How to Request an Inmate Transfer to a Different Facility

How to Request an Inmate Transfer to a Different Facility

For many inmates, the possibility of transferring to a different correctional facility can bring feelings of anticipation and optimism. Various legitimate reasons may qualify someone for a transfer, like earning good behavior credits or having special medical needs.  

Before starting this process, you must understand all the requirements and steps involved in requesting one—because, if done incorrectly, it could lead to delays or rejections. This blog post will provide a comprehensive guide to requesting an inmate transfer. 

Reasons for Requesting an Inmate Transfer 

The Department of Corrections or its subordinate agency transfers inmates to a different facility. In some cases, however, an outside law enforcement agency or court order may be necessary to complete the process. Judges and parole boards can also order an inmate transfer in certain circumstances. 

Inmates are often transferred between facilities as a routine without requesting it. Routine transfers of inmates to a different facility happen for many reasons. Some of the reasons include the following: 

  • Rehabilitation and progression to a lower-security prison. 
  • Overcrowding at one facility. 
  • Safety concerns for the inmate or others. 
  • To place an inmate closer to family or legal representatives. 
  • A judge may order a transfer if an inmate is charged with a crime in a different jurisdiction.  
  • It is also possible to move inmates if they exhibit problematic behavior. 
  • If an inmate requires specialized care or programs not available at their current institution. 

In addition to the predetermined transfers, inmates may seek transfers to similar-rated facilities for personal reasons. Prisoners can seek a transfer using the request or complaint system or a form issued by the jail for the following reasons: 

When Awaiting Trial 

One of the most common reasons for transferring to a different facility is when you are held in a county jail and awaiting trial for minor offenses. In such cases, you can request a transfer to a county jail near where you reside. Such requests must first be approved by the judge, followed by approval from the prison facility. 

Safety Reasons 

If you find yourself in a compromising situation in prison due to constant threats from fellow inmates, the court will likely issue an order for a transfer. Additionally, general bullying or harassment could push the institution to move you to a different facility. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, do not hesitate to speak up and ask for a transfer immediately. Chances are that the authorities will honor your request. 

Medical Attention 

Transferring inmates to a more suitable facility is often done to improve their overall well-being and health. For instance, if you have been diagnosed with an illness or disease, you may request to be moved to a jail where they have better sanitation and food facilities. Similarly, suppose you have any mental condition—this way, you can get adequate healthcare and attention. 

Family Ties 

You may get a hardship transfer when a medical condition prevents close family members from traveling to visit the offender. Proving hardship and providing evidence of an immediate family member’s illness can be enough for most court systems to grant you a much-needed transfer. Still, hiring a professional criminal defense lawyer may help prove your case and increase your chances of getting favorable results. 

Educational Needs 

You can apply for a transfer to a different facility if the current institution does not provide access to educational or vocational training programs that the inmate is interested in participating in. Globally, those entering prison systems have lower levels of education than the general population. Prison education frequently seeks to make inmates more employable upon release. It might be challenging to administer some educational programs in certain facilities.    

Procedure for Requesting an Inmate Transfer  

Follow the following steps to request a transfer: 

Step 1: Determine Eligibility: Before anything else, you must ensure that you meet all the criteria necessary to apply for an inmate transfer. All inmates must be under the jurisdiction of a federal or state correctional agency and meet certain conditions, such as having no pending disciplinary actions or escape risks. 

Step 2: Submit an Application for Inmate Transfer: This document is typically available through your designated facility’s website and outlines the type of transfer requested (state to state, federal to state, etc.), the reasons why the transfer is necessary, and any relevant supporting documentation. 

Step 3: Pay All Fees Associated with the Transfer: Depending on your circumstances, fees may be associated with the transfer. Make sure to review all applicable documents for more details about these costs. 

Step 4: Contact Your Inmate Transfer Coordinator: Each correctional agency has a designated staff member coordinating inmate transfers. You will need to contact your coordinator for any questions or updates about the status of your transfer. 

Step 5: You may need to provide additional documentation to complete the transfer request process. Typical documents include medical records, mental health evaluations, and other records demonstrating an inmate’s qualifications for transfer. Once you have provided all the necessary documents, your loved one should be able to transfer to a different facility. 

Step 6: Await Transfer Approval: Once everything is in order, you will receive confirmation of your transfer approval from the appropriate authorities. In most cases, this process can take several weeks or even months, depending on the circumstances. Once approved, the transfer process can begin. 

