The Bureau attempts to designate inmates to facilities commensurate with their security and program needs within a 500-mile radius of their release residence.Family support, which includes the ability to visit the inmate, is an important element that reduces the likelihood of reoffense after release from the BOP.
The idea of keeping inmates close to home is good but the 500-mile radius policy is widely seen as a cruel joke.
On a recent trip to visit my husband 1000 miles away, I met several other families who traveled 800, 900, even 1200 miles to the prison. These are families who want to keep the inmate in their lives, families who sacrificed a great deal to make the trip. Imagine how expensive it is to travel 1200 miles with six children. No matter how many children the inmate has, there is a good chance that since his incarceration, the family is living on a greatly reduced income. Travel becomes a luxury.
The difficulty of placing inmates close to home is made worse by overcrowding. The BOP simply cannot place inmates close to home if nearby facilities are full.
Overcrowding would be alleviated if fewer people were incarcerated. Not every crime deserves a prison sentence and not every criminal needs prison time.
Families who want to stay together deserve support. Moral support, many times financial support, and they also need the support of a prison system that acts on the belief that inmates are better off when they can remain close to family.