Prison Capacities


Bureau of Prisons Inmate Capacities

The inmate capacities of federal prisons were published annually, in the “State of the Bureau,” until about 2001. Today, not even the “annual” State of the Bureau is published annually.  Today, you can get federal prison capacities here, from the E-Office of EJ Hurst II.

This FOIA response, dated 27 August 2013, offers a fresh glimpse of how many inmates federal and private prisons were originally “rated” to hold (the “rated capacity”), and are now deemed able to hold with every day’s new placements (the “designation capacity”).  The Bureau of Prisons defines these two different capacities in Program Statement 5100.08, Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification Manual, Ch. 3, pp. 3-4 (9/12/2006) (available online at

To get a feel for how overcrowded the BOP really is, compare these numbers to the weekly “Inmate Population Report,” published every Thursday at

Part of Jay’s work when helping future inmates get a prison placement is to review these numbers; to make the client aware of how “crowded” the options are; and to ask for prisons where there are beds available.  Not even the most artful placement request ever will get an inmate to a prison where there are no beds.