The United States Marshals Services' Management of the Justice Prisoner
and Alien Transportation System

Audit Report 07-01
October 2006
Office of the Inspector General

Chapter 1:   Introduction

The Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS) transports prisoners and aliens in federal custody within the United States and overseas. JPATS also performs scheduling, security, and medical functions in support of prisoner transportation. Managed by the United States Marshals Service (USMS), JPATS serves not only the USMS, but also the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).25 To a limited extent, it provides service for the military and state and local law enforcement organizations. JPATS also provides occasional air transportation in support of the USMS Witness Security Program and for the federal government’s response to national crises, such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the hurricanes of 2005.26

The Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted this audit to evaluate the USMS’s: (1) ability to effectively manage the inherent risks in prisoner movements to ensure safe and efficient transport, and (2) coordination with its three primary customers regarding the movement of prisoners and aliens.27


JPATS transports prisoners between judicial districts and correctional institutions in the United States and other countries through its leased and owned aircraft, as well as with the motor vehicle fleet of its customers.28 According to the USMS, JPATS completed 305,649 total prisoner movements in fiscal year (FY) 2005.29 The following table provides a breakdown of those movements by the originating agency and mode of transportation.


Large Aircraft







Small Aircraft







Other Modes33














Source: JPATS

JPATS regularly serves approximately 40 domestic and international cities, plus other locations on an as-needed basis. Prisoner and alien movements are authorized for a variety of reasons, including: pre-trial hearings and competency examinations, trial, pre-sentence study and observation, delivery to an institution to serve sentence, transfer between institutions, delivery of criminal aliens to a deportation center, removal of aliens, transfer of non-federal detainees, transfer of military prisoners, and other missions such as secured transport of witnesses, extraditions, national emergencies, and natural disasters.

The following pie-chart displays USMS data on the breakdown of the FY 2005 prisoner movements by purpose of travel.34

JPATS Movements by Purpose of Travel FY 2005: Judgment and Commitment:32%, Criminal Alien:21%, BOP Transfer:18%, Non-Criminal Alien:11%, Federal Writs:8%, Warrant of Removal:4%, Miscellaneous:6%.
Source: JPATS

Overview of JPATS

This section provides an overview of JPATS, including its history, organization, staff, budget, and oversight.


JPATS was created on October 1, 1995, by the merger of the USMS National Prisoner Transportation System and the Air Transport Branch of the former United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The merger was in response to recommendations made by the Management and Planning Staff (MPS) of the Justice Management Division (JMD), which was directed by the Attorney General to conduct a study on the aviation programs within DOJ. Specifically, the MPS study: (1) examined the inventory of the air fleets of DOJ, (2) reviewed how each fleet was used, and (3) explored possibilities of consolidating aviation programs for efficiency. The scope of the MPS’s review included the aviation programs at the USMS, the DEA, the FBI, and the former INS, which had two aviation programs: the Air Transportation Branch and the Border Patrol.35

The MPS identified the aviation programs at the USMS and the former INS’s Air Transportation Branch as likely candidates for a merger. The primary reason was that both programs transport individuals on a regular basis: the USMS provided air transport for prisoners, while the Air Transportation Branch provided air transportation for illegal and criminal aliens throughout the United States. The other aviation programs did not have similar functions and were considered unique and unsuitable for consolidation. The air operations at the DEA performed surveillance and undercover investigations and aerial photography. The FBI’s aircraft operations also performed aerial surveillance and photography, as well as transporting FBI personnel and equipment. The mission of the Border Patrol’s aviation program was to detect and apprehend aliens and smugglers of aliens as well as stop narcotics trafficking through the use of aerial surveillance.

The MPS study recommended the merger of the air operations of the USMS and the former INS because it would generate savings and avoid “duplicative investments in aircraft resources.” This merger occurred in October 1995, with the new organization named the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System.


JPATS is headed by an Assistant Director of the USMS who reports to the USMS Deputy Director.36 JPATS is comprised of three branches: business management, flight operations, and scheduling and security. The Business Management Branch includes administrative, accounting, and procurement functions. The Flight Operations Branch manages the overall aviation program. The Operations Branch of Security and Scheduling oversees all security and scheduling issues.

JPATS locations currently include its headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, and four air fleet hubs in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Alexandria, Louisiana; Mesa, Arizona; and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Kansas City headquarters provides business and scheduling functions. The BOP and ICE maintain liaisons at the Kansas City location to consult on issues relating to the transport of prisoners and aliens.

