F.C.I. Terminal Island

So we’ve been here nearly a year. T.I., in keeping with its reputation, is on the whole excellent, a really good place to do time by general consensus. The most notable reasons seem to boil down to how relaxed and low-drama/low-politics it is, plus the compound aesthetics: plenty of grass, palm trees and flowers, plus a sweeping view of the harbor from the South Yard (there are 2 yards, both smallish by prison standards: The North is more like a plaza in the center of the various departments and housing units, and the South has a track, softball field (doubling as a soccer or football field—told you it was small!) and basketball court (also has a weight pile)). But yeah, so one has a pretty impressive view of these towering cargo ships, loading cranes, and all kinds of boats pass right by. It’s crazy: huge cargo ships, private sailors, local tour boats, even big luxury liners. Pretty cool.

The walk from the North complex to the South Yard is about 5 minutes and passes through the Unicor complex (they mainly manufacture lockers). Again, virtually all the departments are North side. Unicor is in between, while South includes only rec, education, and the Unicor housing units. They’re newer and nicer, with doors on the rooms, cabinets instead of lockers, but the bathroom/kitchen space is communal.

As for all the other housing units North side, most are dorm-style living. One unit is all cells, one (J, the largest) is mixed cells and dorm living, but the rest, about 5 others, are all super-crowded, open-bay dorms. This may be the biggest T.I. drawback. And even the cells are tiny, like tinier than the norm – 6’ x 9’?? But you’re never locked down (the TV room is not locked at night, so it’s still possible to watch late-night TV any hour; technically the TVs are supposed to be off by midnight, but that’s not enforced too often.).

There are 10-minute moves, medium-custody style. Two metal detectors: one North, one South (in between is just that long stroll from one side to the other). There are laundry facilities both North and South in addition to the institutional laundry.

Another rare drawback: There is virtually no music program here, and the head of rec has been bafflingly resistant to the whole idea, apparently for a few years. There used to be a band program here, but it was scrapped. You can still play drums or piano or acoustic guitar or bass, but rec currently provides no means of plugging in—unlike most compounds apparently—and continues to battle inmates who press for it (the warden, Washington-Adduci—by all accounts a big improvement over the last guy—acts sympathetic, but still nothing seems to get done re music). The chapel has plenty of band equipment, but it’s only for Christians or the RDAP program. How about that?!?!

Oddly enough, with this being a low, it’s not as petty as you’d expect: staff on all levels tend to be pretty good, not a lot of searching or harassment. On the other hand, they tend to be fairly good about actually doing their jobs. Bad apples exist as ever, but on balance, staff are friendly and treat inmates like humans.

Food is good. There are decent breakfasts here (pancakes, French toast, biscuits-n-gravy). Food prep in general seems to involve more care. And there have been some impressive holiday meals, including filet mignon (for real!), coconut shrimp, fresh sautéed mushrooms, and Oreo cheesecake (this was last New Years). You can usually get seconds with no problem.

Programs in general are also better: lots of outside chapel visitors, including a popular interfaith group ‘Agape’. The inter-library lean seems to be down, but education otherwise seems happening, lots of classes, lots of people doing various distance-learning programs. Certificate programs include H-VAC, welding, and home safety inspection. Rec programs are more limited, mainly just ceramics and crochet (why no music?!?!?). You can check out acoustic guitars and the usual games, but whatever…

The have email here. That’s a bonus…

I’ve already mentioned the “relaxed” culture—there’s even less “politics” here, virtually no gang activity; sex offenders and snitches walking around unbothered. There is also a medical center with lots of chronic cases here, which probably contributes to the general laxity. It also means the drug of choice here tends to be pills (way more of those, way less of alcohol).

The commissary is unimpressive by all accounts, smallish, no produce. But at least you don’t get locked in a room when you shop (benches out on the North Yard—nice!).

Racial breakdown: about 50& Hispanic (mostly South-Siders and Paisas, although Nortenos can walk), 20% white, 25% African-American, 5% other.

RDAP is here. There’s also an “outside crew” for people with “camp” points.

