Freedom Of Information Act

A powerful resource for gaining access to our public records and information.

Exemptions and Exclusions

The Freedom of Information Act applies to all information and records with strictly limited exceptions. Most BOP Program Statements (policies) are included on BOP's public website. Some material in Program Statements may be "redacted" or withheld. Redacted material is indicated in the text by a bold number in brackets. The number refers to the FOIA exemption(s) used.

The following are FOIA Exemptions:

  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1) Protects classified information.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2) Concerns matters related solely to internal agency personnel rules or practices.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3) Concerns matters specifically exempted from release by statute.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4) Concerns trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5) Concerns certain inter- and intra-agency communications protected by the deliberative process privilege, the attorney work-product privilege, and/or the attorney-client privilege.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) Concerns material the release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of third parties.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A) Concerns records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(B) Concerns records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(C) Concerns records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of third parties.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(D) Concerns records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which could reasonably be expected to disclose the identities of confidential sources and information furnished by such sources.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E) Concerns records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(F) Concerns records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or personal safety of an individual.
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(8) Concerns matters that are "contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions."
  • 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(9) Concerns geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.

FOIA Exclusions:

Congress created three special protection provisions for protecting certain especially sensitive law enforcement matters, referred to as record "exclusions." The record exclusions expressly authorize federal law enforcement agencies, under these exceptional circumstances, to "treat the records as not subject to the requirements of [the FOIA]."

"5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1) Whenever a request is made which involves access to records described in subsection (b)(7)(A) and — (A) the investigation or proceeding involves a possible violation of criminal law; and(B) there is reason to believe that (i) the subject of the investigation or proceeding is not aware of its pendency, and (ii) disclosure of the existence of the records could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, the agency may, during only such time as that circumstance continues, treat the records as not subject to the requirements of this section."

"5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(2) Whenever informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency under an informant's name or personal identifier are requested by a third party according to the informant's name or personal identifier, the agency may treat the records as not subject to the requirements of this section unless the informant's status as an informant has been officially confirmed."

"5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(3) Whenever a request is made which involves access to records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation pertaining to foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, or international terrorism, and the existence of the records is classified information as provided in subsection (b)(1), the Bureau may, as long as the existence of the records remains classified information, treat the records as not subject to the requirements of this section."

Finding the location of a Federal inmate?

You can search for a Federal inmate online using the Inmate Locator tool.

Obtaining information without a FOIA Request

Inmates can get their central or medical files at their institution.

The BOP's Inmate Locator will give information on where an inmate is located.

For general information about the BOP, call (202) 307-3198.

Which office will process my request?

BOP has a decentralized FOIA program. After the Central Office receives your request, we will assign it to either the Central Office or a Regional Office for processing based primarily on which office is in the best position to obtain responsive records. The appropriate office will send you either an acknowledgment letter, which includes a request number and processing track, a letter seeking clarification of your request, or a return letter stating why BOP cannot process your FOIA in its present form.



What processing track will my request be on?

BOP puts your FOIA request on one of three tracks, depending on your circumstances. We have three sub-tracks on the complex track. During the processing of a request, situations may dictate BOP move the request to a different track or sub-track. If this occurs, we will notify you in writing and provide you an opportunity to modify or limit the scope of your request.

SIMPLE TRACK

Examples of request usually on this track include:

  • Program Statements (policies)
  • General information about the BOP
  • Referrals from other Federal Agencies

COMPLEX TRACK

Examples of request usually on this track include:

  • Contract information
  • Records from an institution or BOP Directorate
  • Information on investigations by BOP's Office of Internal Affairs
  • Requests requiring voluminous searches

In accordance with 28 C.F.R. § 16.5(b), we may assign requests placed on the complex track to one of the three following sub-tracks:

  • Requests for Contracts
  • Requests Generating Over 500 Pages of Responsive Records
  • Requests Generating Over 1,500 Pages of Responsive Records

Initially, we are unable to assign a request to a sub-track based on page count. Once we receive responsive records, if we move a request from the complex track to one of the three sub-tracks based on page count, we will notify you in writing and provide you an opportunity to modify or limit the scope of your request.