The hub in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma transports prisoners under the jurisdiction of the USMS and the BOP and also manages flight operations for all the hubs. The hubs in Mesa, Arizona and Alexandria, Louisiana serve as the bases for flight missions involving aliens under the jurisdiction of ICE. The office in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands transports federal prisoners for the USMS and, less frequently, aliens for ICE. For the past several years JPATS has been planning for a new hub in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, which became operational in June 2006.37


JPATS employs both permanent staff and contractors. Permanent staff includes managers and operational employees in budget and accounting, administration, information technology, flight operation, security, and scheduling. Contractors include nurses from the United States Public Health Service, flight security officers under personal contracts, aircraft maintenance staff, and building maintenance personnel.

As of October 2005, JPATS employed 117 full-time employees and 212 contractors, as shown in the following table.




Administrative and Business Personnel


Information Technology Personnel


Security Personnel


Transportation Schedulers


Aircraft Maintenance & Flight-Following Personnel




Subtotal – Onboard Full-time Staffing


U.S. Public Health Service Flight Nurses


Contract Flight Security


Contract Aircraft Maintenance Personnel


Contract Building Maintenance Personnel


Contract Information Technology Personnel


Subtotal – Nurses and Contract Personnel




Source: JPATS


From its inception in 1995, JPATS operated on appropriated funds that were a part of the USMS’s annual budget. Beginning in FY 1999, however, JPATS received $5 million to initialize a new type of funding mechanism called a revolving fund.38 Since that initial infusion of money, the JPATS revolving fund is maintained entirely from customers who pay for services received. The intent of JPATS’s revolving fund was for it to cover all of the transportation expenses related to the movement of prisoners and aliens and to ensure consistent funding throughout the fiscal year. Before the revolving fund was established, appropriated funds for JPATS needed to be augmented from other sources within the USMS each year to ensure that the transportation of prisoners and aliens would not be interrupted. Issues relating to the management of the revolving fund are discussed in greater detail later in this report, in the “Inherent Risks in Management Controls” chapter, section entitled “Budget Issues.”

The responsibilities of JPATS, its customers — the USMS, the BOP, and the former INS — and JMD were outlined in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in July 1998. The three primary customers promised to provide Reimbursable Agreements as their guarantee to pay for services received from JPATS and these payments constituted the agencies’ contribution to the revolving fund. As the provider of services, JPATS agreed to develop cost estimates and pricing strategies based on its customers’ requirements.

Initially, JPATS charged its customers by the number of seats used. Since FY 2003, it has billed according to the flight hours used. This change improved the allocation of costs without affecting the prices paid by customers. The following table shows the revenue and expenses for JPATS in FYs 2004 and 2005.

  CATEGORY FY 2004 FY 2005



$ 6,336,123

$ 7,690,501










WITSEC, Miscellaneous




$ 75,492,574

$ 87,357,227





Aircraft Fuel



Aircraft Maintenance



Aircraft Leasing



All Other Expenses









$ 298,483

Source: JPATS


The JPATS Executive Committee (JEC) serves as the primary mechanism for coordinating activities of the participating agencies. Created in FY 2000, the JEC is chaired by DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General for Administration. The JEC consists of the Assistant Director of JPATS, the Detention Trustee from the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee (OFDT), and three representatives each from the USMS, the BOP, and ICE.39 According to its charter, the JEC assists JPATS with executive guidance to ensure that the operations meet the needs of the customers and are appropriate in cost and scope. The JEC meets on a quarterly basis.

The OFDT interacts with JPATS through the JEC on operational and administrative issues. For instance, at the behest of the OFDT, a contract auditing firm began a review in the summer of 2005 that focused on determining an appropriate staff for JPATS given its current workload. This review was still in progress as of July 2006.

Besides the JEC and the OFDT, several outside bodies also formulate policies that affect JPATS. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for the safety of civil aviation, but because JPATS operates under the Public Aircraft provision, it is exempt from many FAA rules and regulations that apply to commercial airlines. However, JPATS management has chosen to adhere to most FAA rules and regulations that relate to aviation safety, operations, and maintenance.

The General Services Administration (GSA) also provides guidance for federal civilian agencies that operate aviation programs. The Interagency Committee on Aviation Policy (ICAP), created by the GSA, consists of representatives of federal aviation programs and provides services such as the Aviation Resources Management Survey (ARMS). ARMS inspections are conducted by ICAP committee members who examine both administrative and operational aspects of federal aviation programs. JPATS voluntarily submits to an ARMS inspection every 4 years.

