Sam Bankman Fried Prison | What is SBF’s Prison?

Sam Bankman Fried Prison | What is SBF’s Prison?

Following Sam Bankman Fried’s November 2, 2023, guilty jury verdicts, all eyes are turning toward his March 28, 2024, sentencing. Likewise, many are wondering where SBF will serve his time in federal prison. This article discusses the Bureau’s designation policies, likely facility placement, and what Sam Bankman-Fried’s life will be like in federal prison.

Sam Bankman Fried Prison
Sam Bankman Fried Prison

Sam Bankman-Fried Conviction Background

On Thursday, November 2, 2023, a federal jury in New York found Sam Bankman-Fried guilty of federal charges related to the operations of cryptocurrency exchange FTX and its associated trading firm Alameda Research. Currently, his sentencing is scheduled for March 28, 2024. However, it remains to be seen where he will serve his sentence, which may depend on the length of his imprisonment.

Federal Prison Designation Basics

Following sentencing, the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Designation and Sentence Computation Center determines each defendant’s initial designation location (i.e., the federal prison where they will start their sentence). This process involves reviewing the judgment order, Pre-Sentence Report, and other relevant court filings.

DSCC broadly engages in the following three-phase process to determine facility placement:

Security Scoring

The first DSCC task is determining each defendant’s numerical security point total. This process involves assessing numerous factors, including the defendant’s:

  • Age
  • Educational Level
  • Severity of Offense
  • Criminal History
  • History of Violence
  • And more.

Based on an internal projection of Sam Bankman-Fried’s case and individual factors, he likely scores between 10 and 11 security points. This amounts to a minimum-security federal prison placement, as reflected in the below security point table:

  • Minimum: 0-11 Points
  • Low: 12-15 Points
  • Medium: 16-23 Points
  • High: 24+ Points

Public Safety Factors

The second designation phase concerns determining if any Public Safety Factors apply. Public Safety Factors can be considered security point overrides requiring a certain minimum security level. As explained by the Bureau of Prisons, these are based on “demonstrated behaviors which required increased security measures to ensure the protection of society.”

The Bureau can apply the following nine Public Safety Factors:

  • Disruptive Group
  • Greatest Severity Offense
  • Sex Offender
  • Threat to Government Officials
  • Deportable Aliens
  • Sentence Length
  • Violent Behavior
  • Serious Escape
  • Prison Disturbance
  • Juvenile Violence
  • Serious Telephone Abuse

As applied to Sam Bankman-Fried’s case, he will likely have a Sentence Length Public Safety Factor applied, depending on his sentence length. The following Sentence Length Public Safety Factors are used depending on the amount of time remaining to serve on his sentence:

  • 10+ Years: Low-Security Federal Prison
  • 20+ Years: Medium-Security Federal Prison
  • 30+ Years: High-Security Federal Prison

As reflected above, if Sam Bankman Fried is sentenced to 115 years in federal prison, then the 30+ Public Safety Factor would be applied, resulting in his placement at a high-security federal prison. That said, unless the sentencing judge applies a highly political sentence due to the case’s visibility, we believe he will receive a sentence far lower than this statutory maximum.

Management Variables

The final phase concerns whether the Bureau elects to apply any Management Variables. These are also security point overrides but function differently from Public Safety Factors. Instead of imposing a certain minimum-security custody level, these allow the Bureau to override Public Safety Factors and even security point scoring.

As explained by the Bureau, Management Variables reflect the “professional judgment of Bureau staff to ensure the inmate’s placement in the most appropriate level institution.” Bureau policy explains that Management Variables are required when “placement has been made . . . at an institution level inconsistent with the inmate’s security score,” and the score does not “accurately reflect” the inmate’s “security needs.”

The Bureau may apply the following 11 Management Variables:

  • Judicial Recommendation
  • Release Residence
  • Population Management
  • Central Inmate Monitoring Assignment
  • Medical or Psychiatric
  • Program Participation
  • Work Cadre
  • Public Safety Factor Waived
  • Long-Term Detainee
  • Greater Security
  • Lesser Security

Depending on Sam Bankman-Fried’s sentence length, the Bureau may consider applying a Lesser Security or Public Safety Factor Waiver Management Variable. These would mitigate his sentence length Public Safety Factor and lower his prison security level.