EXPEDITED TRACK (5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(E))

  • There are four specific situations where a request will be expedited, which means it is handled as soon as practicable.
    • First, a request will be expedited if the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose a threat to someone's life or physical safety.
    • Second, a request will be expedited if the information requested is urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged federal government activity, and if it is made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information to the public.
    • Third, if an individual will suffer the loss of substantial due process rights, his or her request will be expedited. A request will not normally be expedited merely because the requester is facing a court deadline in a judicial proceeding.
    • Finally, a request will be expedited if the subject of the request is of widespread and exceptional media interest and the information sought involves possible questions about the government's integrity which affect public confidence. Decisions to expedite under this fourth standard are made by DOJ's Director of Public Affairs.
  • If you believe your request might qualify for expedited processing under one of these four standards, you must specifically ask for expedited handling of your request and submit a certified statement explaining why you believe your request qualifies under one of the four standards.


What happens after BOP receives my request?

BOP's FOIA Offices have access to a very limited amount of records. In fact, the vast majority of records we may immediately access are already posted on our web page. As a result, we contact the appropriate office(s) and personnel who we expect to have records responsive to your request to have them search for and forward us the records. We review every page of records prior to releasing them to you. In Fiscal Year 2017, we reviewed over 900,000 pages of responsive records.



How long does it take to process a request?

The time it takes to respond to each request varies depending on the complexity of the request itself and the backlog of requests already pending at the component. In some circumstances, BOP will be able to respond to a request within the standard time limit established by the FOIA, which is twenty working days, or approximately one month. In other instances there might be a longer period of time needed before the request can be handled. BOP receives thousands of requests each year. Many of these requests require a line-by-line review of hundreds or even thousands of pages of documents. Although we make every effort to respond to FOIA requests as quickly as possible, in some cases we simply cannot do so within the twenty-day time period specified in the FOIA. Ordinarily, we respond to requests in each track according to their order of receipt.


  • Simple Requests. For most simple requests, we estimate it will take approximately 60 days to respond.
  • Complex requests. For most complex requests, we estimate it will take up to nine months to respond.
    • Requests for Contracts. Due to procedural requirements, contracts take longer to process, and we estimate it will take up to 12 months to respond.
    • Requests Generating Over 500 Pages of Responsive Records. For requests on this sub-track, we estimate it will take up to 12 months to respond.
    • Requests Generating Over 1,500 Pages of Responsive Records. For requests on this sub-track, we estimate it will take up to 18 months to respond.
  • Expedited Requests. We will respond as soon as practicable.


Who should I contact if I have a question about a request I made?


You should contact the office processing your request. Please provide your FOIA request number when contacting the BOP about a current or past request.

Office Phone Number E-Mail Address
Central Office 202-616-7750 OGC_EFOIA@BOP.GOV
Southeast Region 803-637-1454 SERO/FOIA@BOP.GOV
South Central Region 972-730-8600 SCRO/FOIA@BOP.GOV
Western Region 209-956-9739 WXRO/FOIA@BOP.GOV
North Central Region 913-551-1004 NCRO/FOIA~@BOP.GOV
Northeast Region 215-521-7391 NERO/FOIA~@BOP.GOV
Mid-Atlantic Region 301-317-3125 MXRO/FOIA@BOP.GOV

Former Inmates obtaining medical records

A FOIA request must specifically describe the records being sought and provide identifying data including the former inmate’s full name, current address, date and place of birth, and register number. Also, to ensure private information is not released to anyone else, the requester must verify his/her identity by signing the authorization, which must be notarized or made under penalty of perjury. A DOJ-361 Form may be used to satisfy this requirement. The verification of identity must be completed within ninety (90) days of the date of the request. Copies of the verification of identity are acceptable.

