Sam Bankman-Fried shouldn’t expect to get Adderall or good vegetarian cooking where he’s headed, according to a federal prison system expert. He’ll be lucky if he’s able to avoid gang violence, as he’s most likely headed to a medium-security prison.

On Thursday, a Manhattan judge sentenced the disgraced FTX founder to 25 years in federal prison—a length of time that has key implications for what prison he will now be sent to. 

According to Christopher Zoukis, a federal prison consultant, precedent suggests that convicts like Bankman-Fried who receive sentences of 25 years or longer are likely to be sent to  medium-security prisons. 

Such a prison assignment would likely be an unfortunate development for the one-time billionaire. American federal prisons run the gamut in terms of quality of living, and medium-security prisons offer lower quality of life—and higher risks of violence—than lower security alternatives.


Federal prisons are organized by security level, from minimum to high. Minimum-security prisons house mostly non-violent offenders in dorm-style housing. At low-security prisons, staffing is higher, but violence is also low, and inmates also live together in dorms. Things start to look different at medium-security prisons, where inmates with longer prison sentences or more severe records are kept in heavily guarded cells. 

“When you get to the medium-security level, you have a huge swing,” Zoukis said. “You have extremely violent mediums—and then you have very soft mediums.”

So what sort of medium-security prison might Bankman-Fried be sent to? 

Geography is key. Even though the crypto founder was tried in New York, he’s not from there; Zoukis believes that because the entrepreneur was previously living under house arrest at his family's home in Palo Alto, odds are he’ll be sent to a prison closer to his family on the West Coast. 


That’s also not great news for Bankman-Fried.

“Your West Coast mediums tend to be a lot harder,” Zoukis told Decrypt. “There’s a lot more gang involvement, and a lot more prison politics, than at East Coast or mid-Atlantic mediums.”

One California medium-security federal prison—FCI Victorville Medium—has such an extensive record of inmate violence that it is colloquially referred to as “Victimville.” While FCI Victorville technically fits the criteria for the type of prison at which Bankman-Fried may end up, though, Zoukis doubts the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would want to risk the negative publicity that would likely come if the former Silicon Valley darling was assaulted or murdered in custody.

“That place is just brutal,” he said. “I don't think the BOP wants a very visible assault or death on their hands.”

“Softer” medium prisons in California aren’t much more attractive options, though. One such prison—FCI Herlong, which is north of Lake Tahoe—used to be considered a relatively livable medium-security prison. It recently lost that reputation. 

“For a long time, it was thought of as a better medium—but more recently, in the last two or three months, they've had a significant shift there and people like sex offenders, LGBT inmates, and informants—they really can't stay in general population anymore,” Zoukis said in November of FCI Herlong. “It's just become too dangerous now.”

Zoukis believes Bankman-Fried is, due to a lack of ideal options, most likely to be sent either to FCI Herlong, to USP Lompoc north of Santa Barbara, or to FCI Mendota outside of Fresno. And while the convicted crypto executive or his attorneys could potentially lobby the Bureau of Prisons for a better prison assignment, those requests are rarely successful. 

In the next two or three weeks, Zoukis told Decrypt this week, the DSCC—a department within the Bureau of Prisons that determines initial prisoner designations—will decide where to send Bankman-Fried based on the facts of his case and the 25-year sentence he received today. 


Once that decision is made, Zoukis said, it will be difficult to change or protest. 

“It's hard to influence the DSCC,” Zoukis said. “The times that we're able to really effectively influence them is when you have serious mental health or physical health problems.”

Zoukis doubts that Bankman-Fried’s well-documented legal requests for Adderall and vegan food will meet that bar. He also, tangentially, thinks the fallen crypto mogul may have to say goodbye to those creature comforts for the indefinite future. 

“I would be astounded if they gave Adderall,” he said. “And they will have a vegetarian option for every meal. It won't be delightful.”

Whatever prison Bankman-Fried ends up at, he will have to get used to for quite some time: It's looking like he’ll be there for at least the next 19 years, even if his sentence gets all potentially eligible reductions.

Edited by Ryan Ozawa and Andrew Hayward

Editor's note: This story was originally published on November 2, 2023. Last updated with new information on March 28, 2024.

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