Prison System: Federal Bureau of Prisons, North Central Region
Status: Active since 1903.
Offender Gender: Male
Security Level: Medium Security with a Minimum Security Satellite Camp
Distinguishing Feature: Leavenworth, Kansas is actually the sight of multiple detention centers. While United States Penitentiary Leavenworth is the most famous, Leavenworth is also the location of a military prison and it can be critical to know whether an offender was a civilian or a military member and whether they were tried in civilian or military court in order to understand where they are located.
Number of Inmates: 1,807; 1,387 at the prison and 420 at the satellite camp.
United States Penitentiary Leavenworth became famous as one of the country’s most severe federal Maximum security facilities, but actually transitioned to a Medium and Minimum Security Facility in 2005. This transition meant a change in prison population, which has been accompanied by a change in living conditions. The prison was once synonymous with inhumane and dangerous conditions, including a lack of ventilation. However, as it has transitioned to a lower security facility, living conditions at Leavenworth have improved for most inmates.
The physical design of Leavenworth is noteworthy, because it allows the guards to observe the inmates without being seen. This can reduce the risk to guards, but can also contribute to the sense of isolation and disconnect from society that naturally accompanies imprisonment.
Federal prison population is determined by a number of factors. Security level and supervision requirements are the top priorities, and then the Bureau of Prisons considers medical classification, inmate program needs, and administrative factors. The Bureau of Prisons attempts to place prisoners within 500 miles of their release residence, when possible. What these factors mean is that the inmate population at all of the federal prisons, including Leavenworth, is constantly in-flux as the Bureau of Prisons attempts to manage inmate needs with prison capabilities.
Furthermore, unlike most state prison systems, inmates in the federal prison system are not generally eligible for parole. The Sentencing Reform Act provided that inmates sentenced after November 1, 1987 are ineligible for parole. The Bureau of Prisons maintains a parole board to handle prisoners sentenced prior to that date. However, prisoners can earn credit for “good time” which can result in up to a 54 day sentence reduction per year. Prisoners can also receive sentence reductions for successfully completing substance abuse programs.
Life at Leavenworth is highly regimented and the prison expects prisoners to take responsibility for their cells and their living conditions. Inmates must make their beds, keep their cells clean, and adhere to guidelines about the amount of allowed personal property and how they store that property. Inmates have an individual locker for storage space and the ability to purchase locks through the prison commissary. They can store footwear under their bed. All personal property must be approved for an inmate to retain it. Inmates cannot display items on the walls, but can display them on bulletin boards. Tobacco is prohibited at Leavenworth. Inmates have time-limited access to showers 5 days a week and unlimited access on weekends. Inmates must be present for and standing during the regular lockdown accounts, which occur on a daily basis and when prison staff deems a count is necessary. Movement within Leavenworth is restricted except for during an inmate’s controlled movement period. Inmates, their cells, and common areas are subject to searches at any time.
Inmates are expected to maintain a current job assignment while at Leavenworth and are paid for their jobs. The current pay scale ranges from $.12/hour for Grade 4 assignments to $.41/hour for Grade 1 assignments. However, pay can be conditioned on the repayment of fines or restitution or the completion of prison programs, so not all working inmates receive compensation for their work.
While Leavenworth has historically been associated with harsh living conditions, it actually meets or exceeds all of the standards for living conditions of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was designed to help reduce sexual assault and other inmate violence in the prison environment. In fact, much of its reputation as a violent and difficult place to serve time seems to extend back to its days as a Maximum security facility and inmates who need higher supervision or who are being punished are routinely shipped out of Leavenworth to newer Maximum security facilities, such as Marion.
Leavenworth has a variety of prison programs. It offers recreational activities including hobbies, a music program, and softball games. It emphasizes education opportunities for inmates, including post-secondary education programs. However, its most notable programs are linked to the Vocational Training Program, which utilizes a combination of classroom and hands-on training to help make inmates workplace-ready in a variety of field including graphic arts, custodial maintenance, mobile electronics, hospitality, retail, and fork lift operations.
Although now a Medium security facility with a minimum security satellite camp, Leavenworth Penitentiary was the largest Maximum security prison in the United States for more than a century. Leavenworth was one of the first federal penitentiaries and helped shift the responsibility for incarcerating federal prisoners to the federal government; prior to the establishment of federal prisons, federal prisoners were incarcerated in state prisons. It was the first of the three prisons in Leavenworth, and is often confused with the military prison at Fort Leavenworth.
While not original, the design of Leavenworth is considered noteworthy. It is large and rectangular, with administrative functions and routine incarcerations carried out in a main building known colloquially as the “Big House” or “Big Top.” Disciplinary incarcerations occur outside of the main building in smaller areas known as “Little Top.”
Michael Vick, who was incarcerated for running a dog fighting ring, is probably the most famous recent resident of Leavenworth. Other famous residents include Bugs Moran, Whitey Bulger, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Its most infamous current or former resident is James Earl Ray, who was imprisoned in Leavenworth for forgery from 1955-1958; after his release, Ray went on to assassinate civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr
Year Built or Opened: 1903 Warden or Supervisor: Claude Maye Daily Inmate Count: 1807 Security Level(s): Minimum - Medium
Inmate Name & Register Number
P.O. Box 1000
Leavenworth, KS 66048
Fax Number: 913-578-1010
Email Address: LVN/[email protected]
Leavenworth, KS 66048