What are the fees?

There is no initial fee required to submit a FOIA request, but the FOIA does provide for the charging of certain types of fees in some instances.

BOP may charge a typical requester for the time it takes to search for and duplicate records. However, BOP does not charge typical requesters for the first two hours of search time or for the first 100 pages of duplication.

You may include a specific statement in your request limiting the amount of fees you are willing to pay. Regardless, you will not be charged for any fees amounting to $25 or less. If we estimate the total fees for processing your request will exceed $25, we will notify you in writing of the estimate and offer you an opportunity to narrow your request in order to reduce the fees, unless you have already indicated a willingness to pay fees as high as those anticipated. BOP will not continue to work on your request until you commit in writing to pay the actual or estimated total fee, designate an amount you are willing to pay, or indicate you only seek what can be provided for free (if you are a noncommercial use requester). If you agree to pay fees for a records search, be aware you may be required to pay such fees even if the search does not locate any responsive records or, if records are located, they are determined to be entirely exempt from disclosure. In some instances, we may require advance payment of estimated fees before beginning or continuing to process your request.

If I pay fees, will BOP process my request quicker?

No. BOP ordinarily processes requests in the order received.

I am dissatisfied

I have not received all the information I requested. If I am dissatisfied with the Bureau's determination to withhold some of this information, what can I do?

You can appeal the Bureau's decision by submitting your complaint within 60 days from the date of the response letter to:

Office of Information and Privacy
US Department of Justice
1425 New York Avenue, N.W.
Suite 11050
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Or

http://www.justice.gov/oip/efoia-portal.html

Response Format

You may request your information be provided as a hard copy or in electronic format. However, be advised that it is not always possible to convert requested information into electronic format.

Information about a person

If the information you seek is not available on the Inmate Locator, you must submit a request, along with a signed authorization from the person to whom the records pertain. That authorization must be notarized or signed under penalty of perjury. You may also use a DOJ-361 form.

Pre-Sentencing Reports (PSR) requests

Pre-Sentencing Reports (PSRs) are drafted by and originate with the United States Probation Office (USPO). Former inmates and their attorneys seeking a copy of a PSR should contact the appropriate USPO with their request instead of filing a FOIA request with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Current inmates are not allowed to possess copies of a PSR while incarcerated.

Processing charges

Is there a charge for processing FOIA requests?

You may be charged fees in relation to your request. By submitting a request, you are agreeing to pay up to $25.00. If the estimated amount of fees is over $25.00, you will be notified of the actual or estimated amount.

Privacy Impact Assessments

The BOP is responsible for ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of the information it collects on members of the public, inmates, and its own employees. These individuals have a right to expect that BOP will collect, maintain, use, and disseminate identifiable personal information only as authorized by law and as necessary to carry out agency responsibilities.

The E-Government Act of 2002 requires that Federal agencies conduct Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) for applicable electronic information systems. The PIA process evaluates issues related to the privacy of personally identifiable information in electronic systems. Personally identifiable information is defined as information that actually identifies an individual, e.g., name, address, social security number (SSN), or identifying number or code; or other personal/sensitive information such as race, date of birth, home telephone number, personal e-mail address, etc.

The BOP's Privacy Impact Assessment Guide

PIAs are available for the following systems:

Privacy Act Exemptions

The Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a) generally provides that any person has a right-enforceable in court-of access to federal agency records in which that person is a subject, except to the extent that such records (or portions thereof) are protected from disclosure by one of ten exemptions.