(For the official BOP version, click here)



  1. Panfila Pierce says:

    “sex offenders and snitches walking around unbothered.” THIS IS A HUGE LIE!!!

    • admin says:

      Of Course everything is relative and that’s especially true in the BOP, as I’m sure you know (or so it sounds like). In our experience, and from everything we’ve gathered from multiple sources that have been in, or still are in, FCI Terminal Island, it’s not a bad place to do time with offenses that otherwise are problematic in the institutional setting. That said, we understand it’s never an easy thing to endure and hope we didn’t mislead. Please remember that all of our institutional missives have been written (in EVERY case) by a current or former inmate at each facility. While we welcome ALL comments, without editing or redaction, we encourage you to elaborate on your personal (if that’s what it is) experience. The purpose of our site (and business, for that matter) is to help provide accurate information, and we ask that you (and anyone else that feels the urge) to help us provide just that. Feel free to disagree, but please provide some specific anecdotes, if you can! We thank you for your visit and hope you’ll keep coming back!

    • Johneverymann says:

      Panfila Pierce.. I learned something interesting the 36 months i did in Lompoc FPC. The most lonely guy in federal prison is the guy that didn’t talk to the feds. Federal prison is nothing like state prison. Over 60% of the inmates in federal prison snitched. I don`t condone it, But its the truth.

    • kyle culley says:

      I did 4 months in 2010. I did not see Any rapists etc. There was 1 guy considered a Chomo. nobody bugged him.

  2. Blaise says:

    I am in my late 60s and would like to know which minimum security I should request….Terminal Island or Lompoc.?

  3. Blaise says:

    I’m confused about the terms low security, minimum and camps

    Are they distinct categories or all the same?

    Also interested which categories apply to Terminal Island and Lompoc

    Thanks for any help.

    • admin says:

      “Camps” are minimum security in the Feds. Lows are a security level above minimums (or camps, if you will). The differences all relate to security level, as I’m sure you can surmise. Camps have no fences, lows have double cyclone fences (some of the older facilities have walls) with razor-wire between them and on top of them. They are VERY different facilities and your experience in the joint will vary quite a bit based upon your ultimate custody classification. FYI – there is no camp at Terminal Island. It’s a low. There IS a camp and a low at Lompoc, but no RDAP program in the low any longer.

      I would encourage you, based upon your questions and the fact that you’ll be self-surrendering soon, to call us to discuss how Allenatore, Esposito & Raffin might be of help in counseling you about what to expect of the experience. You can reach us by following the link under “CONTACt” above to the AER website.

      We wish you the best.

  4. Blaise says:

    thanks adm.

    ..It looks to me that Terminal Island is a Low security and not a camp. Is that case?

    • admin says:

      Terminal Island is a low. There is NO camp. There is, however, a pretty good work cadre there populated by otherwise “camp” eligible inmates. They work maintaining the landscaping around the perimeter of the facility and other similar jobs that “low” inmates can’t do due to their security level (low inmates must be behind fences).

  5. Keithsgirl says:

    Do they have weights at Terminal Island?

    • admin says:

      Yes, they do. Keep in mind, however, that weights are not replaced when they get old or unusable any longer in the BOP. What they have is all they’ll ever have and when they go, by way of disrepair, they’re gone forever. It’s our understanding that they’ve got a pretty good “pile” there relative to most institutions.

  6. Heather Hill says:

    I’ve seen that Terminal Island has a pretty good reputation for having a low drama and low violence community. These posts are from a couple years ago, is it still like this? Also, when an offender is sent there, do they stay there for there sentencing or could they be transferred at any point in time? Thank you.

    • admin says:


      Terminal Island remains one of the better FCI’s in the region. It is NOT, however, a Detention Center and, therefore, guys do not usually go there while they are awaiting sentencing. An inmate designated to serve their sentence there (once sentenced) is, however, always subject to a transfer to satisfy any number of institutional or organizational needs of the Bureau (this is true in ANY institution in the system, also).
      Thanks for your inquiry.

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