Sam Bankman-Fried Prison
Sam Bankman-Fried Prison

Sam Bankman Fried’s Prison Designation

As seen above, SBF’s prison security level is both art and science. While we will have a more targeted assessment following his sentencing, we believe he will not be housed at either the high- or minimum-security levels. This assessment is based on his likely 10+ year sentence, Bureau staff likely believing he does not require a high-security placement, and the Bureau not wanting a very public incident of Sam Bankman-Friend being harmed or experiencing what other inmates experience at high-security federal prisons.

With this understanding, the Federal Bureau of Prisons will likely house SBF in either a low- or medium-security federal prison. Likewise, per the First Step Act, the Bureau is supposed to “place a prisoner in a facility as close as practicable to the prisoner’s primary release residence” and “to the extent practicable, in a facility within 500 driving miles of that residence.” Of course, as many federal inmates experience, the Bureau rarely follows this guidance strictly.

Considering Sam Bankman-Fried’s likely Palto Alto, California, release residence with his parents, he will likely be housed in a federal prison in the Northwestern United States. At least, this is what Bureau policy would suggest.

Low-Security Federal Prisons

While unlikely, if SBF is designated to a low-security federal prison, he will likely be housed at one of the following facilities:

Of these facilities, he would likely find FCI Englewood to be the most preferable, as it is a Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP) facility. This means that approximately 40 percent of the inmate population is incarcerated for a current or past sexual offense. This serves to reduce the level of prison politics and violence. Likewise, the Bureau tends to house LGBT inmates and gang drop-outs at SOMP facilities, further improving the prison’s safety and inmate quality of life.

Medium-Security Federal Prisons

Considering Sam Bankman-Fried’s likely sentence, we believe he will be housed at one of the following medium-security federal prisons:

Of these facilities, FCI Herlong is the clear winner, as it has a comparatively lower level of prison violence and gang-driven inmate culture.

It is also highly unlikely that the Bureau of Prisons will house SBF at FCI Victorville Medium 1 or FCI Victorville Medium 2. With the nickname of “Victimville,” both of these medium-security California federal prisons are highly violent and would almost certainly result in unflattering media coverage once a violent incident occurred involving Sam Bankman-Fried.

High-Security Federal Prisons

The Bureau of Prisons is almost sure not to house SBF at a high-security federal prison. These prisons, also known as United States Penitentiaries, are extraordinarily violent, dangerous, and gang-driven. They are some of the most lawless places in the United States. This being said, SBF would only be relatively safe at USP Tucson in Tucson, Arizona.

USP Tucson, like FCI Englewood, is a Sex Offender Management Program facility. As such, it is probably the least violent high-security federal prison, although violence is common at the institution. At least at a facility like USP Tucson, SBF likely wouldn’t have an acute need for protective custody.

Influencing SBF’s Prison Location

Sam Bankman-Fried’s prison placement will significantly influence his quality of life while incarcerated. As such, the single best action his attorneys can take to motivate a favorable prison designation is to seek a Judicial Recommendation at his sentencing hearing in March 2024.

While Judicial Recommendations are part of the court’s sentencing order, they are not binding on the Bureau of Prisons. As such, they are simply recommendations that the Bureau is supposed to consider but rarely follow. That said, a judicial recommendation for either the low-security FCI Englewood or medium-security FCI Herlong would serve him well.

SBF Prison
SBF Prison

Sam Bankman-Fried Prison

While the public and media often seem to hope for a bad prison experience for those who have visibly fallen from grace, we at the Zoukis Consulting Group view this differently. We strive to help clients serve the least amount of time in the best federal prisons with the earliest opportunities for release. This is true for all of our clients.

In helping clients navigate the federal prison environment, we often seek judicial recommendations to motivate a favorable prison designation. When the Designation and Sentence Computation Center doesn’t follow these Judicial Recommendations, we help clients seek transfers to facilities where they will be safe and can build a life behind bars.

While only time will tell which prison SBF is housed in, we hope he is treated with human decency and can safely remain in the general population. And like with our firm’s clients, if this doesn’t occur, the Zoukis Consulting Group stands ready to resolve any issue that presents while our clients are in federal prison custody.