5 U.S.C. § 552a(d)(5) concerns information compiled in reasonable anticipation of a civil action proceeding.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(j)(1) concerns information maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(j)(2) concerns material reporting investigative efforts pertaining to the enforcement of criminal law, including efforts to prevent, control, or reduce crime or to apprehend criminals.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(k)(1) concerns information classified pursuant to an Executive Order in the interest of the national defense or foreign policy.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(k)(2) concerns investigative material compiled for law enforcement purposes, other than criminal, which did not result in the loss of a right, benefit, or privilege under federal programs or which would identify a source who furnished information pursuant to a promise that his/her identity would be held in confidence.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(k)(3) concerns material in connection with providing protective services to the U.S. President or other individual pursuant to the authority of 18 U.S.C. § 3056.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(k)(4) concerns information required by statute to be maintained and used solely as statistical records.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(k)(5) concerns investigative material compiled solely for the purpose of determining suitability, eligibility, or qualifications for federal civilian employment or for access to classified information, the disclosure of which would reveal the identity of the person who furnished information pursuant to a promise that his/her identity would be held in confidence.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(k)(6) concerns testing or examination material used to determine individual qualifications for appointment or promotion in federal government service when disclosure would compromise the testing or examination process.
5 U.S.C. § 552a(k)(7) concerns material used to determine the potential for promotion in the armed services, the disclosure of which would reveal the identity of the person who furnished the material pursuant to a promise that his/her identity would be held in confidence.
Online FOIA Request

How to Request Information

You may not need to make a FOIA request. Many records, including Program Statements and key statistics are available on the Bureau of Prisons' FOIA Records Section. If you are unable to locate the information you are looking for, please follow the guidelines below to make a FOIA request.

Preparing a FOIA Request. No specific form is required. However, requests must be in writing, reasonably describe the records you seek, and, if you are seeking records about yourself or another individual, comply with the below requirements. The "Fees for FOIA Requests" section under the FAQ tab will provide fees associated with processing FOIA requests.

Requests for Records About Yourself. You will need to verify your identity in order to protect your privacy and ensure private information about you is not disclosed inappropriately to someone else. Requests for information about yourself must include your full name, current address, date and place of birth, and, if a former or current inmate, your register number. You may fulfill this requirement by completing and signing a DOJ-361 Form Alternatively, you may provide this information and either have your signature on your request letter witnessed by a notary, or include the following statement immediately above the signature on your request letter: "I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on [date]." If you request information about yourself and do not follow one of these procedures, your request will not be processed.

How to Submit a FOIA Request. You may submit a FOIA request three ways.

  1. Mail. Send your request to:

    FOIA/PA Section
    Office of General Counsel, Room 924
    Federal Bureau of Prisons
    320 First Street, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20534

  2. Email. Email your request to: OGC_EFOIA@BOP.GOV

  3. Via the Web Portal. Please follow the instructions below. Requests for non-public information will not be accepted for processing via the portal. Neither a DOJ-361 nor any attachments may be submitted through the portal. If you do not receive an email confirmation within 24 hours, we did not receive your request.

Important!

Do not use this form if you are seeking non public information on an individual. Requests for information on an individual must be accompanied by an authorization and submitted via e-mail or mail.

If you do not receive an email confirmation within 24 hours, we did not receive your request.

Electronic FOIA Request Form

Contact Information
Description of records sought
Assessment of fees

To help us determine your fee status, check one of the following requestor categories:

An individual seeking information for personal use
Affiliated with a private corporation and seeking information for use in the company's business
Affiliated with an educational institution and seeking information for a scholarly purpose
Affiliated with a noncommercial scientific institution and seeking information for a scientific purpose
A representative of the news media seeking information as part of a news gathering effort
Expedited processing Please see Request Processing for more information about expedited processing.

I request expedited processing of my request and have described in detail why i believe my request warrants it:

No compelling need exists to warrant expedited processing of this request
An imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual exists
An urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged federal government activity exists (this option available only for requestors primarily engaged in disseminating information)
Fee waiver / reduction in fees

The freedom of information reform act of 1986 provides that documents are to be furnished without any charge or at a charge reduced below the fees established if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requestor.

To evaluate whether the statutory standard authorizing a fee waiver or reduction has been met, we will need additional information upon which to base our determination. If you would like to request a fee waiver, please provide additional information as justification for a fee waiver and/or reduction in fees:

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