In addition, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A‑126, Improving the Management and Use of Government Aircraft, provides the principal guidance for management of federal aviation programs and for travel on government aircraft.

The Transportation Process

Significant changes since the late 1990s have transformed how JPATS transports prisoners and aliens. Besides the revolving fund, JPATS has automated the scheduling process, and has also switched to an entirely leased fleet of large aircraft. The following section provides an overview of JPATS’s transportation process in its three stages: scheduling for the BOP and the USMS, transporting scheduled individuals, and billing for services provided. Because ICE differs fundamentally in its operations from the USMS and the BOP, the scheduling of ICE movements will be discussed separately.

Scheduling for the BOP and the USMS

In April 2000, JPATS converted from a manual scheduling method to its Automated Prisoners Scheduling System (APSS). APSS is an automated scheduling system utilized by JPATS, the BOP, and the USMS to schedule and transport prisoners efficiently. The system electronically receives transportation requests from the BOP and the USMS, while JPATS personnel use the system to generate trip itineraries. When using the new system, the BOP and the USMS initialize a request for movement by transmitting data through the Justice Detainee Information System to APSS. The required data include: the full name and identification number of the prisoner, date of birth, gender, age, and race; the origin and destination of the required movement; the date when the prisoner will be available for travel and deadline, if any, for completing the travel; and medical condition and security level of the prisoner.

Upon receipt of the request for a prisoner movement, JPATS considers the following criteria in scheduling the request through APSS:

  • The BOP typically moves prisoners by bus instead of air to reduce costs when the distance of travel is under [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED] miles.40

  • Federal judiciary processes under the Speedy Trial Act (18 U.S.C. § 3161) must be executed in 10 days and receive high priority from JPATS. Judiciary processes that meet this criterion include Warrant of Removal, Study and Observation, and the return of Study and Observation.41

  • Movements of prisoners for disciplinary causes require immediate attention from JPATS.

  • Movements of prisoners for medical reasons require consultation with a contract nurse from the U.S. Public Health Service to identify requirements for transporting the prisoner.

APSS tracks the requests by using tables that show seat-limits for both the air and ground fleet. JPATS issues its weekly flight schedule on the Thursday preceding the week of departure, although changes may still be made in APSS until the day before departure.42

Scheduling for ICE

ICE transports aliens through JPATS to locations in the continental United States (CONUS), Central America, and the Caribbean. The CONUS flights accomplish two goals: (1) transferring aliens among detention facilities for a wide range of reasons, including administrative purposes such as immigration hearings and interviews, and (2) transporting aliens of Mexican origin to an airlift location near the border for deportation via buses.43 The foreign flights consist entirely of overseas movements to remove deportees.

ICE requests a movement when: (1) the Immigration Courts have completed the adjudication of a case, and (2) a foreign consulate issues a travel document for its citizens. ICE does not use APSS for transmitting requests for movements. Instead, it sends its Form I-216, Record of Persons and Property Transferred, which is essentially a passenger list, via facsimile to the hubs on the day of the flight.

According to ICE officials, ICE has not automated its scheduling method because it typically does not know who will be available for movement more than one day in advance.44 In order to save detention costs, ICE moves aliens as soon as they are ready for transport. According to the ICE liaison to JPATS, the routes of ICE flights have been well-established to allow its detention centers to communicate with one another regarding the number of seats available on flights. ICE posts its forthcoming weekly flight schedules each Wednesday.

Transporting Scheduled Individuals

Once the scheduling process is complete, the transportation process shifts to JPATS’s Flight Operations Branch and the Security Section. The Flight Operations Branch schedules pilots who are qualified and available for flight missions, ensures that the Contracting Officers’ Technical Representatives monitor the maintenance of the aircraft provided by the contractors, and manages the Flight Following office in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma that tracks the progress of all JPATS flights. The Security Section is responsible for scheduling the security guards aboard the flights, either full-time Air Enforcement Officers (AEOs) or contract Air Security Officers (ASOs).

Using its six large leased aircraft, JPATS transports prisoners and aliens from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Alexandria, Louisiana; and Mesa, Arizona to locations in CONUS, Central America, and the Caribbean.45 [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED]46 [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED]

The flight and security crews complete two documents that serve as permanent records of a flight mission:

  • The flight crew completes a flight log, which records the serial number of the aircraft, the name of the flight crew, the number of stops (also known as “legs”) completed, the time of arrival and departure of all legs, and fuel usage.

