The Administrative Remedy Program allows inmates to seek formal review of prison complaints. These are also known as prison grievances. The Federal Bureau of Prisons allows the filing of administrative remedies to contest these disputes. Learn about grievance procedures in prisons and the exhaustion of administrative remedies here.
There are many reasons why inmates may want to file administrative remedies. These include protesting unfair treatment, inappropriate staff decisions, or conditions affecting them in prison. While this is an option for resolving complaints, we strongly advise you to speak to a prison policy expert before filing such complaints.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you or a loved one are considering filing an administrative remedy. Our team of federal prison policy experts can review your situation and advise you on how best to proceed. Book a one-hour initial consultation today.
Table of contents
- Inmate Administrative Remedy Program
- Grievance Procedures in Prison
- Benefits and Risks of Administrative Remedies
- Administrative Remedy Deadlines
- Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
- Learn More About Administrative Remedies
- Your Administrative Remedy Program Experts
Inmate Administrative Remedy Program
The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons permits inmates to file administrative remedies (i.e., prison grievances) when they have an issue that they can’t resolve informally. The grievance process is called the Inmate Administrative Remedy Program.
As long as the issue affects you personally, you can grieve virtually any prison problem. Common problems include lack of medical care, disciplinary appeals, and staff misconduct.
While the prison grievance option is always present and can result in a favorable resolution to a prisoner’s concern, few prisoners file administrative remedies. Most inmates don’t understand how to use the program intelligently and effectively.
A concern with administrative remedies is the counsel available to inmates. Most federal prisons have quality jailhouse lawyers available in the law library (who help other prisoners for a fee).
Additionally, some prison consultants and attorneys also have experience with administrative remedies. But be cautious here. Administrative remedies are a great tool, but only when used appropriately and strategically.
Grievance Procedures in Prison
The BOP’s Administrative Remedy Program consists of a tiered complaint and appeals system. The below sections explain the process for filing and responding to prison grievances. It is essential to know the grievance procedures in prison, so you aren’t procedurally barred due to a policy oversight.
Initial Administrative Remedy Filing
The Federal Bureau of Prison’s Administrative Remedy Program consists of a tiered complaint and appeals system. Each tier requires different grievance procedures in prison.
The initial complaint is called an attempt at informal resolution. This is the first step to exhaustion of administrative remedies. The BP-8 form is used to file this prison grievance.
This form is obtained from the inmate’s counselor and returned to them upon completion. This form consists of a single page where inmates can explain their concerns and desired resolution. Note that staff members provide all grievance forms.
While the BP-8 consists of a single page, inmates can use an attachment page to explain their concerns comprehensively. Our firm typically writes “Please see attached” on these forms and uses the attachment page to flesh out the issue.
The counselor investigates the issue. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.13. This often includes calling or emailing the person the issue is about to determine if the problem can be resolved or fixed. Once the counselor has completed their investigation, the unit manager signs off and returns it to the prisoner.
Depending on the federal prison in question and their corresponding administrative remedy institutional supplement, a time limit may be enforced for the unit team to respond to a BP-8 (e.g., at FCC Petersburg, it is five working days). There is no time limit at some other federal prisons to respond to this attempt at informal resolution.
Appeal to the Warden
If the BP-8 doesn’t resolve the matter, the prisoner can appeal to their prison’s warden on a BP-9 form. The BP-9 must be filed within 20 days of the issue being grieved.
The BP-9 form is also obtained through the inmate’s unit team. This is a blue carbon copy form. As with the BP-8, inmates can use an attachment page. They also must attach a copy of the completed BP-8 response.
After reviewing the matter, the warden will issue a written response to the request for administrative remedy. The warden has an initial 20 days to respond. See 28 C.F.R. §§ 542.14. Wardens often obtain a 20-day response extension. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.18.
After this allowable response period, the warden will issue the inmate a formal response.
If the prisoner isn’t satisfied with the warden’s response, they can appeal to the appropriate regional office through a BP-10.
