What are the Different Levels of Federal Prisons?

Wondering how the different levels of South Carolina federal prisons and prisons across the United States work? Federal prisons are divided into five different levels or categories, including minimum security, low security, medium security, high security and administrative.

  • Minimum security prisons, also known as federal prison camps, are designed for prisoners who do not pose a risk of escape or violence. Most prisoners want to be designated to federal prison camps, due to the lack of violence and better conditions. These prisons tend to have dormitory and room housing, a low staff to inmate ratio and little to no perimeter fencing. These prisons tend to be work and program oriented, and many are located adjacent to larger institutions or on military bases, where the inmates help fulfill the labor needs of the larger institution or military base.
  • Low security prisons have double fenced perimeters, mostly cubicle or dormitory housing and strong program and work components. The staff to inmate ratio is typically higher than at minimum security prisons.
  • Medium security prisons have stronger perimeters, usually double fences with electronic detection, cell-type housing, a wide range of work and treatment programs, a higher staff to inmate ratio than low security prisons and greater internal controls.
  • High security prisons, also called United States Penitentiaries (USPs), have highly secured perimeters with walls or reinforced fences, multiple or single occupant cell housing, the highest staff to inmate ratio and strong control of inmate movement.
  • Administrative prisons are prisons with special missions, like the detention of pretrial offenders, the treatment of inmates with chronic or serious medical issues and the containment of dangerous, violent or escape prone inmates. They are able to hold inmates in all security categories. These prisons include Metropolitan Correctional Centers (MCCs), Metropolitan Detention Centers (MDCs), Federal Detention Centers (FDCs) and Federal Medical Centers (FMCs).