A reduction in the number of federal minimum-security prison camps, some of which had been ridiculed as “Club Fed” facilities, has meant nonviolent offenders are shoulder-to-shoulder with more dangerous ones, says the Houston Chronicle. “A number of the inmates express a great deal of pride concerning their gang affiliations,” Lawrence Jay Levine, serving a 10-year sentence for selling methamphetamine, wrote in a lawsuit. Levine helped write the lawsuit on behalf of himself and dozens of other inmates transferred to the low-security La Tuna facility near El Paso, Tx., recently from the minimum-security Nellis Federal Prison Camp near Las Vegas, which is closing next month as a cost-cutting measure.
The rise in classification from a minimum- to low-security prison has meant a culture shock for many Nellis transfers. Inmates say once-sporadic searches are now regular, the inmate population is tougher, and movement is closely regulated and monitored, even trips to the bathroom. Levine and other ex-Nellis residents are suing the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, demanding they be returned to minimum security and moved farther west than El Paso, which for many of them is well beyond the 500-mile maximum distance from home the prison system seeks to maintain. The government appears to have neither the room nor the inclination to help. Says Ed Bales of Federal Prison Consultants Inc.: “Based on security policies, (the prison system) can move them, without cause, to one level higher or lower.”