If you are arrested for a crime in a different state, or have an out of state warrant, you may have to be transported to that jurisdiction in order to face a judge. Be forewarned: jail transport is one of the most dangerous and creepy aspects of the criminal justice system. Even a short ride from jail to court in a van full of other prisoners can be extremely unpleasant. You will likely be packed in a caged area of a van or prison transport vehicle along with as many other prisoners as they can fit. You will not be sorted by crime or record; hardcore felons will sit right next to first time misdemeanor offenders. Often, some of them will be mentally ill.
Many people who face long rides in prison trucks have not even been convicted of crimes. In fact, a substantial amount of prison transport involves the transport of fugitives and other people who have yet to face trial. If you are charged with any felony in another state, you could face a long and terrifying trip to that state just to make your initial court appearances. In many cases, people will be shipped cross country for misdemeanor charges. Furthermore, because you can be transported merely on the basis of a warrant or an affadavit, it is not uncommon to arrive at court after a long ride in a prison van and have charges reduced or dropped.
Because jail transport is one of the ways that prisoners attempt to escape, you will be put in chains. The chains are usually handcuffs that are linked to ankle cuffs by a long chain. Neither the handcuffs or ankle cuffs are fully tight, so prisoners can usually hobble around on their own power. However, your overall range of motion is severely restricted. If you are uncooperative during jail transport, you may be forced to wear additional restraining devices such as a stun belt. Apart from being chained, you may also have to wear certain high visibility clothes that highlight your status as a prisoner.
Jail transport is fundamentally dangerous for both prisoners and guards. Packed tightly in a hot enclosed vehicle will often lead to aggravation among prisoners. The smell and stench of prison transport vehicles can quickly become awful. Some prisoners may defecate or urinate in their seats. If someone vomits, it will remain there until the guards clean it up. Others may start grabbing, groping, biting, and harassing people around them. In one case, a woman who was arrested for a misdemeanor found herself sitting next to the man who had sexually assaulted her a few months ago. Some people may be mentally or physically ill and have not showered in weeks or months.
If you are being transported over state lines and are in for a long ride, the general unpleasantness will rapidly increase with time. Many people with medical conditions will find them exacerbated during prison transport. In one case, a man was chained in the back of a prison van for 18 days before being dropped off and having his charges dropped. The anxiety experienced during prison transport can seriously aggravate conditions such as asthma and chest and heart problems.
In general, prison transport vehicles do not make stops. In order to make stops, prison transport companies, which are often privately run and subject to little oversight, would have to find jails willing to house the inmates being transported as well as lodging for themselves. Because of the costs involved, most transport agents are unwilling to make anything more than limited stops for bathroom and food. Often, drivers of prison transport vehicles will simply swap drivers with their partner and push on through the night rather than deal with the complications of having to stop.
To make matters worse, there is no guarantee that you will necessarily be taken straight to your destination. For example, say you went crazy in Vegas and then you are arrested in Oregon for a warrant in Nevada. If jail transport picks you up two weeks before your court date, there is no guarantee that you will arrive in a Nevada jail with a week and a couple days to spare. If other prisoners have sooner court dates in some other state, say Iowa, you will be driven all the way to Iowa to drop them off. Then the drivers may change and you’ll be driven to Montana to drop someone else off, and down to Texas to pick up some guys who need to be taken to Colorado. You could very well spend a week or more while chained in the back of a prison transport vehicle simply waiting to actually get to your destination. In one famous case, a man was driven over 8000 miles in the back of a prison van to court, only to have his charges dropped.
It is not uncommon for prisoners with mental conditions to rapidly deteriorate during long prison transport. The smell, putrid air, proximity to others, and anxiety can cause deliriousness and panic among prisoners. Because you are in chains and packed in seats, it is often impossible to sleep too. Other prisoners may pass out on your shoulder or lap or snort on you. If you are a woman and have your period, there will often be nothing sanitary around to clean yourself up and it will end up in your clothes, on the seat, or on the floor of the vehicle. As the hours drag on, the aggravation will increase. Even docile prisoners will start becoming delirious and losing their inhibitions. They will moan, scream, pass out, and lose their minds. If men and women are not separated, some male prisoners will try to grab any woman within reach. And if the worst happens and the transport van crashes or catches fire, it is unlikely that you will escape, considering that you are in chains to begin with.
If you are facing jail transport to another state, or even another county, you should do everything you can to avoid jail transport. Jail transport can literally be a struggle for your life. Part of the key to avoiding transport is getting out on bail. If you can post bail, you can sometimes get permission from the court to voluntarily travel to the state where you are facing charges and surrender.