Difference Between Pennsylvania Prison and Federal Prison

What is the Difference Between Federal Prison and Pennsylvania State Prison?

State prisons in Pennsylvania are facilities that house individuals who have violated state law, while federal prisons are detention centers for those convicted of federal crimes. Federal crimes involve some national interest. Common federal offenses include bribery, customs violations, counterfeiting, embezzlement, money laundering, identity theft, kidnapping, and fraud of all kinds. State legislature outlines all offenses considered a breach of state laws. These typically involve violent crimes such as burglary, robbery, rape, murder, and arson.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) manages federal prisons. The FBP is a federal law enforcement agency that works as an extension of the Department of Justice and oversees the custody and care of incarcerated individuals. The federal government directly funds federal prisons, which typically have high-security levels. State prisons are always managed locally by state authorities under the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). These prisons are funded using tax revenue from the state and receive less funding than federal prisons. Security measures in state prisons vary, but they are perceived as less safe because most violent criminals are held in state prisons. Pennsylvania is home to 24 state detention centers, including motivational boot camps. There are only ten federal detention centers in the state and five federal prison camps. While federal prisons house fewer inmates, the duration of an inmate's stay in federal prison is typically longer.

The Pennsylvania Prison System

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) has jurisdiction over 23 state corrections institutions (SCI), 12 community corrections centers that focus on community reentry for inmates, and one training academy for staff. According to the Planning, Research, and Statistics Bureau of the DOC 2019 year-end statistics report, 45,875 inmates were incarcerated in Pennsylvania. Of which, only 2,847 inmates were women. The average age of inmates was 40 years old. Almost half of the Pennsylvania inmates are serving time for Part I offenses, which are the most severe. 36% are serving time for Part II offenses, and 15% face incarceration for parole violations.

The most common minimum sentence in Pennsylvania state prison is 2 to 5 years, while the most common maximum penalty is jail time of 5 to 10 years. Typically, individuals released from state prisons are at risk of reoffending. 30% of offenders are at high risk of reoffending, and 26% are at low risk. The majority of inmates in 2019 needed alcohol or drug treatment programs while incarcerated, and over 40% struggle with mental illness.

The address and contact information for the 23 State Corrections Institutions (SCI) is as follows:

SCI Huntington
1100 Pike Street
Huntingdon, PA 16654-1112
(814) 643-2400

SCI Rockview
1 Rockview Place
Bellefonte, PA 16823
(814) 355-4874

SCI Muncy
6454 Route 405
Muncy, PA 17756
(570) 546-3171

SCI Camp Hill
2500 Lisburn Road
Camp Hill, PA 17011
(717) 737-4531

SCI Dallas
1000 Follies Road
Dallas, PA 18612-0286
(570) 675-1101

SCI Mercer
801 Butler Pike
Mercer, PA 16137
(724) 662-1837

SCI Frackville
1111 Altamont Boulevard
Frackville, PA 17931-2699
(570) 874-4516

SCI Smithfield
1120 Pike Street
Huntingdon, PA 16652
(814) 643-6520

SCI Waymart
11 Fairview Drive
Waymart, PA 18472
(570) 488-5811

SCI Cambridge Springs
451 Fullerton Avenue
Cambridge Springs, PA 16403-1238
(814) 398-5400

Quehanna Motivational Boot Camp
4395 Quehanna Highway
Karthaus, PA 16845
(814) 263-4125

SCI Somerset
1590 Walters Mill Road
Somerset, PA 15510-0001
(814) 443-8100

SCI Coal Township
1 Kelley Drive
Coal Township, PA 17866-1020
(570) 644-7890

SCI Mahanoy
301 Morea Road
Frackville, PA 17932
(570) 773-2158

SCI Albion
10745 Route 18
Albion, PA 16475-0001
(814) 756-5778

SCI Greene
169 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370
(724) 852-2902

