Marion United States Penitentiary


London Correctional Institution Ohio

Marion United States Penitentiary

Opened in 1963, Marion United States Penitentiary was originally a prison built to hold 500 of the most dangerous prisoners.  Most of these prisoners were transfers from Alcatraz, which closed the same year as the opening of USP Marion.  Marion United States Penitentiary is now a medium security prison that has a minimum security prison camp as well.  The facility is located in Marion of Williamson County, Illinois.  The prison is encompassed by a double fence to ensure security.  The USP itself has 10 housing units for the general inmate population.  Each of these units consists of 136 three-person cells, 116 double-person cells, and  418 one-person cells.  The two-man and three-man cells are 81 square feet big each, while the single-man cells have 56 square feet of living space.  The USP also has USP also has a disciplinary unit with 67 single cells.  At the camp, there is one dormitory for housing.  The dormitory is composed of cubicles designed for 3-4 inmates each.  With 1,125 inmates incarcerated at the penitentiary and 214 incarcerated at the camp, USP Marion holds only male offenders and currently has an inmate population of 1,339. Marion United States Penitentiary offers a variety of programs and classes that encourages prisoners to work for self-improvement.  Prisoners are given the opportunity to self improve through work assignments, religious services, education, vocational training, and counseling programs.   

Due to the fact that when Marion United States Penitentiary was originally a prison for the most dangerous federal offenders, there have been many notable incidents at the facility.  On October 10th of 1975, the first escape from the prison took place.  During this escape, 5 inmates worked together to program an electronic device that opened the prison gates.  In addition, one of these five inmates worked as an electrician at the facility who was assigned to work on the locking system of all the main doors.  The electrician was also able to turn a radio into a remote control that later opened all the doors.  Eventually all the escapees were recaptured.  In the year 1978, inmate Garrett Brock Trapnell was involved in two escape attempts.  On May 24th, 1978, Trapnell's friend, Barbara Ann Oswald, hijacked a St. Louis helicopter and demanded the pilot to fly to USP Marion.  The pilot, Allen Barklage, was able to prevent the escape by shooting Oswald as the plane was landing in the prison yard.  Later that year on December 21, Oswald's teenage daughter hijacked TWA Flight 541.  Oswald's daughter, Robin Oswald, ordered the pilot to fly to Williamson County Regional Airport, since the airport was only several miles away from USP Marion.  The pilot ultimately complied due to the fact that Oswald threatened to detonate dynamite on the plane if the pilot disagreed.  When the plane landed at the airport, hundreds of officers were at the scene.  Oswald then surrendered herself to the FBI, where the dynamite was later discovered to be fake.  

Besides from several escape attempts, there have much worse incidents at the prison in the past.  On October 22nd of 1983, correctional officers Robert Hoffmann and Merle Clutts were murdered.  The two were killed in separate accidents, however the accidents happened only hours after one another.  Both homicides were performed by members of the Aryan Brotherhood, which was a white supremacist prison gang.  On this day, Clutts was stabbed to his death by inmate Thomas Silverstein.  Hours later Hoffmann was stabbed to his death by Clayton Fountain.  Hoffman was stabbed after pulling Fountain off another officer who was being assaulted.  Because of the stabbings, USP Marion went under permanent lockdown for the next 23 years.  During these 23 years, all prisoners were locked in their cells for almost the entire day. 


Visiting Hours at Marion United States Penitentiary:

  • Visits to Marion United States Penitentiary will be conducted on Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays from 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.  This goes for both the penitentiary and the camp.
  • Each inmate can have up to 4 adults and 5 children visiting at once. 
  • Prisoners are granted 12 visiting points per month.  Each visit will deduct 2 points from the inmate's total points.
  • Any visitor who is 15 years of age and younger must be accompanied by an adult in order to visit.  Any visitor who is 16 years of age and older must have valid photo identification in order to visit.
  • The following items are authorized and may be brought into the facility by visitors:
    • 1 clear bag no larger than 8" x 10" for the purpose of holding change
    • Up to $35.00 in change or one-dollar bills
    • 3 pre-flled baby bottles
    • 5 diapers
    • Baby wipes, must be in a clear container
    • 1 baby blanket
    • 2 baby food container with 1 spoon
  • Vending machines are available for the visitors, but inmates will not be permitted near this area.
  • Kissing and embracing will be allowed at the beginning and end of each visit.  Hand holding is the only physical contact that will be allowed for the duration of the visit, however these forms of physical contact should not be excessive.

Physical Address:

Marion United States Penitentiary
4500 Prison Road
Marion, Illinois 62959



Inmate Mailing Address:

For the USP:

Inmate Name, ID Number
Marion United States Penitentiary
P.O. Box 1000
Marion, Illinois 62959

For the Camp:

Inmate Name, ID Number
Marion United States Penitentiary Satellite Camp
P.O. Box 1000
Marion, Illinois 62959