The International Prisoner Transfer Program began in 1977 after Congress passed enabling legislation (18 U.S.C. §§4100-4115) and the Federal Government negotiated the first in a series of treaties to permit the transfer of prisoners from countries in which they had been convicted and sentenced of crimes to their home countries. After transfer, the home or receiving country assumes responsibility for administering the transferred sentence. In addition to foreign national prisoners in federal custody and Americans sentenced abroad, foreign national prisoners in state custody are also eligible to participate in the program. Congress conferred the power to administer the transfer program on the U.S. Attorney General. The Attorney General has delegated this authority to the Criminal Division and to its Office of International Affairs (OIA). Within OIA, the International Prisoner Transfer Unit (IPTU) oversees the daily administration of the program.
Although either the prisoner or the prisoner’s country can initiate the transfer process, most applications begin with the prisoner. A federal prisoner who wishes to apply for transfer to a prison in his home country should contact his case manager at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility where he has been designated to serve his sentence and request to execute a BOP Form 297. If the prisoner expresses an interest to transfer on this form, the case manager will prepare a transfer application package. Thereafter, BOP will send the transfer application package to the IPTU where it will be processed and a decision to approve or deny the transfer will be made. (See Guidelines for Evaluating Transfer Requests.) The DOJ will notify the prisoner and the prisoner’s home country of its transfer decision. If the transfer is denied, the prisoner may reapply in two years from the date of denial or seek reconsideration in the interim if significant evidence is provided demonstrating that the identified impediment to transfer has been removed. If DOJ approves the transfer, the prisoner’s home country must also review the prisoner’s transfer request and make a decision whether to approve the transfer. Once both countries approve, the inmate must formally consent to the transfer at a consent verification hearing. (See Post Approval Procedures.)
A foreign national prisoner who is in state custody must follow the transfer application procedure required by the state which sentenced him. In order for a state prisoner to obtain a transfer to his home country, his application must be approved at both the state and federal levels. If the state denies the transfer request, it cannot be reviewed by DOJ. When the state approves the transfer, the application is then forwarded to DOJ for consideration. If DOJ approves the transfer, it will send an approval package to the foreign government. Should the foreign government approve the transfer, a consent verification hearing will be held as with all federal prisoners.
Americans incarcerated abroad wishing to transfer to a prison in the United States must apply for transfer with the government of the country in which they are incarcerated, either directly or through the American Embassy in that country. They must also submit an application to the Department of Justice. A consular official will assist in assembling the application package. Information about the application process for Americans seeking a transfer to the United States can be found at the Americans Incarcerated Abroad (PDF).