Prisoners fly in style on state aircraft

Print
Email
|

by David Alan

WVEC

Posted on May 18, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:17 PM

NORFOLK -- A $6-million King Air is one high-priced, high-flying paddy wagon.

According to state records, since 2010, 125 offenders in Virginia have been flown on state planes, traveling in luxury to hearings, court appearances and prisons.

Our review of hundreds of pages of paperwork found that Va. State Police and Va. Department Corrections officials used state aircraft to pick up offenders in Texas, New York, Florida, Georgia and even made short hops across Virginia.

You paid $300,000 plus $4,700 for 'gourmet air catering for those trips.

"Ha, Ha, Ha, I think a box lunch is all they need," said one taxpayer.

"They can make them walk for all I care and pick up the trash along the way," an angry taxpayer added.

Despite the high-priced flights, the Department of Corrections said it must watch the bottom line.

"Everything that we spend we're looking at very closely, we have to," spokesman Larry Traylor said.

Corrections officials stated court-ordered deadlines and safety are big considerations in determining how to transport fugitives. So is cost, so when possible they double up offenders on flights to try and save money.

The paperwork shows 25 cases where there was just a single offender on board. One of those cases was Robert Gleason, a confessed killer who claimed he would kill again if not given the death penalty. In March, the state flew Gleason from a prison in Wise County to Richmond for a competency hearing. That flight cost taxpayers $6,000.

"If we had faster answers and better ways of doing things, we would love to do it and we would love to hear about it," Traylor said.

A spot check with corrections officials around the country found no other state transports fugitives in the luxury that Virginia does. Oregon, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania don’t use expensive state planes to fly offenders. Those states use commercial flights or, cheaper yet, the U.S. Marshal's Service or even basic prison vans. Like Virginia, those states have to deal with security issues and court-ordered deadlines.

Virginia corrections officials said they transport offenders by ground whenever possible and have used commercial flights and the U.S. Marshal's Service only a handful of times.

State planes remain the most-expensive method of transporting offenders in Virginia. But what is Virginia didn’t have state planes?

"I assume we'd probably try to work with US Marshal's Service, or work with some type of commercial airline to get them back as quickly as possible," Traylor admitted.

 

Print
Email
|