Preventing tragedy: How prison transports are secured

11Alive's Joe Henke got an inside look at what it takes to keep officers safe and inmates locked up during a transport.

ATLANTA -- Two corrections officers dead and two fugitives on the run: It's a story that has stolen the attention of the nation. And it all began on a prison bus in Putnam County.

So, what's being done on these buses to keep officers safe - and inmates locked up - on a prison transport? 11Alive took a closer look on Thursday with help from the Fulton County Sheriff's Office.

Their prisoner transport bus is similar in size to the Georgia Department of Corrections bus two inmates escaped from on Tuesday. Exact details of how Donnie Rowe and Ricky Dubose escaped haven’t been released but officials confirm these buses are built with security in mind.

Constructed with multiple locks, metal doors, and cameras, these are just a few security items to keep prisoners in custody while in transit on Fulton County prison buses.

“Once we are on the bus, we lock them in and they’re there until we get to our destination,” Fulton County Lt. Chervon Forehand said.

In Putnam County on a Georgia Department of Corrections bus, though, Rowe and Debose somehow overpowered and killed sergeants Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue according to officials.

Exact details of how it played out in the Department of Corrections bus remain unknown.

“Focus is on capturing these individuals and making sure we bring them to justice," one official said. "As we do the investigation and we find those details they will be released.”

In Fulton County, deputies responsible for inmate transports receive on-going training. And safety begins with the boarding of each inmate.

“We make sure we use the waist chains," Forehand said. "We make sure we do a thorough search before we place them on the bus. We use the leg irons and we double lock. We don’t allow a lot of talking so we can be aware and know what is going on.”

They also received details on inmates who need to be separated because of past fights gang affiliations or other issues.

“We get that info prior to transport,” Forehand said.     

While on the road, the buses are followed by other sheriff’s office vehicles and K9 units. Onboard is a series of cameras monitoring the entire bus.

“They can change the view here so we know exactly what is going on around us,” Forehand said.

And rows of inmates are kept behind two metal doors secured with a padlock.

Onboard at any time could be 44 passengers - including at least two officers. Trips can include jail and prison transfers, court hearings, or other jail-related programs.

On Thursday night Lt. Forehand reflected upon her job in Fulton County after the loss of two officers.

“It just heightens your awareness and you always want to figure out, ‘Hey what is it that we can do better? Or what is it that we need to do to be more efficient in what we do and keep safety first',” Forehand said.

The sheriff’s office prisoner transport buses are supposed to have each of their safety mechanisms checked before every single trip to make sure everyone on board remains safe at all times.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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