USP Atwater | Atwater Prison | Atwater Federal Prison

USP Atwater Contact Information

Facility Address & Contact Information

United States Penitentiary Atwater
1 Federal Way
Atwater, CA

Phone: 209-386-0257
Fax: 209-386-4635
Email: [email protected]

BOP Website: Bureau of Prisons Page
Wikipedia: Wikipedia Page

Inmate Correspondence Address

USP Atwater

Inmate Name and Registration Number
USP Atwater
United States Penitentiary
P.O. Box 019001
Atwater, CA

USP Atwater Camp

Inmate Name and Registration Number
USP Atwater Camp
Satellite Prison Camp
P.O. Box 019001
Atwater, CA

How to Send Money

Do not send money to inmates at Atwater prison directly. See our page on sending money to federal prisoners.

United States Penitentiary Atwater Inmate Information

Inmate Gender

Male Federal Inmates

Prison Security Level

Facility Location

USP Atwater is located in Merced County, California, on a portion of the former Castle Air Force Base, about 130 miles from San Francisco.

BOP Region

Western Region

BOP Institution Code

ATW for USP Atwater

Medical Care Level

Level 1. See our page on Medical Care Levels and Procedures for more information.

Mental Health Care Level

Level 1.

Judicial District

Eastern District of California

Population Number

USP Atwater houses approximately 930 inmates. The camp houses around 95 inmates.

USP Atwater Prison Services Information

USP Atwater | Atwater California prison


United States Penitentiary Atwater is a high-security federal prison in Atwater, California, which houses male inmates. United States Penitentiary Atwater Camp, which also houses male inmates, is located adjacent to the main institution.

USP Atwater, California, prison is located on land formerly part of Castle Air Force Base, which the Air Force has verified was used to store nuclear weapons.

Notable inmates include the leader of the Crips street gang Bobby Banks (sentenced to 55 years for conspiracy and drug trafficking for operating a large-scale crack cocaine distribution operation). Banks was in an episode of HBO’s Gang War: Bangin’ In Little Rock.

Media reports indicate that there have been at least two inmate murders, one inmate suicide, and two unspecified inmate deaths at the facility. Multiple inmates and guards have been taken to local hospitals for stabs and other wounds, the result of assaults. One guard has been murdered at the facility.

Inmate Housing

  • USP: One- and Two-person cells.
  • Camp: Dormitories

Health Services

Health services at USP Atwater include emergency medical services, physical examinations, examinations for inmates 50 and older, medication, dental sick call, and reading glasses. Emergency medical care is available 24 hours a day.

Psychology Services

USP Atwater federal prison Psychology Services provides:

  • Intake Screening
  • Individual/Group Counseling
  • Psycho-Educational Classes
  • Self-Help/Supportive Services
  • Medical Interventions for Mental Illness
  • Medications

The department also offers specialized mental health programs and the Challenge Program (an intensive residential program for inmates with mental health problems).

Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP)

Neither USP Atwater nor the camp has the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). Staff can make referrals to prisons that do offer RDAP. Both facilities provide drug abuse programs, a Drug Abuse Education Course, and the Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program (NR-DAP).

USP Atwater Educational, Library, and Recreation Offerings

Education Services

USP Atwater offers literacy, GED (in English and Spanish), and English- as-a-Second Language (ESL) programs. Graduation ceremonies recognize GED, ESL, and Occupational Education completions.

Adult Continuing Education (ACE) classes offered include typing, computer literacy, foreign language, and business skills. High school diplomas and post-secondary degrees are available through paid correspondence programs.

Advanced Occupational Education

USP Atwater and the camp do not offer any advanced occupational education programs.

Vocational Training

USP Atwater, California prison inmates have access to vocational training in Building Trades/Landscaping and Computer Skills – Illustrator and MS Office. The camp does not offer vocational training programs.


