Prisoner Transportation Services’ commitment to safety, timeliness, and efficiency is rooted in several federal statutes and regulations that govern the prisoner transport services industry. Below you will find a template outlining the minimum regulatory requirements our company is mandated to follow, along with the standardized best practices in the industry we always seek to adopt. As you, or perhaps your company, try to gain a greater understanding of our business, please use this as a guide for your comprehension.
U.S Department of Justice Statutes and Regulations
Private prisoner transportation companies are governed by 34 USC 60103 known as “Jenna’s Act.” The act and accompanying regulations require:
- Minimum standards for background checks and pre-employment drug testing for potential employees to disqualify persons with a felony conviction or domestic violence conviction.
- Minimum standards for the length and type of training that employees must undergo before transporting prisoners, not to exceed 100 hours of pre-service training focusing on the transportation of prisoners. Training shall be in the areas of restraint use, searches, use of force, including the use of appropriate weapons and firearms, CPR, map reading, and defensive driving.
- Restrictions on the number of hours that employees can be on duty during a given period of time. Such restrictions shall not be more stringent than current applicable rules and regulations concerning hours of service promulgated under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
- The officer to prisoner ratio cannot exceed 1 agent for every 6 violent prisoners.
- Minimum standards for employee uniforms and identification that require wearing a uniform with a badge or insignia identifying the employee as a transportation officer.
- Minimum requirements for the restraints that must be used when transporting violent prisoners, to include leg shackles and double-locked handcuffs, when appropriate.
U.S. Department of Transportation Statues and Regulations
A company is required by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) to obtain a USDOT Number (USDOT #) and comply with federal regulations if the company is in the business of transporting inmates, and the following applies:
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or
- Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
- Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation.
Any prisoner transportation company must comply with this requirement. Many companies try to get around these requirements by using small sedans, or mini-vans, which are not as safe and secure as dedicated transport vehicles designed and outfitted for prisoner transport.
The FCMSA also requires minimum insurance of:
- $1.5 million (15-passenger or less)
- $5 million (15-passenger or more) Commercial (CDL drivers required)
You should obtain a Certificate of Insurance yearly from your vendor and make sure that the insurance provided does not exclude operating the vehicle for hire or transporting prisoners.
Every Prisoner Transportation Company must have Operating Authority with a valid (non-expired) Motor Carrier Number (MC#) per Federal Law.
- Operating Authority means the registration (MC#) as required by 49 U.S.C. 13902, 49 CFR part 365, 49 CFR part 368, and 49 CFR 392.9a, and as is required by all companies in the business of transporting passengers for hire.
DOT Safety Rating
In addition to having Operating Authority with an MC# and requiring a USDOT #, a company in the business of transporting inmates must have all drivers complete DOT physicals, complete driver history checks on all employees, comply with drivers’ duty hours (ELD tracks this), have compliant sleeper berths with minimum measurements as outlined per the DOT, run vehicles through annual inspections, keep Motor Vehicle Reports on file, report crashes, and much more, ensuring that they are operating legally and safely across our country’s interstates with their passengers.
This is a significant amount of information to keep track of, and if you are the agency using this company, it could become overwhelming. This is why the FMSCA has created a Safety Rating System that is determined after the company has been through a safety check from the DOT, auditing the company’s compliance with all of its regulations and laws.
The minimum standard for a prisoner transportation company should be a SATISFACTORY RATING with the DOT.
Any company that has been in business for a minimum of 1.5 years should have its initial Safety Inspection completed by the DOT. Therefore, any prisoner transportation company should have a Safety Rating if they are operating legally after two years unless some extenuating circumstances are present. Because of this, most agencies require a minimum of 3 years in business to bid on a contract before they consider using them as a service provider.
Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)
The Department of Transportation and the FMSCA, as required by MAP–21, § 395.8(a)(1), directs a motor carrier operating CMVs to install and require each of its drivers to use an ELD to record the driver’s duty status no later than December 18, 2017[i].
This system is used to measure drivers’ duty time to ensure the company is compliant with the laws governing the safety of interstate commerce and the safe transportation of passengers.
The Company Snapshot is a concise electronic record of a company’s identification, size, commodity information, and safety record, including the safety rating, a roadside out-of-service inspection summary, and crash information. The Company Snapshot is available via an ad-hoc query (one carrier at a time) free of charge.
You can check a company’s Safety Rating on the Company Snapshot Page here:
Best Practices for Contracting with Private Prisoner Transport Companies
These are recommendations that are usually viewed as minimum standards that have been adopted by peers and have seen in contracting to perform prisoner transport services. We believe such provisions improve transparency to the purchasing departments and agencies, and enhance the safety of both prisoners and agents while performing interstate prisoner transportation.
In addition to the mandated auto liability insurance required above by FMCSA, private transport companies should maintain a minimum of:
- $3.0MM (including Excess Umbrella Coverage) in Commercial General Liability insurance
- $1.0MM in Workers Compensation insurance
- $1.0MM in Professional Liability insurance
Any company that is properly insured should provide a Certificate of Insurance and some documentation from the insurance company or agent stating they are fully aware the company is in the business of transportation of inmates on their Auto Liability, General Liability, Workers Compensation, and Professional Liability policies.
If an insurance company is not aware that a company is in the business of transporting inmates, the company, and ultimately you, may not be covered in the event of an accident or death.
Many contracting agencies require specific fleet standards for their prisoner transport vendors. The following are examples we believe should be incorporated in any contract for prisoner transportation services:
- Seatbelts for each agent AND prisoner being transported in any vehicle transporting 15 passengers or less
- A minimum of three (3) working video cameras with secure recording equipment, and with a minimum of 7-day recording retention
- A secondary and independent heating and air conditioning system serving prisoner areas
- Global positioning system equipment to allow vehicles to be tracked and located nationwide on a real-time basis
- Communication device to allow communication to and from law enforcement agencies or home offices nationwide
- Speed limiting devices set to prevent transport vehicles from driving over 70 mph
- Compartmentalized prisoner seating with a minimum of 3 different areas
- Food delivery access doors that allow prisoner food service without requiring prisoner ingress and egress doors to be opened
- Sleeper berth with a minimum dimension of 24” X 24” X 75”
- Vehicles available for inspection upon request to ensure compliance with the bid/contract and vehicle requirements
Additionally, in order to ensure that the company can provide responsive and timely service, a transport company should have either:
- Six transport vehicles (a combination of Vans or Busses)
- One transport vehicle for each $15,000 of anticipated annual transport volume the agency expects to purchase.
You should ensure all vehicles are insured by checking the Company Snapshot (link above) and look for the number of “Power Units.” The number of power units should match the number of vehicles listed in the fleet size on the bid/contract.
[i] Please verify this date.
Should you have questions or seek clarification on any of the above, please feel free to contact us.[i]