The BP-10 is a yellow carbon copy form obtained through their unit team. The BP-10 must be filed within 20 days of the warden’s written response. Copies of the completed BP-8 and BP-9 (and responses) must be attached to the BP-10.
After the allowable period, the regional director will issue a written response. The regional director has an initial 30 days to respond. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.18. They often elect a 30-day response extension. See Id.
Central Office Appeal
If the prisoner isn’t satisfied with the regional director’s response, they can appeal to Central Office through a BP-11. This is the final step to exhaustion of administrative remedies. This Central Office Administrative Remedy Appeal must be filed within 30 days of the regional director’s written response.
The BP-11 is a yellow carbon copy form. This form can be obtained from the inmate’s unit team. Inmates are permitted to use a single attachment page to argue their complaints. They must also include copies of the completed BP-8, BP-9, and BP-10 (and responses).
After the allowable period, Central Office will respond. While they are permitted to take 40 days to respond, they also can elect a 20-day extension. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.18. Central Office typically takes upwards of 6 to 12 months to respond.
The inmate may consider the administrative remedy denied after the authorized response and extension periods have expired. At this point, inmates may proceed to court if so desired.
Benefits and Risks of Administrative Remedies
Administrative remedies can be a valuable tool in the right hands. They can be used to appeal adverse disciplinary findings, grieve any number of issues, and bring problems to the attention of supervisors, who can then resolve the issue.
The key to using such grievances is to do so in an informed and intelligent manner. This often requires a quality jailhouse lawyer or prison consultant to handle the matter.
While prisoners and their families often worry about possible retaliation for filing grievances, this is often not the reality. In the old days, prison officials did retaliate against prisoners for filing grievances.
For example, they subjected inmates to “diesel therapy.” This is where prison officials would essentially continuously transfer a prisoner for months or years to punish them. This is no longer the case, and the courts have deemed diesel therapy illegal.
Administrative Remedy Deadlines
Grievance procedures in prisons are highly rigid. In this context, deadlines matter. Prison officials will likely reject the grievance if an inmate files an administrative remedy outside of the allowable filing period.
If you miss an administrative remedy deadline, promptly file anyways. Just because you miss a deadline doesn’t mean that the BOP won’t elect to address the issue anyways. If they refuse to address the problem, you should appeal the denial. You may also consider starting over again with a BP-8.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
If you’re interested in seeking judicial review by litigating the matter in court, you must exhaust your administrative remedies. This is the exhaustion requirement imposed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). This means grieving the issue and appealing through the Central Office level.
Courts regularly dismiss lawsuits for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. If you want to litigate the matter in court, you must comply with the PLRA’s exhaustion of remedies requirement. Avoid problems in court by first appealing your grievance through internal prison channels before filing a petition in court.
Learn More About Administrative Remedies
Prisoners can learn more about the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Administrative Remedy Program through the TRULINCS computers in the law library. Once there, they can read 28 C.F.R. Part 542 and the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Administrative Remedy Program program statement (PS 1330.18). Both of these documents outline the BOP’s grievance system.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Administrative Remedy Program is there to help you when an issue arises, but it isn’t a toy. Don’t file frivolous grievances. These just bog down the system. But if you have a legitimate issue, regardless of its nature, this can be a great avenue to correct the problem and obtain the resolution you are seeking.
Likewise, federal courts require the exhaustion of administrative remedies. This means filing a grievance and appealing it through all available levels. Don’t fail to exhaust your administrative remedies before filing suit in court.
Your Administrative Remedy Program Experts
The team at the Zoukis Consulting Group has assisted countless clients file and appeal administrative remedies. We will research your concerns and help you determine if a prison grievance is appropriate. If so, we conduct policy research and draft the administrative remedy for you to file. Our team can also handle any required appeals.
Please book a one-hour initial consultation for more information on the Inmate Administrative Remedy Program.
Published Jul 19, 2021 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Mar 26, 2023 at 3:40 am