  • The security crew completes a daily log, which records the names of the security officers, and the number of passengers loaded, dropped, and on-board at each leg.

As stated earlier, the hub in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma primarily transports federal prisoners under the jurisdiction of the USMS and the BOP. To facilitate the transport of these federal prisoners, the BOP Federal Transfer Center serves as a layover facility. Opened in 1995 and operated by the BOP, the transfer center is at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma near the JPATS hub.

Billing for Services Provided

After flight missions have been completed, JPATS reconciles the passenger list through APSS in order to close out the trip. Upon closure, data from APSS is downloaded to the JPATS Cost Accounting System (JCAS), which generates billing reports based on the flight hours from the flight log. The JACS issues billing reports on a monthly basis.

JPATS participates in the Intra-governmental Payment and Collection (IPAC) system of the Department of the Treasury. The IPAC provides a mechanism for federal agencies to make reimbursements through electronic transfer of funds. JPATS receives reimbursements for its services by drawing funds directly from the accounts of its customers, as long as JPATS possesses a properly executed Reimbursable Agreement.

Prior Reviews

JPATS and specific aspects of its operations have been frequently examined. Although we provide a more comprehensive list of reviews and studies in Appendix IX, we highlight in this section some of the more significant reviews of JPATS and its operations.

The last OIG review of the overall JPATS operation was completed in 1997, Report number I‑97‑05, The Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System. In that review, we identified a lack of efficiency in JPATS’s deportation flights and the slow progress that was being made with the creation and implementation of the automated scheduling system. We made five recommendations to improve the overall development of the automated scheduling system and improve JPATS’s ability to account for operational costs.

Based on JPATS’s substantial growth in is operations and finances, the JEC unanimously approved a management review to determine its efficiency and effectiveness. JMD performed this broad and comprehensive review of JPATS and issued a report, dated March 2003, A Management Review of the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS). JMD found weaknesses in the areas of management oversight, operations, support, and administration. As a result, JMD made 41 recommendations to JPATS for improvements in each of these areas.

The GSA, through its Interagency Committee for Aviation Policy, Aviation Resource Management Survey program, reviewed JPATS’s overall operations and issued a report, dated October 7, 2002, Factual ARMS Report of the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS). This review found weaknesses related to security controls at JPATS hangars and documentation problems related to aircraft usage and maintenance. Although the report did not include recommendations, JPATS officials addressed weaknesses identified in the report by implementing corrective actions, some of which were in process during our review.

Audit Approach

The objectives of this audit were to evaluate the USMS’s: (1) ability to effectively manage the risks inherent in prisoner movements to ensure safe and efficient transport, and (2) coordination with its three primary customers regarding the movement of prisoners and aliens.

To pursue the first objective, we reviewed JPATS’s budget model and determined how it affects each customer. Also, we interviewed JPATS officials regarding their efforts to plan for future capacity needs and their decision to lease aircraft. We reviewed JPATS automated scheduling system and how it was being used by its customers. Further, we sampled the views of JPATS employees in order to identify relevant issues relating to the safety and security of JPATS operation. We reviewed the transportation process and focused our testing on the scheduling process, adequacy of security personnel levels, and the reporting of safety and security incidents. We visited JPATS hubs and reviewed manifest reports and time-and-attendance records to assess safety and security controls.

To accomplish the second objective, we interviewed JPATS officials to identify mechanisms for coordination and agencies who interact with the program on a regular basis for the transport of prisoners and aliens. We also obtained applicable manuals and policies from JPATS and other agencies related to coordination issues.

Chapter 2 details our review of JPATS’s management controls over its budget, capacity, leasing of aircraft, and scheduling. In order to evaluate the sufficiency of controls, we examined the strength and weaknesses of the new budget model, the adequacy for capacity planning, the strategy for investing in aviation resources, and the efficiency of the scheduling process.

Chapter 3 includes our analysis of the risks associated with safety and security in JPATS’s operations. Specifically, we reviewed the Public Aircraft provision and how JPATS interprets its exempt status from regulations imposed on civilian aviation industry. To examine whether the air transport is conducted safely, we reviewed the credentials of the pilots, selection of airports with adequate facilities and services, time-and-attendance records of crew members for compliance with crew rest policies, and aviation safety reports. Further, we evaluated the adequacy of the security personnel both aboard the aircraft and at hangars. We also examined the relevancy of seat configuration on planes and evaluated various reports that serve to document incidents relating to security concerns.

