The Freedom of Information Act was enacted in 1966 to provide any person with access to Federal agency records and information. It applies only to Federal agencies, not to records held by Congress, the courts, or by state or local government agencies (each state has its own public access laws that should be consulted for access to state and local records). See the U.S. Department of Justice FOIA page for more information on the Freedom of Information Act.
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.
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."
Contacting the Bureau's FOIA Office
Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Section
Office of General Counsel, Room 924
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20534
You can request FOIA information online (but this may not work with all computers).
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 other information about the BOP, call (202) 307-3198.
How do requests get processed?
The BOP puts your FOIA request on one of three tracks, depending on your circumstances.
The SIMPLE TRACK is for requests that ask for:
- Program Statements (policies)
- General information about the BOP
- Referrals from other Federal Agencies
The COMPLEX TRACK is generally for requests needing more time to process, such as:
- Contract information
- Records from an institution or BOP Directorate
- Information on investigations by BOP's Office of Internal Affairs
- Voluminous Searches
The 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. When you do, you should provide a certified statement explaining why you believe your request qualifies under one of the four standards.
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 of 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. For most complex requests, we estimate it will take up to nine months to respond.
Former Inmates obtaining medical records
Send a written request to:
Office of General Counsel, Room 924
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20534
The request must specifically describe the records being sought and provide identifying data, such as date of birth and register number, if known. Also, to ensure that private information is not released to anyone else, the requester must verify his/her identity either by a notarized signature or by submitting a signed Form DOJ-361, Certification of Identity.
Fees for processing FOIA/PA requests are authorized by Department of Justice regulations published at 28 Code of Federal Regulations Part 16. As a non-commercial requester, you will be charged only for search time that exceeds two hours and copies in excess of 100 pages. Duplication charges are $.05 per page.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. We 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, even if they are determined to be entirely exempt from disclosure.
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.
Washington, DC 20530-0001
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.
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.
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.
PIAs are available for the following systems:
- Access Control and Visiting system (ACES / Web Visiting)
- Bureau Electronic Medical Records System (BEMR)
- Correspondence Tracking System (CTS)
- Bureau Forensic Mobile Device Laboratory (Forensic Lab)
- Enterprise Resource Planning System (FPI Millennium / SAP system)
- BOP vacancy and applicant system (QuickHire / HR Automation)
- Security Background Investigation System (SBIS)
- Inmate management system (SENTRY)
- Trust Fund Accounting System (TRUFACS)
- Inmate telephone system (TRUFONE)
- Trust Fund Network (TRUNET)
- Volunteer Contractor Information System (VCI)
Privacy Act Exemptions
The Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a) generally provides that any person has a rightÂenforceable 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. Â§ 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.
You may not need to make a FOIA request.
You may be able to access the information you require via the World Wide Web without making a FOIA request. Many documents are available on the Bureau of Prisons' or other websites. Also, frequently requested information is available electronically in our Records Section.
If you were not able to find the information you are looking for, you may need to make a FOIA request. Please follow the guidelines below so we can respond to your request as quickly as possible.
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. For more information on seeking non-public information on an individual please see the FAQ page.
If you do not receive an email confirmation within 24 hours, we did not receive your request.