Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Bureau of Prisons


(Record Group 129)
1870-1981

Overview of Records Locations

Table of Contents

  • 129.1 Administrative History
  • 129.2 General Records of The Bureau of Prisons and its Predecessors 1870-1978
  • 129.3 Records of the Superintendent of Prisons and President, Boards of Parole 1907-31
  • 129.4 Records of Federal Prison Industries, Inc. 1930-43
  • 129.5 Records of the U.S. Penitentiary, Alcatraz Island, CA 1938-63
  • 129.6 Records of the U.S. Penitentiary, Atlanta, GA 1902-21
  • 129.7 Records of the U.S. Penitentiary, Leavenworth, KS 1895-1920
  • 129.8 Records of the U.S. Penitentiary, McNeill Island, WA 1881-1981
  • 129.9 Cartographic Records (General)
  • 129.10 Motion Pictures (General) 1935
  • 129.11 Sound Recordings (General) 1939
  • 129.12 Still Pictures (General)

129.1 Administrative History

Established: In the Department of Justice, by an act of May 14, 1930 (46 Stat. 325).

Predecessor Agencies:

  • Department of the Interior (1849-70)
  • Department of Justice (1870-ca. 1877)
  • General Agent, Department of Justice (ca. 1877-1907)
  • Superintendent of Prisons and Prisoners, Department of Justice (1907-10)
  • Superintendent of Prisons, Department of Justice (1910- 30)

Functions: Administers federal penal and correctional institutions and exercises responsibility for federal prisoners in nonfederal institutions.

Finding Aids: Marion M. Johnson and Elaine C. Everly, comps., "Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Bureau of Prisons," NC 43 (Jan. 1964); supplement in National Archives microfiche edition of preliminary inventories.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Bureau of Prisons in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

Top of Page

129.2 General Records of The Bureau of Prisons and its
Predecessors
1870-1978

History: Responsibility for supervision of U.S. marshals and federal prisoners transferred from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Justice by acts of June 22, 1870 (16 Stat. 164), and March 5, 1872 (17 Stat. 35). Functions decentralized until position of General Agent created about 1877 to supervise federal prisons and prisoners. Replaced by the office of Superintendent of Prisons and Prisoners, established in the Department of Justice by order of the Attorney General on October 1, 1907, and known as the office of Superintendent of Prisons by 1910. Superseded by the Bureau of Prisons, 1930. See 129.1.

Top of Page

129.2.1 Administrative records

Textual Records: Correspondence and other records relating to general administration of the bureau and to the administration, construction, furnishing, and supplying of federal penal and correctional institutions, 1930-67. Microfilm copy of index to released inmates, 1911-74 (164 rolls). Issuances, 1908-65. Manuals of policies and procedures, 1951-65. Operations memorandums, 1966-78. Annual reports, 1928-60. Correspondence on libraries in federal prisons, 1929-36. A sample of inspection reports on nonfederal jails holding federal prisoners in IN, MA, OR, and SC, 1931-46. Records relating to surveys of state penal systems, 1946-62.

Top of Page

129.2.2 Historical records

Textual Records: Reports and memorabilia relating to bureau-wide operations, 1917-71, and to individual bureau institutions, 1870- 1970, consisting of booklets, reports, congressional prints, photographs and photographic scrapbooks, and correspondence; and including a history of bureau activities in World War II, institutional histories, copies of Community Exchange and other bureau publications, and photographs of prisoner activities and welfare. Case files of notorious offenders, 1919-75.

Maps (77 items): Maps, with interfiled floor plans and drawings, of federal penal institutions, ca. 1938-ca. 1946, including copies of maps and plans of Alcatraz, CA, prior to the construction of the penitentiary (1847-1910).

Photographs : Penal institutions and prison activities, 1900-70 (G, 10,000 images). Bureau of Prisons and Justice Department personnel, 1938-70 (P, 1,000 images). See Also 129.10.

Finding Aids: List of prisons and subjects, photographic series G. Name index, photographic series P.

Subject Access Terms: Clark, Ramsey (series P photographs); Katzenbach, Nicholas deB. (series P photographs); Kennedy, Robert F. (series P photographs); Kleindienst, Richard G. (series P photographs); Mitchell, John N. (series P photographs).

Top of Page

129.3 Records of the Superintendent of Prisons and President,
Boards of Parole 1907-31

History: By the Parole Act, June 25, 1910 (36 Stat. 819), Boards of Parole were established in each federal prison, with the Superintendent of Prisons (designated as President, Boards of Parole) serving as a member of each parole board. This system was superseded by a unitary Board of Parole, appointed by the Attorney General, under provisions of amendments to the Parole Act, May 12, 1930 (46 Stat. 272).

Textual Records: Correspondence and related records of the Superintendent of Prisons, 1907-12. Correspondence relating to parole matters, 1910-28. Minutes of parole boards, 1910-27. Parole board docket books, 1910-28. Monthly reports of marshals, 1921. Records concerning U.S. Penitentiary, Leavenworth, KS; National Training School for Boys, Washington, DC; and conditional commutations of sentences, 1907-31.

Top of Page

129.4 Records of Federal Prison Industries, Inc.
1930-43

History: Established as an independent corporation by EO 6917, December 11, 1934, to provide employment and to control industrial operations in federal penal and correctional institutions, functions previously vested in the Industrial Division of the Bureau of Prisons. Transferred to the Department of Justice by Reorganization Plan No. II of 1939, effective July 1, 1939.

Textual Records: Headquarters administrative files, 1930-37. General subject files, 1937-39. Correspondence, 1935-43, relating chiefly to the establishment and operation of manufacturing plants for prison industries, procurement of raw materials, sale of products, and exchange of prison-made products with government agencies.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of Federal Prison Industries, Inc., in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

Top of Page

129.5 Records of the U.S. Penitentiary, Alcatraz Island, CA
1938-63

Textual Records (in San Francisco): Correspondence relating to buildings and grounds, 1938-63.

Top of Page

129.6 Records of the U.S. Penitentiary, Atlanta, GA
1902-21

Textual Records (in Atlanta): Inmate case files, 1902-21.

Top of Page

129.7 Records of the U.S. Penitentiary, Leavenworth, KS
1895-1920

Textual Records (in Kansas City): Inmate case files, 1895-1920.

Top of Page

129.8 Records of the U.S. Penitentiary, McNeill Island, WA
1881-1981

Textual Records (in Seattle): Prisoner commitment logs, 1881- 1951. Daily reports and journals, 1884-1932. Annual reports, 1911-26. Expense records, 1884-1906. Parole board minutes, 1911- 28. Visitor register, 1934-38. Record set of Island Lantern, an inmate publication, 1928-80; and Soundings, a staff publication, 1955-69. Institutional master plan, 1974.

Photographs (in Seattle): Physical plant, including buildings, construction, docks, and aerial views of the island; and wardens, guards, staff, and visiting dignitaries, 1890-1981 (2,668 images). Physical plant, in albums, 1939 (650 images). See Also 129.12.

Top of Page

129.9 Cartographic Records (General)

See Maps Under 129.2.2.

Top of Page

129.10 Motion Pictures (General)
1935
1 reel

Protecting the People, 1935.

Top of Page

129.11 Sound Recordings (General)
1939
2 items

Radio programs sponsored by the National Parole Conference, April 17-18, 1939.

Top of Page

129.12 Still Pictures (General)

See Photographs Under 129.2.2 and 129.8.


Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

Ordering information

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


Top of Page

Guide to Federal Records >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

.