No state protocol when it comes to transporting prisoners

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Individual counties in Texas transport hundreds of inmates every day for one purpose or another, and each must set up their own rules protocol keeping in mind safety and security. A tragedy like Wednesday’s prison bus disaster that killed 10 people shows what can go wrong with such transports.

On most days, Hays County authorities are transporting inmates somewhere, usually to court. More recently there have been trips to the Guadalupe County Jail. To handle overcrowding at Hays County’s 25-year-old jail, more prisoners are being moved elsewhere. They transport the prisoners using vans and buses. But hardened criminal get their own special ride.

“If you have someone of that caliber you’d have two officers with him, he’d be really restrained and he would probably be hauled by himself,” said Sheriff Gary Cutler.

The Hays County prisoner bus is scrubbed down regularly by the inmates themselves, and the drivers are given special commercial training at the wheel. The windows are barred and there are security cages in the front and back.

“We have an armed deputy sitting behind one cage in the back, watching the prisoners during transportation,” Lt. Eric Batch pointed out. “Another guard sits behind the cage up front and both he and the driver are armed.”

A deputy patrol car often trails behind. Inmates wear special bracelets for transport and are handcuffed together, but each has their own pair of ankle shackles.

“They have some freedom of movement because they are handcuffed to the person next to them and they are free to one side,” Cutler added. “With the leg irons, they can walk with that chain, it is not that tight.”

There is no state protocol for counties on how to transport prisoners. They are charged with making their own rules based on experience and common sense.

Cutler added that most inmates are on their best behavior the days they go to court. “They just might be set free that day,” he smiled.

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