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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Transporting Prisoners

     The Federal Bureau of Prisons transports thousands of prisoners every week. Every night these men and women, who are officially called "holdover" prisoners, are housed in different prisons. Various federal prisons provide different accommodations for these "guests." If there is room available in the penitentiaries and correctional institutions, they are usually confined in "holdover units." If the prison is already crowded (no empty beds), they will either sleep on the bus or on mattresses laid out in corridors on cell-house tiers. In camps, the visiting prisoners may sleep in crowded hallways, or recreational areas.

     Federal transport and holdover prisoners travel in the clothes they wear and their one "federal box," which holds all of their belongings and is loaded in the cargo bay of the bus or plane. While in transit, which may last for weeks or months, prisoners normally do not receive mail, have access to phones, or opportunities for outside visits. They do not work, participate in prison programs, receive institutional pay, or have commissary privileges. They are forced to depend on the generosity of general population prisoners for necessary items--soap, shampoo, smokes--which may or may not be forthcoming.

     In contrast to federal prisoners, who may be transported across the United States, state prisoners are usually subject to shorter trips. Generally, state prisoners are taken in police cars, school buses converted for prison use, or vans. These trips are usually from county jail to prison. Because state systems are smaller, these prisoners may serve time in fewer prisons; thus they are transferred less frequently.

Jeffrey Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards, Behind Bars: Surviving Prison, 2002

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