SCI Houtzdale
209 Institution Drive
Houtzdale, PA 16698-1000
(814) 378-1000

SCI Laurel Highlands
5706 Glades Pike
Somerset, PA 15501
(814) 445-6501

SCI Chester
500 E. 4th Street
Chester, PA 19013
(610) 490-5412

SCI Pine Grove
189 Fyock Road
Indiana, PA 15701
(724) 465-9630

SCI Fayette
50 Overlook Drive
LaBelle, PA 15450
(724) 364-2200

SCI Forest
286 Woodland Drive
Marienville, PA 16239
(814) 621-2110

SCI Benner Township
301 Institution Drive
Bellefonte, PA 16823
(814) 353-3630

SCI Pheonix
1200 Mokychic Drive
Collegeville, PA 19426
(610) 409-7890

All incarcerated individuals in Pennsylvania have a personal trust account. Inmates use this account for purchasing items and food from the commissary in prison. If the inmate owes court fees or fines, up to 50% of the trust account's money will automatically be allocated to the court. Parties that are not incarcerated can deposit money into an inmate's account in person, online, by mail, or by phone. Individuals hoping to send money to inmates must know the following information and provide it upon payment:

  • The inmate's first and last name
  • The inmate's prison identification number
  • The inmate's current location

Pennsylvania County Jails

County jails are generally short-term detention centers headed by the local county Sheriff's office. Pennsylvania has 67 counties and a county jail facility for each one. Jails hold offenders arrested for a crime but not yet convicted and those who have been convicted of minor and low-level offenses. Pennsylvania county jails' population totals less than the average state prison population, and jail inmates typically serve time in a county facility for under a year. Parties who wish to access information regarding inmates in county jails can visit the local Sheriff's office in the county. Search tools vary, but all law enforcement agencies provide avenues to search for inmates.

County jails also offer various ways to transfer money to inmates by phone, online, through the mail, and in-person at a kiosk. Because different facilities use different vendors, fees and accepted forms of payment can vary. For instance, if an individual wants to send money to a jail inmate in Adams County Adult Correctional Complex, few options are available. Parties can visit the Bankers Kiosk in the facility's lobby and use cash or credit card to deposit money to an inmate's account. These kiosks typically charge a nominal fee. Parties also have the option to deposit money orders and checks in the dropbox of the lobby. Money orders and checks should be made payable to the specific facility.

How to Lookup an Inmate in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania offers an Inmate and Parolee Locator Tool under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections. Parties who wish to access Pennsylvania inmate record information may use this database. The search tool does not require all information to be filled out but provides options to search using an inmate's name, inmate number, gender, race, ethnicity, location, date of birth, and citizenship status. The Federal Bureau of Prisons online search tool can provide information regarding inmates in federal correctional facilities. Requestors must provide the inmate's first and last name or their Federal Bureau of Prisons' number.

How Does the Federal Prison System Work?

There are over 110 facilities under the federal prison system which house inmates who have committed federal crimes. These facilities hold over 150,000 inmates out of the 2.3 million incarcerated individuals total. There are 1,833 inmates in state prisons, 1,772 in juvenile correctional institutions, and 3,134 in county jails, community centers, and psychiatric hospitals. There are almost 40,000 staff working in departments under the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Further, the Department of Justice has jurisdiction over the BOP.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is responsible for inmates under their jurisdiction, meaning that the BOP oversees all prison functions. The BOP provides education and drug treatment programs for inmates in federal prisons. Federal inmates can access the GED program to acquire a degree and pursue training programs based on specific needs. The BOP also provides vocational and occupational post-secondary programs and allows inmates to register for college courses. Federal inmates also have job assignments where on-the-job training takes place. Federal prisons also offer parenting classes for individuals who are expecting children or have children, self-development courses, recreational activities, libraries, and legal materials. Drug abuse treatment programs can include residential and non-residential programs, drug education courses, and transitional drug treatment.

The federal prison system categorizes the facilities according to levels of security: minimum, low, medium, high, and administrative. United States Penitentiaries house only one inmate per cell with very restricted movement and high security. These institutions typically have the most on-site staff. Federal Correctional Institutions are medium to low-security facilities complete with vocational programs with less staff than penitentiaries. Private Correctional Institutions are lower budget facilities with fewer services and medium to low security.

On the other hand, administrative facilities include centers with unique programs for inmates with health issues, individuals still on trial, and dangerous inmates. Administrative facilities can enact any level of security. Federal Correctional Complexes (FCCs) comprise many different institutions with varying missions. The facilities are on the same campus, creating the opportunity to share services between facilities.