Prison on wheels serves the security minded

Those on the inside call it a “prison on wheels.” By its correct name, it is known as the Inmate Security Transportation Vehicle (ISTV). Transporting prisoners to and from correctional facilities, court hearings and work details is daunting and dangerous, and officers say having the best equipment for the job makes all the difference.

While a number of prison systems still rely on the more archaic school bus-style vehicles, and even book inmates onto commercial transport for longer distances, the truly security-minded government agencies favor the safety of coaches designed and built expressly for prisoner transport.

Motor Coach Industries (MCI) built the first prison coach nearly 25 years ago and is still the only manufacturer in the United States or Canada to produce off-the-line, fully secured, heavy-duty inmate transportation coaches. The company works closely with federal, state and county law enforcement agencies to continually assess the needs of correctional systems. MCI says it can configure its prisons on wheels in a variety of containment cells to meet the variety of needs.

Unlike the luxurious tour and charter coaches MCI manufactures for independent charter operators, the ISTV shows no regard for the high-end coach experience that typically features video entertainment systems, plush seating and individual reading lights.

Up to 69 inmates riding in a prison on wheels will find instead inmate containment barriers and cells, window bars, a rear officer position, code-3 lights, a siren, an external public address system, bullet-resistant materials, a mid-coach emergency door, half-inch shatter-resistant windows, a movable barrier system and an embossed stainless steel interior.

A law enforcement agency may custom-order features to meet its specific transport needs. A typical demo model MCI presented at a recent correctional trade show featured 20 cells with individual seats, slam lock latches, handcuff portholes, a secure weapons storage and a front and rear secure office area.

“Each MCI ISTV coach tends to be a little different,” says MCI director of business development, Tom Wagner, who is in charge of the ISTV program. “MCI works with each law enforcement agency to incorporate the specific options and security features it requires in the particular operating environment.”

Operational Performance Systems (OPS), Kingston, ON, Canada, designs and builds customized transport and storage solutions to advance security for law enforcement and emergency use vehicles, and created this special-purpose interior for MCI.

“The ISTV is based on the MCI D-Series model,” says Michael Melaniphy, MCI vice president of Public Sector. “The model has a proven track record for long life and low operating cost. These coaches last forever. Their durability adds up to significant savings over the life of the vehicle.”

In 2005, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Portland, OR, took a close look at its inmate transportation fleet. It didn’t like what it saw.

“The vehicles originally built as school buses were proving expensive,” says Sheriff Daniel Staton. “Despite the fact that most of the fleet was paid for, our maintenance costs were getting out of hand.” This led the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to call MCI. With the delivery of its ISTV, the agency says it has never looked back, calling the vehicle the backbone of the sheriff’s office transportation unit, which includes long distance travel and daily service.

Multnomah County follows in a long line of government law enforcement and correctional agencies that have chosen the ISTV.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is the biggest MCI ISTV customer. Additionally, more than 50 counties and one-third of the Department of Corrections throughout the U.S. and Canada operate MCI ISTVs. BR

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