Marion, U.S. Penitentiary
Stephen C. Richards
U.S. Penitentiary (USP) Marion is located 300 miles south of Chicago and 120 miles from St. Louis in the southern tip of Illinois. Marion is a small penitentiary used to isolate high-security male prisoners. The prison has no wall, but is surrounded by a high-security fencing wrapped in razor wire, protected by gun towers, with multiple cellblocks divided by a maze of security grills and doors. Marion, like all Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) prison facilities, is federal property situated on a U.S. government reservation, not that different from a Native American reservation or military base. Legally, USP Marion is not part of Illinois, since it is beyond state jurisdiction. The BOP uses an “inmate classification system” as a means to segregate, punish, and reward prisoners. This is a “classification ladder” with maximum security at the top and minimum security at the bottom. The classification designations have changed over the ...