LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - James Barfield drives every day. But his job isn't just any road trip.
As an Angelina County transport deputy, Barfield moves inmates to different cells.
"We stay aware the entire time just in case because sometimes you have to worry about like if the family finds out that they're being transported or friends that they would try to hijack the vehicle or try to help that inmate escape," Barfield said.
A metal gate and a few inches separate Barfield from suspects and convicted criminals.
"We have them locked inside the vehicle, but the vehicle is pretty much a moving target," Barfield said.
Leg shackles, belly chains and handcuffs go on before each transport.
And once the inmates are secured, Barfield says they're buckled up, but not chained to the seat. Female inmates ride in the front, and male inmates load up in the back.
"The hardest part I would say is unpredictability of what's going to happen with the inmates," said Laszlo Vincze, another transport deputy.
It's widely considered one of the most dangerous jobs.
"The only one that we've had escape from the jail itself came out of the sally port and it was during the transport," Sheriff Kent Henson said.
Deputies make daily trips to the courthouse and all over the state.
For the long trips, every detail is planned, down to restroom breaks.
"We'll have two officers and one officer will stay in the vehicle with the inmate while the other one goes inside," Barfield said.
The drive can be especially dangerous after passengers are sentenced.
Barfield says every inmate reacts differently.
He drove Stephen "Caveman" Wallace after he was sentenced to life for his role in a woman's brutal beating.
"He was actually talkative and happy the entire time, so I mean, then I've taken some that's only ended up with two-year state jail and they think it's the end of the world," Barfield said.
Despite the added danger, it's a job these deputies love.