age. He has put in for a transfer and has not been told anything regarding the transfer. I myself am going to write a letter for him on his behalf as well. He is to be released in a couple of years but he wants to see our mother before that because we are promised tomorrow especially in this Pandemic.

  • Becky Bonner says:

    Yes my son in love has 2 young boys live in Winder Ga,and he’s in Ashland Kentucky,they are very close,but its hard for my daughter to drive 8hrs there and back and she has to work,these boys and momma love their daddy dearly

  • To afraid says:

    My son so far I have to spend the night and I can’t afford that often. They moved him as far away they could from me. This system doesn’t care. They don’t care whAt happens to these man there just a number who they can abuse when ever they feel like it. They try to ruin the good ones and what I’ve seen the why I’ve been treated and others at vasatsatation they don’t give a care if these man
    have visitors or not. I’ve seen a lot of crimes committed in the prison system in 18 years . A lot of civil rights broken a lot of times broken a lot of not putting them in protective custody when they ask. All that is a crime to me. So is treating the family’s like dirt when we visit. They try to get them away from there family’s . They don’t want to do the work out takes to get us in . Really you think they care . They don’t .

    • Sherry A Cole says:

      I will pray for you. I’m sorry for your situation. It just doesn’t make sense why cruelty is so abundant in the prisons. They DO NOT treat inmates with any humanity. Many officers use their position as a power play. No rehabilitation exists and the public keeps their heads buried in the sand. They have no idea what actually happens in these facilities. Especially the privately owned. Most have committed crimes but dogs are treated better than these inmates in alot of cases. I also have a son doing time, and I pray I am still alive if and when he gets out. His Father died recently and couldn’t travel to see him, so the last time he was actually saw him was 6 years ago. I feel your pain.

  • Sherry A Cole says:

    I believe a prisoner should be able to be closer to family. It is a hardship on the family as it is. Having them closer to home would allow easier visitation at less cost to the family and less time spent in traveling, ie: gas, food, etc.

  • A. THOMAS says:

    Yes, they should be able to transfer closer to family. We know prisons are enterprises. I pray God breaks this system, it is evil and corrupt in so many ways. I pray for all families that have to endure this travesty. Unfortunately families are doing time right along with their love ones and it is a horrible hardship – financial, mental and physical on everyone.

  • Martha Villarreal says:

    Does anybody know the number to check on a transfer?

    • Jeremy M Johnson says:

      If you hear, I’d love to know the answer too. It seems to be a very slow process, and it would go a long way towards minimising anxiety if people knew how far their request has gone. I think the difficulty may be in that knowing who is causing a delay, is not what government employees want, having worked for the government. Accountability, is a pretty rare thing.

  • Sharonda Cox says:

    Yes, I truly believe that people in prison should have a right to be closer to their love ones and family members. As an Art Therapist, I studied symbols and archetypes. Certain archetypes such as mother, wise man, father figures play a key role with helping the process of rehabilitation. I know when I feeling sad or need some advice, I always go to my mom’s house. My mom is my safe haven. Then, I feel better and ready to take on the world. People in prison should have a right to be closer to love ones and family members. It is an important factor to help them mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

  • Tonya Hankins says:

    Most definitely my son has been incarcerated for going on 4 yrs now I’ve only seen him once due to the fact he was 12 hrs away from home

    • Jeremy M Johnson says:

      I’m sorry. That must be very hard. It is not just the inmate effected. The rights if friends and family should be considered. You didn’t do anything to have your rights taken away. I often feel I am being punished too. There are so many rules that prevent keeping in touch. There are always people who have to ruin things for everyone else.

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