What Makes Transfers Difficult 

Understandably, someone incarcerated would want to transfer to a different facility. However, there are some reasons authorities may reject such a request. 

Disciplinary Issues 

The first reason is that the inmate has too many disciplinary violations. If an inmate has committed serious offenses, such as violence or using drugs, the facility may not be willing to take them. Additionally, if an inmate has a record of repeated disciplinary violations or is known for causing disturbances in the current facility, they might not be allowed to transfer. 

Inadequate Space 

Suppose the receiving facility needs more space, especially during peak times when facilities become overcrowded; it may deny such a request. In addition, a facility may lack space for a prisoner who requires specialized care. 

Breakout Risk 

If an inmate has a history of escaping from custody, their transfer request will likely be denied. Such inmates may be too high-risk to move safely to another facility. 

Legal Process 

An inmate being tried or sentenced may not be granted a transfer request either. They must remain in their current facility until the legal process is complete. 

Family Ties 

If an inmate’s family or friends visit them frequently and it becomes more difficult for them to do so if relocated, prison authorities will deny their transfer request. 

Specialized Programs 

Authorities may not accept Inmates in a specialty program such as substance abuse treatment or mental health counseling. They may also deny their request because these specialized programs are unavailable at all facilities. 

Pending Criminal Cases  

If the inmate has pending criminal charges or open court cases in another state, they may not be allowed to transfer to another facility. 

What to Expect During the Transfer 

Transferring to a different facility can have a lot of unknowns. Knowing what to expect during the transfer is essential to better prepare for the experience. 

  • Your transfer process can take several days or weeks, so preparing for the journey is essential. You may be placed in temporary holding before arriving at your new facility, so you should plan accordingly and bring any necessary items that you may need during this time. 
  • Expect your belongings to be carefully checked before leaving the facility for the safety of all involved, so be sure to cooperate with the search staff. 
  • Phone credit will automatically accompany you. However, you may need to re-enter the numbers into the system. Similarly, your money will immediately follow you, as will any posts or e-mails in the system. Any unfulfilled canteen orders will not follow you to the new jail. 
  • During the transition process, your items and an approved telephone list are collected and sent to the new prison. 
  • It’s also important to know that you will likely receive a new ID number and clothing when you arrive at your destination facility. You may also be given a medical exam before being accepted into the new facility. 
  • You are subject to standard searches and questioning at your new jail. The facility will check in your belongings in the new prison, and you will not be permitted to keep anything. 
  • Lastly, expect lengthy paperwork and interviews to help establish yourself in the new facility. It can take some time to get used to the new environment and culture, 
  •  Remember you are responsible for informing your family of your new whereabouts. 


What if the Request Does Not Go Through? 

If the transfer request does not go through, you can file an appeal through the requests/complaints system. You will likely get a response from Prison Service Headquarters within six weeks. If they are still dissatisfied with the reasons offered, they can write to the Prisons Ombudsman in confidence, but they must do so within one month of receiving the response from the Prison Service Headquarters. 

Can an Inmate Refuse to be Transferred? 

An inmate can generally refuse a transfer from one facility to another. However, if a court or other authority orders the transfer, that refusal can result in disciplinary action or even legal consequences. The exact rules and regulations will vary between correctional facilities. In some cases, refusing a transfer can be beneficial. However, it’s important to note that such decisions can still lead to disciplinary action, so it’s always best to evaluate the situation carefully before refusing a transfer. 

How to Submit a Hardship Transfer Request? 

You must submit a hardship transfer request in writing. It must contain specific reasons for your difficulty and supporting documents such as letters from your physician or other health care professionals. Write your notes to the Institution’s Classification and Parole Representative and forward them to the Case Records Office, requesting that this material be included in the inmate’s Central File for consideration at their next classification hearing. 

What Can the Family Do to Aid the Process? 

To aid the process, families can write to the governor explaining why it is difficult to maintain communication. However, this can only be done after the prisoner has applied for a transfer. Supporting letters from a doctor, social worker, or other expert are also acceptable. 

Can a Prisoner be Transferred Without the Knowledge of Their Family? 

Yes. A prisoner can be transferred without the knowledge of their family. In most jurisdictions, it is the inmate’s responsibility to inform their family of their new whereabouts. A prisoner in transit is entitled to one free special letter to a visitor. They may be permitted to send more than one letter and make an additional phone call at the governor’s discretion. Prisoners leave contact information for persons who need to know about the prison, and the institution will notify them.