“Diesel therapy” is a term used within the United States penal system, particularly among inmates, to describe the frequent, often unnecessary, transfer of a prisoner from one facility to another. During these transfers, inmates are typically transported in uncomfortable conditions, sometimes for extended periods, and the experience can be quite stressful and disorienting.

This term is not official and is considered slang, so it won’t be found on official
documents from the court, but knowing how to navigate the unofficial parts of
the federal prison system is why having an experienced Federal Prison Consultant is so valuable.

“Diesel Therapy” often involves shackled inmates spending hours or even days in buses or vans, with limited breaks for food, water, or to use the restroom.

The experience can be physically and mentally exhausting due to uncertainty over the destination, an inability to communicate with loved ones during the trip, and the disruptions it causes to an inmate’s routine, ability to participate in prison programs, and maintain contact with legal counsel.

So why does “Diesel Therapy” happen?

Some current and former inmates claim that “Diesel Therapy” is a form of
punishment, or to disorient problematic inmates, while others say it is used to
disrupt an inmate’s ability to coordinate their legal defense, as it severely limits
the ability to communicate with their lawyer.

Those are not the officially stated uses of “Diesel Therapy” although the
prominence of these rumors indicates just how distressing the practice is.
Officially, transfers are conducted for various reasons, such as security concerns, court appearances, medical needs, population management, or moving an inmate to a facility that is more appropriate for their security or program needs.

However, the transfer process has come under fire when inmates are transported excessively, and without a seeming necessary reason, even being challenged in courts multiple times as an illegal form of punishment.

Avoiding “Diesel Therapy” should be a priority for inmates or those who may be
sentenced soon, although as it is an unofficial term, many do not know how to
minimize the chances of being subjected to it, which is where a Federal Prison
Consultant comes in.

A Federal Prison Consultant with personal experience in dealing with the BOP can be an incredibly valuable resource, as many ins and outs of the prison system are unofficial and therefore are relatively unknown.

If you or a loved one are an inmate, or may be soon, and want to learn how to
avoid “Diesel Therapy” do not hesitate to get in touch for a free consultation and learn what to do, or not do, to minimize the chance of ever having to experience the practice.


Sam Mangel
Member: American Bar Association