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The Costs of "Con Air".

Updated on May 7, 2015
Robert Warney profile image

Robert Warney is on the Board of Advisors for Federal Prison Consultants and Justice Solutions of America,Inc. Author of Ties-2-Stripes book


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

USMS*= $36,198,000

$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.


Con Air Costs

How much were the 2014 aircraft operating expenses (Fuel, Maintenance, Leases) for Con Air?

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