High Risk Inmate Transport
STL Joseph Garcia
In the past several months, inmates have escaped custody during transportation. Because the escapes have been fatal to the transporting officers and dangerous to the public – and because they put the media spotlight squarely on the faces of administrators, corrections experts are taking a long, hard at inmate transportation. We’re corrections experts, and in this article we look at transportation from the emergency response perspective.
Traditionally, inmate transportation duty has been tasked to officers with seniority and/or officers who are liked or favored. Hmmm… you wonder why inmate transportation escapes are increasing?! Let us get one thing straight: Inmate transportation is the weakest link in the inmate chain of custody. You have only one chance to get it right. If you get it wrong, the consequences can be deadly.
High Risk Inmate Transport (HRIT) has long been taken for granted as the “cushiest” job in the inmate chain of custody. If you think we’re being facetious, just look at the majority of transport officers today. If we’re right, you’ll discover (as we have) that these positions are filled with senior officers. If we’re right, you’ll note that depending on the agency, inmate transport is detailed based simply on who you can get to fill the position.
Because we know we’re right, we say unequivocally that the traditional approach is flat-out wrong. We say – and we train to this standard – that High Risk Inmate Transport (HRIT) should be conducted by a department’s most qualified officers / deputies… Not some “Joey Bagadonuts” who has been at your facility for years and years… or who is high on the seniority list… or who is buddy-buddy with the duty assignment officer.
The Four Qualities of an Ideal HRIT Officer
We often hear the succinct phrase, “out of sight, out of mind.” If you think the traditional transportation officer isn’t out of sight, you’re out of your mind. As we’ve seen via the media, transportation officers are right there in the spotlight. The public sees them as representatives of the entire profession. If the public doesn’t like what they see, you’ll hear about it.
Understand this: If an inmate is planning an act of violence, an escape, contraband smuggling, or other illegal or dangerous activity, you better believe that the inmate is committed to do whatever it takes to follow through on his or her plan.
Below, we offer the four must-have qualities of the ideal HRIT officer:
- HRIT Officers are regularly seen by the public, so they must represent the professionalism of the modern CERT Warrior
- HRIT Officers work closely with the surrounding law enforcement agencies, so they must be tactful, politically astute and able to work effectively across jurisdictions
- HRIT Officers are the last first and last line of defense in the security of an inmate, so they must be physically and mentally fit
- HRIT Officers are one of the first points of custody that an inmate will deal with when they are convicted in a courtroom.
Your HRIT officer needs to be trained on how to understand the tell-tale signs of an inmate involved in illegal activity. Your HRIT officer must be trained – and certified – on how to implement your agency’s policies and procedures.