USP Atwater offers apprenticeships for the following occupations: Electrician, Cook, HVAC, and Teacher’s Aide. The camp offers apprenticeships for the following occupations: Landscape Technician, Stationary Engineer, and Teacher’s Aide.

Library Services

Leisure and law libraries are available to inmates. A variety of reading materials, including periodicals, newspapers, fiction, nonfiction, and reference books, are available at the leisure library. An interlibrary loan program with local, state, and college libraries and available bookmobile services is available. The TRULINCS Electronic Law Library offers inmates access to legal materials and the preparation of legal documents. Typewriters and a copy machine are available for inmate use.


The USP Atwater and camp UNICOR facilities handle recycling.


The spending limit is $360.00 per month. Inmates must have their commissary card in their possession at all times for identification purposes. Popular commissary items include ice cream, snacks, food, electronics, clothing, drinks, and shoes.

Recreation Services

Leisure activities at USP Atwater include:

  • Organized/Informal Games
  • Sports
  • Physical Fitness
  • Table Games
  • Hobby Crafts
  • Music Programs
  • Intramural Activities
  • Social/Cultural Organizations
  • Movies

Art activities include painting and sketching. Hobbycraft activities include crochet and knitting.

The camp also offers a number of recreational activities, including leathercraft, painting, sketching, and bead craft. The housing unit’s common area is where inmates can play cards, table games, etc. The recreation field hosts many structured activities throughout the year, including softball, track and field, soccer, volleyball, and wellness classes.

Visitation Information for USP Atwater

On Sunday and Saturday, visiting hours are between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. On federal holidays visiting hours are between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. See our page on prisoner visitation rules for more information on how to visit an inmate.

USP Atwater | Atwater federal prison

USP Atwater in the News

In August 2018, Juan Flores, while serving a six-month sentence at United States Penitentiary Atwater, was found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead at a local hospital.

In July 2018, Raul Ortega was found unresponsive in his cell at Atwater federal prison in what officials believed to be a suicide.

In June 2018, “multiple incidents” reportedly took place at USP Atwater, and a prisoner and staff member were taken to the hospital and treated. Earlier in June, one prisoner was taken to a hospital for treatment after being assaulted by two other prisoners.

In March 2018, Thomas Douglas Smith, a prisoner at USP Atwater, was found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead at a local hospital.

In October 2017, several prisoners assaulted an Atwater, California prison staff member with a sharpened blade. Three staff members were treated at a local hospital, and another received minor injuries. No prisoners were injured in the incident.

In May 2017, unmanned guard towers may have helped a prisoner escape from USP Atwater.

In March 2012, Samuel Stone, who was already serving a life sentence at USP Atwater, was charged with murdering his cellmate, Michael Anita, in July 2003. It was the first murder at the prison since 2002.

In 2012, the Bureau of Prisons instituted a policy change allowing guards at seven federal facilities to carry pepper spray to use against violent prisoners. This was in response to the 2008 fatal stabbing of Jose Rivera, a guard at USP Atwater, by prisoners Leon Guerrero and Joseph Cabrera Sablan

In June 2008, USP Atwater guard Jose Rivera was chased down and stabbed to death by prisoners James Ninete, Leon Guerrero, and Jose Cabrera Sablan. Guerrero, who was already serving a life sentence, was given another life sentence in May 2014.

In June 2003, the Air Force verified that it stored nuclear weapons where USP Atwater now stands, meaning that nuclear waste is likely still present at the site.

In March 2003, two prisoners in the recreation yard of USP Atwater refused to stop attacking a third prisoner after they were ordered to stop, resulting in one of the men being shot in the torso by a guard. None of the prisoners’ injuries were life-threatening.

More Information About United States Penitentiary Atwater

For a comprehensive look at life in federal prison, pick up a copy of Christopher Zoukis’ Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons. For more detailed information about USP Atwater, please buy a copy of the Directory of Federal Prisons: The Unofficial Guide to Bureau of Prisons Institutions by Christopher Zoukis.