Controlled vs Uncontrolled Moves in Federal Prison
In federal prison, the level of freedom of movement that inmates enjoy depends on the security level of the prison. Minimum Security Federal Prison Camps allow inmates to move about at will apart from sleep time when inmates are required to be in their beds (bathroom visits are permitted.)
Inmates in all other security-level prisons are permitted to move from one area to another at certain times only. At many institutions, the fifteen-minute move rule is in effect, meaning that fifteen minutes of inmate moves are permitted once every hour. At the top of every hour, beginning at breakfast and ending after the last pill line at night, an announcement is made over the prison intercoms: “Fifteen-minute move! Fifteen-minute move!” At this point, a rush of hundreds of inmates floods the compound, traveling to and from the rec yard, library, hospital, commissary, chapel, and their work assignments. After fifteen minutes, the announcement comes again, “End of move! End of move!” and the compound goes quiet as the COs lock the doors and gates across the prison.
Inmates who find themselves on the compound when the move is called are considered out of bounds and must get to their destinations immediately. Inmates can be disciplined for being out of bounds in this way, but if it is not a flagrant violation and they haven’t caused problems in the past, depending on the prison they will probably just be told to hurry up.
Often, fifteen minutes is simply not enough time to get from point A to point B and back to point A again. For example, when buying supplies, an inmate may have to make a 100-yard trek from their unit to the commissary where they submit their order, wait for it to be prepared, collect their things, and get out of the building and back to their unit. If there is a delay in any leg of this process, inmates will find themselves locked in the commissary waiting another hour for the next move.
At times, and without apparent reason or notice, the fifteen-minute moves are skipped. When this happens, inmates may end up waiting where they are for two or three hours at a time. If nothing else, the prison experience teaches one patience.