What is Prisoner Transport?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 13 February 2020
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Prisoner transport is the movement of prisoners between facilities for activities like transfers, court appearances, or work outside the prison. It requires a team of law enforcement personnel and appropriately equipped vehicles for the safety of the prisoner as well as the public. Prisons typically attempt to avoid prisoner transport whenever possible, as it can be dangerous, and represents a weak point in the prison's security systems that might give a prisoner a chance to escape.

Prisons can use buses, vans, cars or trucks for prisoner transport, depending on the nature of the need. For large groups of prisoners, a van or bus is usually preferred. Personnel will move the prisoners onto the vehicle and supervise them during the transport. The prisoners may wear shackles and could be handcuffed to their seats, depending on the nature of their offenses and the purpose of the transport. The van or bus may also carry clear prison markings so other drivers know to stay clear.

When moving individual prisoners, a prison may choose to use a police car or sport utility vehicle for maneuverability and control. This is a typical choice for activities like transporting a prisoner to court. The vehicle may have a law enforcement escort to accompany the officers who travel with the prisoner if there are particular concerns about safety. In some cases, prisons use unmarked cars for this purpose to make it easier to move prisoners discreetly.


Prison guards, police officers, and representatives of law enforcement agencies can all participate in prisoner transport. The level of security necessary depends on the prisoner and the type of transport. Guards usually carry weapons, and the cabin of the vehicle may be isolated to keep the driver safe. Someone may ride with the prisoner to make sure the prisoner stays safe, checking for issues ranging from attempted escapes to stress positions that might injure the prisoner during the ride.

Prisoner transport does not just pose an escape risk and a potential threat to the public. It can also be dangerous for the prisoner. Some prisoners may have concerns about retribution from the outside, whether from fellow criminals or vigilantes among the public. When officers move prisoners, it can make them vulnerable to attack, and the prison needs to take precautions if it has concerns about a prisoner's safety. In a high profile murder case where emotions are running high, for example, the prisoner transport team needs to be alert to warning signs of a pending attack.


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