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Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary

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Title: Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: D. B. Cooper, John Gotti, Alger Hiss, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Bayard Rustin, Wilhelm Reich, Whitey Bulger, John Wojtowicz, Samuel Roth, William Remington
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Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary

United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg
Location Kelly Township, Union County,
near Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
Status Operational
Security class High-security (with minimum-security prison camp)
Population 1,400 (580 in prison camp)[1]
Opened 1932
Managed by Federal Bureau of Prisons
Warden Jeff Thomas

The United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg (USP Lewisburg) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in Pennsylvania. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. An adjacent satellite prison camp houses minimum-security male offenders.

USP Lewisburg is located in Kelly Township, Pennsylvania, near Lewisburg.[2][3][4] It is in the central Pennsylvania region, 170 miles (270 km) west of Philadelphia and 200 miles (320 km) north of Washington, DC.[5]


Initially named North Eastern Penitentiary, USP Lewisburg was one of four federal prisons to open in 1932.[6][7]

USP Lewisburg had a prison riot in November 1995. Although started by only 10 prisoners, more than 20 visited the hospital that November 1, with one prisoner recording multiple broken bones and missing teeth. Many were sentenced to the "hole" and over 400 were transferred.[8] This incident thrust the Penitentiary into the national spotlight, where it gained much of its current notoriety.

A local non-profit group, the Lewisburg Prison Project, assists prisoners here and in the surrounding area with issues of conditions of confinement.[9]

USP Lewisburg was the focus of a 1991 Academy Award-nominated documentary titled, Doing Time: Life Inside the Big House, by filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond. The one hour long film described conditions inside the prison and focused specifically on the abolition of parole within the federal system and the fears held by many prisoners about re-integrating into society upon their eventual release from prison.[10]

As of 2009, USP Lewisburg was designated as a Special Management Unit intended to house the most violent and disruptive inmates in the Bureau of Prisons. Although most USP Lewisburg inmates are housed in the SMU, there remains a work cadre of approximately 200 inmates in the USP's general population.

Funding Issues

In July 2008, correction officers at USP Lewisburg expressed concerns about underfunding. Over the past four years, union leaders and other officials had been lobbying in an attempt to quell staff reductions and cutting costs. The Federal Bureau of Prisons had proposed $143 million in possible spending cuts, including not replacing vehicles and equipment, eliminating overtime, reducing corrections officer training, and a possible cut in officer staff positions.[11] Under such conditions, many of the Correctional Officers expressed concerns about their own safety.

Recent events

In 2012, Jeff Thomas replaced Bryan E. Bledsoe as Warden of USP Lewisburg.[12] USP Lewisburg is currently facing a civil trial for allegedly keeping prisoners shackled for days at a time. [13]

Notable inmates (current and former)

  • †Inmates released prior to 1982 are not listed on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.
  • ††Inmates in the Federal Witness Protection Program are not listed on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Organized crime figures

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Whitey Bulger 02182-748 Held at USP Lewisburg from 1963 to 1965. Organized crime boss in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1970s and 1980s; FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive until his capture in 2011; known as "Whitey."[14][15]
John Gotti 18261-053 Held at USP Lewisburg from 1969 to 1972. Boss of the Gambino Crime Family in New York City from 1985 to 1992; convicted of murder, murder conspiracy, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery, and tax evasion in 1992.[16]
Paul Vario 16522-053 Held at USP Lewisburg from 1970 to 1975. Former underboss and consigliere of the Lucchese crime family in New York City; portrayed by Paul Sorvino in the 1990 film Goodfellas.[17]
Enoch L. Johnson Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from 1941 to 1945. New Jersey political boss and racketeer; served as an inspiration for the character Enoch Thompson, who is portrayed by Steve Buscemi in the HBO television series Boardwalk Empire.
Henry Hill Unlisted†† Held at USP Lewisburg from 1972 to 1978. Former associate of the Lucchese crime family in New York City; portrayed by Ray Liotta in the 1990 film Goodfellas.
Thomas DeSimone Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from Associate of the Lucchese crime family in New York.[18]
Jimmy Hoffa Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from 1967 to 1971. American labor union leader who disappeared in 1975. Sentence was commuted in 1971.
Melvin Williams 47842-066 Spent a portion of his sentence at USP Lewisburg; released in 1996. Former organized crime figure in Baltimore, Maryland; convicted of heroin trafficking in 1985; served as an inspiration for the character Avon Barksdale in the HBO series The Wire.[19]


Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Edwin Cortes

Ricardo Jimenez



Held at USP Lewisburg from 1981 until 1999; their sentences were commuted by President Bill Clinton. Puerto Rican nationalists; convicted in 1981 of seditious conspiracy and other charges for their roles in numerous bombings aimed at achieving independence for Puerto Rico.[20]
Joe Doherty 07792-054 Held at USP Lewisburg from 1991 until his deportation to Northern Ireland in 1992. Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) escapee who fought an ultimately unsuccessful nine-year legal battle against extradition and deportation.

Political prisoners

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Herbert John Burgman Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from 1949 to 1952. Convicted of treason in 1949 for making numerous propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis.
Alger Hiss Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from 1950 to 1954. American lawyer, government official, author, and lecturer; convicted of being a Soviet spy and perjury in 1950.[21]
Bayard Rustin Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from 1944 to 1946. Civil rights activist.[22]
John Williamson Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from 1950 to 1955. Member of the CPUSA Central Committee.


Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Robert Hansen 80462-011 Held at USP Lewisburg from 1983 until his transfer to state prison in Alaska in 1988. American serial killer; convicted in 1983 of murdering four women near Anchorage, Alaska; suspected of 15 other murders.
Steve Reid Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from 1969 to 1971. American jazz drummer and conscientious objector to the Vietnam War; convicted of draft evasion in 1969.
Robert Lee Johnson

Robert Thompson



Incarcerated at USP Lewisburg in 1965; Johnson was murdered at USP Lewisburg in 1972; Thompson was released in 1978. Johnson was a US Army sergeant and Thompson a US Air Force clerk; convicted of espionage in 1965 for passing classified army documents to the Soviet intelligence agency known as the KGB.
John Wojtowicz 76456-158 Held at USP Lewisburg from 1973 to 1979. Bank robber portrayed by Al Pacino in the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon.
Carl Upchurch 28862-117 Released from custody in 1982. American activist, author and educator; portrayed by Omar Epps in the 2002 film Conviction.
Wilhelm Reich Unlisted† Held at USP Lewisburg from March 1956 until his death in November 1956. Austrian psychoanalyst; convicted of contempt of court in 1956 for violating Food and Drug Administration regulations.
Samuel Roth

Ralph Ginzburg



Released. American authors convicted of obscenity; their cases were the subjects of landmark Supreme Court rulings on freedom of sexual expression.

See also

Government of the United States portal
Pennsylvania portal
Criminal justice portal


Coordinates: 40°59′17″N 76°54′54″W / 40.9880°N 76.9149°W / 40.9880; -76.9149

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