"Things we take into consideration include the seriousness of the crime, the expected length of incarceration and any history of violence and escapes," said Ponce. "We do take the judicial recommendation into consideration but it's not binding."
Ponce said that the department tries to place inmates in facilities close to their homes – within 500 miles – as long as those prisons provide adequate security.
Madoff's life sentence automatically qualifies him for a maximum security prison, according to Bales, but because he is not considered to be dangerous and was not involved in a violent crime, it's more likely that the BOP will consider placing him elsewhere.
To do so, the BOP would have to place a "management variable" on Madoff, which would in essence say that it would be safer for Madoff and the other prisoners to place him elsewhere. Sometimes management variables are issues when an incoming inmate has a past with a current inmate.
According to Bales, this could mean that Madoff will be sent either to a supermax prison – most likely ADX Florence in Colorado – or to a medium-security level prison.
But Bales said he expects Madoff to be taken to the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in Allenwood, Pa.
"I think the bureau of prisons wants to show, just as the court has, that Madoff is not above the law and they're going to make an example of him [and place him in a high security facility]," said Bales.
Bales said the Allenwood prison is likely because they have high-security, medium-security and low-security facilities on the premise that Madoff could be switched easily between them.
Another federal prison in the area is in Otisville, N.Y., – approximately 70 miles outside of New York City – but because the facility is only medium security Bales suspects it's unlikely Madoff will be sent there. The prison is known for being home to many orthodox Jewish criminals and has a kosher menu.
No matter where Madoff ends up, the length of his sentence ensures that it won't be in a so-called "club fed," and will have the former investment guru rubbing elbows with rapists, child molesters and murderers, said Webster.
"Penitentaries are dangerous, scary places."