Inmate Transportation: Safety Is the Priority
Jackson, Carlos, Rion, Sharon Johnson, Corrections Today
Sheriffs, jail administrators, police chiefs, public safety directors and wardens share a common challenge -- the safe, secure and humane transfer of hundreds of thousands of inmates per year. Although inmate transportation has been a part of corrections and law enforcement since the inception of America's criminal justice system, the demand to move so many, so often and so far, has increased in the last 10 to 15 years, thus, further challenging existing resources to meet the need, often instead of, or in competition with, other equally essential operations.
Prior to 1990, few state departments of correction had centralized transportation units. Similarly, county sheriffs, local law enforcement and detention personnel did not incorporate specialized transportation units or transportation overtime as major budget items. However, units and overtime now are in the budget, and the U.S. Marshals Service has established its own air service to accommodate the increased demand.
While there is not an easy solution for balancing agency goals and objectives with diminishing resources, there are some fundamentals to be considered in establishing an inmate transportation operation, program or unit. Whether one is moving a detainee from the local jail across town for a court appearance, transferring an inmate from one prison to another, or extraditing a fugitive cross-country, the basic principles of good security and inmate management apply.
Policies and Procedures
It is hard to imagine any agency establishing and maintaining fundamental security and offender management without first developing a game plan. Policy and procedures must be developed with and coordinated among all principals and agencies involved. Think of the challenges federal, state and local officials face when transporting high-profile in-mates. Also consider the routine movement of large numbers of inmates across jurisdictional lines by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service and private inmate transportation companies. Such work is not accomplished by happenstance.
However simple a move may appear, each requires planning. An established game plan, known to and complied by all concerned, will ensure an assessment of a potential escape or disruptive behavior, reduce possible miscommunication between staff and should circumvent inefficient time in court, missed medical appointments and overtime.
There are innumerable factors to be considered when moving inmates outside correctional facilities. While the scope and complexity of some factors of transport are relative to the number of agencies involved, jurisdictions to be traversed and miles traveled, the fundamentals are the same. Therefore, it is not possible to ensure that adequate equipment, staff, inter/intra-agency communication and information exchange, subject-specific training and applicable regulations have been addressed without developing policies and procedures.
Communication between agencies and staff is challenging. Needless to say, that difficulty is magnified as agencies involved in the transportation of one or more inmates increase. Consequently, when multiple agencies -- courts, doctors' offices, hospitals, other correctional facilities and law enforcement agencies -- are involved, it is essential to share and confirm information to eliminate inefficiency and risky events.
Lines of communication must be established and shared with all applicable agencies and individuals. Staff members from each organization exchanging information about all or specified aspects of the transport need to know the game plan and work accordingly. If staff on one shift initiate the move, but staff on the next shift process the inmate back into the facility, all necessary information must be shared between personnel on both shifts. Likewise, when reception center staff members use a centralized transportation unit to initiate moving an inmate to another facility, they should provide transportation officers with appropriate information and inform staff at the receiving facility. …