During incarceration, prisoners and detainees are transported to court appearances and medical visits, extradited or deported, and transported between jurisdictions. The transportation requires the security of a prison in a mobile setting, making it one of the biggest expenses in prison management. Some prison and detention centers have contracted with for-profit companies to provide transportation services, resulting in a multi-million dollar private transportation services industry.
The main companies involved in this sector are:
G4S plc, of Crawley, U.K. (LSE : GFS, OMX : G4S)
TransCor America LLC, a subsidiary of CoreCivic, Inc., of Nashville, TN (NYSE: CXW)
GEO Transport Inc., a subsidiary of The GEO Group, Inc., of Boca Raton, FL (NYSE : GEO)
Emerald Correctional Management, Emerald Companies, of Shreveport, LA (Private)
In-Custody Transportation, Inc., of San Dimas, CA (Private)
BlackTalon Enterprises, Inc., of Napa, CA (Private)
Prisoner Transportation Services LLC, of Nashville, TN (Private)
U.S. Prisoner Transport Services, Inc, of Melbourne, FL (Private)
While the transportations services industry has grown, there are some jurisdictions that have resisted privatization of transportation services. In 2005, the federal government created the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation Systems (JPATS), and it is the largest prisoner transportation organization in the world, handling 800 requests each day and transporting over 280,000 incarcerated people per year. In the midwest, 20 states have formed the Northwest Shuttle Service, handling in-state warrants and out-of-state fugitive returns. Even individual states, such as Michigan and Ohio, have created their own centralized prisoner transportation services.
Prisoner Transportation Services
The prisoner transportation companies provide guards, vehicles, and prisoner restraints, and charge prisons per prisoner per mile. This incentivizes the companies to fill the vehicles and route as many prisoners as possible.
There have been many human right violations during transportation. Prisoners are transported via circuitous routes, spending hours in handcuffs and leg shackles, and bathroom and meal breaks are left to the whim of the drivers. Accidents, escapes, and other abuses are rampant and have resulted in numerous lawsuits against private prison transportation companies. From 2012 to 2017, five people have died while in transit, allegedly from medical neglect, according to the Marshall Project. In January 2017, a prisoner in transit died from a “perfectly treatable” perforated ulcer, after officers ignored his complaints. From 2000 to 2017, there have been 29 deaths or serious injuries of prisoners and more than 50 crashes.
Rape and sexual assault have been widely reported, although it is assumed that most cases of sexual assault go unreported because of fear of retaliation. In June 2017, a transport officer was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting three female prisoners at gunpoint. In 2002, the ACLU sued a transportation company for the sexual harassment of two women prisoners.
In 2000, Congress enacted the Interstate Transportation of Dangerous Criminals Act. The law establishes federal standards, including staff certification and training, meal and restroom breaks, proper heating, ventilation, and safety of vehicles, first aid kits, and female staff supervision of women prisoners. The law is federally mandated and therefore does not apply to small, local, or regional companies, which are the majority of the companies involved in the sector. The prisoner transportation services using vans or cars are also not required to have commercial driver’s licenses, provide regular vehicle maintenance, or to observe federal regulations restricting the number of hours that drivers can travel between stops.
In June 2017, the Justice Department opened an investigation regarding the Prisoner Transportation Services (PTS), a private company based in Tennessee that has been the source of many allegations of abuse and misconduct. In 2014, an incarcerated person alleged that PTS guards burned him with cigarettes, sprayed him with pepper spray, harassed him, and forced him to sit in urine for hours.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also relies on companies to provide deportation services. From 2010 to 2014, over 2 million people were deported, and ICE spent approximately $464 million on chartered flights for these deportations, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG estimated that ICE paid an average of $8,500 per flight hour, calling it inefficient, and wasting over $41 million.
CSI Aviation is the main company involved in deportation services. It is a private company, headquartered in New Mexico. From 2013 to 2016, CSI received over $300 million in contracts from ICE.
ICE is also contracted with G4S to provide transportation of immigrant detainees found at the US Mexico border to processing centers. The contract is for $234 million, and G4S boasts “logging millions of miles and transport[ing] hundreds of thousands” of immigrant detainees.
There are many regional and locally-owned companies involved in prisoner transportation services. TransCor America LLC and GEO Transport, Inc. (GTI) are two of the largest companies involved, each wholly-owned subsidiaries of CoreCivic, Inc. and The GEO Group, respectively. Since 1990, Transcor has transported 1.3 million people, averaging 2.5 miles traveled each year. In 2008, TransCor stopped extraditions, and now only transports between CoreCivic facilities. GTI, which operates globally, has transported over 2.25 million people over 33.4 million miles globally. GTI has contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Marshals, and 27 states. G4S, which operates private prisons abroad in the UK, Australia, and South Africa, is also involved in prisoner transportation services.
Additionally, there are private companies involved, such as Emerald Correctional Management, which is associated with Emerald Companies, Prisoner Transportation of America, In-Custody Transportation, Inc., BlackTalon enterprises, and CSI Aviation.