When discussing prisoner transportations, much is said about how you prepare your vehicle, how you search the prisoner, and how the prisoner is restrained. Unfortunately, very little is said about your mental preparation during prisoner transportation – except that you have to "remain alert."
Let's spend some time on improving your mental preparation for successfully and safely conducting a prisoner transport by focusing on mental states of you and the prisoner. Specifically, we need to focus on alertness, anxiety, and readiness as the prisoner transportation unfolds.
This is not new information but rather information that we "learn and lose" as each new generation of officer enters the arena. Over 20 years ago, the U.S. Marshals Office researched the question of when do most escape attempts during prisoner transportation occur. The results may surprise you until you really think about it.
The answer is most escape attempts occur near the end of prisoner transportations. Why? The reason is simple: At the beginning of the prisoner transportation, the officers are usually alert because they are leaving the safety of a relative secured area — a courthouse, the hospital, or a correctional facility — and entering the unknown. So, their guard is up and they are ready for trouble.
The prisoner, on the other hand, is often relaxed because they have left a secured area and entering the relative freedom of a trip form point A to point B. As the vehicle gets closer to its destination, the officer get more relaxed as they get closer to a return to the safety of a secured facility while the prisoner gets more agitated as they near their place of confinement. The prisoner realizes that escape will be more difficult from this new location.Taking this into account, it's not surprising that most escape attempts occur near the end of the prisoner transportation. It's near the end where officers have started to unwind and the prisoner is at the height of his/her anxiety level.
Over my career, in reviewing several escape attempt incidents, and I have found that escape attempts almost universally occur near the end of prisoner transports.
You must stay constantly vigilant during the entire prisoner transportation. Besides the obvious things — ensuring the restraints are properly secured, etc. — it is vitally important to not let your mental state lax until the prisoner transportation is completely finish. No matter how close it may seem, "Miller time" begins after you have dropped off the prisoner, left the turnover area, gotten out of your uniform, and arrived at a safe place.
Caption top, right: Brian Nichols, center, the suspect in a crime spree that left a judge and three others dead, appears in court at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Tuesday, March 15, 2005. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
Left: Associated Press File Photo