In Chapter 4, we examine issues pertaining to coordination between JPATS and its customers. We reviewed the structure of the JPATS Executive Committee, the principal method for agencies to communicate on issues affecting operation of JPATS. We also explored the importance of liaisons from the customer agency and why the lack of a liaison from the USMS is a weakness in coordinating that agency’s transportation issues with JPATS.

  1. In this report we use the term “customers” to denote the three principal agencies that use JPATS on a regular basis: the USMS, the BOP, and ICE.

  2. For Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, JPATS participated in the relief efforts by conducting a total of 27 flights, which transported 3,510 victims, 62 Air Force medics, and 35 Air Marshals.

  3. See Appendix I for a more detailed description of our audit objectives, scope, and methodology.

  4. See Appendix II for a map showing the air and ground routes that transport the primary customers of JPATS. JPATS transports prisoners and aliens by air through its fleet of service-owned and leased airplanes. Although JPATS assists in the scheduling of ground transport for the BOP and the USMS, it does not own or operate the motor vehicle fleets used by those two agencies. JPATS also is not involved in any aspects of the ground transport of aliens under the jurisdiction of ICE.

  5. According to JPATS, within each mode of transportation, a movement is the transport of a prisoner or alien from an initial departure location to the destination, regardless of how many intermediate stops are made.

  6. See Appendix III for JPATS air movements by fiscal year and by customers, as well as a breakdown of deportations to foreign countries.

  7. In FY 2005, a total of 858 requests were made to transport non-federal prisoners through JPATS; these requests generally came from state or local law enforcement agencies. See Appendices IV and V for non-federal prisoner movements in FYs 2004 and 2005.

  8. Other agencies include prisoners moved for the military or for other civilian federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

  9. Other modes include commercial air, cars, vans, buses, and air charters.

  10. The six percent of Miscellaneous in the pie-chart includes one percent for court orders, one percent for non-federal entities that requested JPATS services, and four percent for all others.

  11. At the time of the study, the BOP relied on the aviation services provided by the USMS; the BOP did not have its own aviation program.

  12. A significant change of personnel occurred during our audit, when the Assistant Director of JPATS retired in January 2006. Between January and April 2006, a USMS headquarters official served as the acting Assistant Director of JPATS. Since April 2006, the Chief of Business Management Branch of JPATS has been serving as the acting Assistant Director. In this report, the “Assistant Director” refers to the official who served in that role until his retirement in January 2006.

  13. In accordance with Section 605 of the Annual Appropriation Act, JPATS submitted its Congressional Relocation Report (CRR) for the Aguadilla project in 2003. A CRR notifies the Congress on the opening, closing, and relocating of programs. Both houses of Congress approved the CRR for the Aguadilla project in fall of 2004.

  14. According to the President’s FY 1999 budget submission to Congress, the USMS requested $10 million to initialize the JPATS revolving fund; however, Congress appropriated $5 million.

  15. The 1994 JMD study that led to the creation of JPATS recommended the formation of an oversight body. In FY 1999, a JPATS Advisory Committee was created that eventually served as a model for the JEC.

  16. The BOP maintains a fleet of 100 buses that 15 BOP institutions dispatch on a regular basis. The BOP conducted a total of 2,648 bus trips in FY 2004 and 2,745 in FY 2005.

  17. See Appendix VI for a list of federal judiciary processes frequently requested by the USMS for movements by JPATS.

  18. See Appendix VII for the weekly flight schedules of JPATS’ six large planes at the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Alexandria, Louisiana; and Mesa, Arizona hubs.

  19. JPATS movements of aliens under ICE jurisdiction accounts for only a portion of ICE’s transportation requirements. According to ICE data, JPATS provided 95,292 movements during FY 2005. In that same timeframe, ICE purchased 62,017 tickets in the amount of $63,741,543 to address movements of aliens that the agency elected to conduct outside JPATS.

  20. For CONUS flights, ICE does not know the aliens who will be available for movement until the date of the flight. For foreign missions, ICE schedules deportees one week prior to the departure because the foreign government must receive prior notice of the return of its citizens.

  21. The composition and seating capacity of the current fleet is displayed in Appendix VIII. JPATS used to operate a combination of leased and service-owned large aircraft, until it sold its service-owned large aircraft in 2004.


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