A prison transfer is a pretty self-explanatory notion. A person who is imprisoned in one prison is moved to another, for any number of reasons. In the movies, this is always the ideal time for friends or foes to try to reach the transferee, for a breakout or assassination. In reality, prison transfers actually have far more devious systemic uses. For one thing, there's always a certain subset of prisoners who (not having much else to do) incessantly litigate, against every wrong they can form a thought around. An obvious target is the prison itself -- since prisoners are still afforded some rights, they can sue over the prison not meeting these rights. Generally speaking, laws make it onerously hard for prisoners to sue to get compensated in cash, so they instead pursue court orders to stop the prison from doing whatever wrongful thing it is assertedly doing to the prisoner -- serving food which violates prisoner religious restrictions, withholding visits or mail or phone calls, tossing them in solitary for any and all wrong reasons, etc, etc.

But such a court order can only issue if the prison is doing these things to this particular prisoner in a continual sort of way. So what will happen is, a prison warden will call a nearby counterpart to talk about which of their prisoners have become a lawsuit pain in the ass, and will then simply swap. They'll engineer a prison transfer to each move their own troublemakers to the other guy's prison. Since in each such event the suing prisoner is no longer living under the roof of the prison he's suing, his facility-specific concerns can no longer possibly be continuing and his court case will be thrown out as having been mooted. Both prisons get off the hook for the lawsuits of their transferred prisoners, and yet the prisoners are probably no better off because they're being inherited by prisons which already have a negative eye on their litigious proclivities. And worse yet (for the prisoners), if they go and file a lawsuit against their new prison home, its defenders can simply point out, "hey, this guy sued the last prison he was in for the same thing, he's just a serial prison-suer."

Naturally, there are many other reasons for prison transfers to be undertaken as well. If the wardens think to care about it, a prisoner may be moved out of genuine danger due to threats from foes in the prison population. A prison gang may be broken up by scattering, or a well-behaved prisoner may be essentially receive a reward of relocation to somewhat nicer digs (or may be rewarded for providing helpful information in another case). A prisoner may be moved to be closer to family members who find traveling to visit to be a hardship, or may have some medical reason requiring relocation, or may be moved to facilitate participation in some aspect of some criminal or other legal matter wending its way through the byzantine labyrinth of the courts. Whatever the reasons, at any given moment it is a good bet that somewhere some prisoners are being transferred with all the frills one might imagine accompanies such an act.

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