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Inside the real Con Air which transports 200,000 inmates a year

Harley Young

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Inside the real Con Air which transports 200,000 inmates a year

Featured Image Credit: USMS

Ever seen the movie Con Air? Well, if you've ever wondered what a US flight transporting criminals is really like, then look no further.

Though it's not quite as thrilling as Nicolas Cage made it out to be, the United States' air transport service to ferry inmates across state lines has definitely dealt with its fair share of unruly characters over the years.

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A new episode of the Chasing Evil podcast has given listeners a glimpse into what it's really like as a passenger aboard one of these flights.

The Con Air program, officially known as the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS), was first established in 1995 and, in just 2021 alone, JPATS transferred 113,768 prisoners by air in 42 domestic and international cities, according to US Marshals' data.

The flights aren't quite what you'd imagine after watching Nicolas Cage in Con Air. Credit: USMS
The flights aren't quite what you'd imagine after watching Nicolas Cage in Con Air. Credit: USMS

The host of the Chasing Evil podcast, Christopher Godsick explains in his show that agents would have to be willing to face anyone and everyone - from horrific serial killers to celebrities such as the likes of Martha Stewart, Michael Vick and singer-songwriter Chris Brown.

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Godsick told the Daily Mail how weirdly normal the flights seem, saying: "It is extraordinarily normal.

"There is nothing on that flight that would indicate anything significant, except the logo of the US marshals."

JPATS Chief of Operations, Mark McPherson, describes his and his crews' jobs similar to that of FedEx workers, saying that just instead of delivering packages they delivering prisoners to their new holdings.

Though this may look like a regular Boeing 737, its job is to transport some of the most dangerous criminals in the US. Credit: USMS
Though this may look like a regular Boeing 737, its job is to transport some of the most dangerous criminals in the US. Credit: USMS
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In fact, prisoners can be moved as much as up to four or five times during a typical sentence - hence why the air service is so popular.

The nature of why they are moved could be to do with the location in which they are captured, if they need to be moved to where they are meant to stand trial or the state where they are to be charged.

One of the major flight destinations and departures for this particular plane is Oklahoma City as the airport has a prison on site.

Some prisoners are known as 'black box prisoners' if they are particularly dangerous. Credit: USMS
Some prisoners are known as 'black box prisoners' if they are particularly dangerous. Credit: USMS
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Some prisoners are regarded as 'black box prisoners', which means they need to be placed under extra secure measures to 'lessen the amount of movement', says McPherson.

McPherson goes on to tell Godsick that usually criminals who are gang-affiliated are split up, but there was one time when a flight had to carry 71 members of MS-13 - an international crime gang - aboard.

"There was mitigation there, crew members and preparation, security personnel for sure," McPherson added.

Godsick continues by saying that there's more staff on these flights than on any other typical flight, as there needs to be a medic on board to deal with any prisoner health issues.

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Despite popular belief, there's no steel cages separating criminals from each other. Credit: USMS
Despite popular belief, there's no steel cages separating criminals from each other. Credit: USMS

Describing the actual transportation vessels themselves, the Boeing 737s used to transport the criminals are pretty standard and don't feature steel cages for each prisoner to be under lock and key like the 1997 movie seems to portray.

Godsick joked that upon finding this out it was 'a little disappointing'.

"I was expecting a flying fortress and what I got was a Southwest flight. It was a little less exciting than what I was hoping for.

"It was shockingly normal and the inmates were just, maybe, happy to get out of a cell."

Topics: News, US News, Crime

Harley Young
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