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The Costs of "Con Air".
By the Numbers
The Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS) also know as "Con Air” transports Federal Prisoners between prisons, detaining centers, courthouses and other locations. They transport prisoners using a network of cars, vans, buses, and aircraft. It is managed by the United States Marshall's Service located in Kansas City, Missouri. Many of the 350,000 prison movements go through the Federal Transfer Center (FTC) located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There are currently around 1325 inmates, usually held less than 3 weeks, housed in cell type living quarters held at Oklahoma City FTC*. (*BOP- website statistics 3/24/2015) .
JPATS is considered the largest transporter of prisoners in the world. JPATS has approximately 10 aircraft in it’s fleet ranging from full size-sized Boeing 727's and McDonnell-Douglas MD-83's to smaller planes. Prisoners are handcuffed with ankle and waist chains and usually placed on the same flight as High, Medium, Low, and Minimum security inmates. Some of these inmates are violent offenders with long prison sentences. US Marshall officers are outside the plane with shot guns when loading the plane and also aboard the plane when it's in flight.This can be a very traumatic event to have to go through for many inmates. Some high risk Federal Inmates should be transferred in this manner, but there are many Low and Minimum security inmates that should be handled differently.
Let's look at the numbers. Taxpayer Expenses:
FY 2015 Budget Estimates - Order from:
BOP* (Bureau of Prisons)= $16,609,000
$52,807,000* Total revenue collected from other taxpayer funded entities.
*United States Marshals Service FY 2015 Performance Budget President’s Budget Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System Revolving Fund dated 2015
Operating Expenses (Dollars in Thousands)
2013 2014 2015 (Projected)
Aircraft Fuel 14,516 15,317 14,428
Aircraft Maintenance 5,679 6,266 8,673
Aircraft Leases 12,418 12,627 4,408
Aircraft Operating Expenses Total 32,613 34,210 27,509
Labor Related Expenses
Civilian Labor 12,128 12,344 12,896
Employee Training 310 615 633
Guards, Contract Services 2,309 2,545 2,641
Labor Related Expenses Total 14,747 15,504 16,170
Mission Support Expenses
Contract Crew 123 380 133
Aircraft Ground Spt Expenses 222 365 336
Navigation Data, Tech Periodicals 181 227 230
Medical/PHS Expenses 205 237 210
Mission Travel 617 808 754
Mission Support Expenses Total 1,348 2,017 1,663
Non-Mission Support Expenses
Facilities Expenses 1,333 1,490 1,648
Admin & Support Expenses 1,938 1,212 1,700
Non-Cap Equip Purchases/Rental 81 194 213
Non-Mission Travel 151 378 401
Other Expenses 1,093 3,573 299
Non-Mission Support Expenses Total 4,596 6,847 4,261
Total Expenses 53,304 58,578 49,603
Operating Results (5,682) 1,669 3,204
Depreciation (1,793) (1,747) (3,204)
Net Operating Results (7,475) (78) 0
Prior Year Accumulated Operating Results (3,877) (11,352) (11,430)
Accumulated Operating Result Adjustments 0 0 0
Net Accumulated Operating Results (11,352) (11,430) (11,430)
Average GS (General Schedule) Salary= $87,502.00
Average SES (Senior Executive Service) Salary= $177,365.00
Average transportation cost projected for 2015= $1350.00*
*cost per prisoner from place of origin to final destination, that includes transportation and housing costs.United States Marshals Service FY 2015 Performance Budget President’s Budget Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System Revolving Fund dated March 2014.
There are currently 35,943 inmates at minimum security facilities and 81,236 inmates at low FCI facilities. (BOP website statistics 3/24/2015)
Many of these inmates are first time, non-violent offenders, that self surrendered. Most minimum security facilities have dorm like settings and have no perimeter fencing or bars on any windows or doors. Many prison jobs offered at these facilities are off the compound and prison facilities. If an inmate wanted to walk off the facility and compound they easily could. These inmates are more responsible than others, and just want to serve their time and move forward with their life in a productive manner. They are not a flight risk.
Why should these inmates who are headed to a minimum security facility, with no perimeter fencing, that pose no flight risk, have to take Con Air or go through a FTC (Federal Transfer Center) to reach their transfer destination? Many of them were never in handcuffs and around other violent offenders. Why shackle them, place them with other violent offenders on Con Air, and put them in Cells at the FTC's. This is not a good way to reward good behavior for inmates transferring from low to minimum security institutions, and it can surely traumatize those never in prison or trouble before.
A Better Way
Allow most low and minimum security level inmates the option to take a furlough, with all expenses borne by them, when transferring to a minimum security level facility. There is currently a BOP furlough policy in place (BOP Program Statement-5280.09) that seems to be underutilized. It should be expanded and amended to allow both low and minimum security level inmates more opportunities to use a transfer furlough. Having responsible family, friends, or loved one's assist in transferring these low flight risk inmates from their origin to their destination just makes more sense. It would be a more humane, safer, and cost effective way to transfer inmates/prisoners. Expanding and amending BOP's current policy on Transfer Furloughs deserves a closer look.