Prisoner Transport Services of America

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            PCI, 1114 Brandt Drive, Tallahassee FL 32308

May 1, 2019 CBS12 News Investigates
Missing child support payments: it’s a crime that cost one Palm Beach County man his life after a violent van ride to jail. Steven Galack was one of thousands transported by a private, for-profit extradition company each year. Law enforcement agencies across the country outsource these transports to cut costs. CBS12 News Investigates uncovered questions about inmate safety, allegations of abuse, and even inmate deaths on transport vehicles.


Suffering from chronic pain, mental health issues, and a recent divorce, Steven Galack moved from Ohio to Florida for a fresh start. In the summer of 2012, at the age of 46, he was living with his mother in a Delray Beach apartment complex. Deputies from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office responded to his apartment to investigate a noise complaint from a neighbor. They did not find a reason to investigate the noise complaint further, but when they ran Galack’s name, they found a warrant out for his arrest in Ohio for four counts of missing child support payments.

Deputies took him into custody and brought him to the Palm Beach County Jail to start the extradition process back to Butler County, Ohio for court.


Because Butler County, Ohio, has an agreement with a private company to perform extraditions, Galack was loaded onto a van operated by Prison Transportation Services of America (PTS).

Private prison transport companies like PTS pick up inmates and transport them across state lines, dropping off and picking up new people along the way. PTS picked up Galack at the jail in West Palm Beach on July 30, 2012. There were several other inmates riding in the transport van with him.

In video depositions obtained by CBS12 News Investigates, the other passengers said Galack appeared fine when he was picked up, but started to deteriorate as the van made a crisscrossing trip through Florida, up to Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. “I was concerned about his mental health,” Joseph Allen testified. “This man was really slipping, and didn’t even know what world he was in and the guards didn’t even care,” he said. Another prisoner, Chelsie Hogsett, said Galack repeatedly asked for help. “He was in a lot of pain,” she said. “He asked to go to the hospital. He kept saying he was going to die and he needed to go to a hospital.” A civil lawsuit filed by the Galack family against PTS alleges the guards on the transport were made aware of Galack’s prescription medication. The complaint states that PTS employees never gave him the medication he needed. Instead, the lawsuit states, they gave him a beating. Hogsett and Allen testified that they witnessed one of the guards punch Galack in the face to try and keep him quiet. When he continued to have outbursts, the inmates said the guards instructed the other prisoners in the van to join the assault. “I remember hearing [the guard] say, ‘No head shots, just body shots,” Hogsett said. They said after the beatings, Galack became quiet and slumped over in the van. When the transport arrived in Tennessee, PTS employees realized he wasn’t sleeping. Galack had no pulse, the lawsuit said. “I told [the guard] Galack didn’t look right,” said Allen. “I said, ‘You might need to check on him’. [The guard] put his fingers right there [for a pulse] and said the words ‘Oh s***”.


According to Steven Galack’s death certificate, a medical examiner could not determine the cause of death. The Galack family blames PTS. In a statement, his ex-wife Kristin told CBS12 News Investigates: The death of Steven left a huge hole in all of our lives. PTS treated him like a piece of trash. But he was a father, a brother, a son and loved by so many. All PTS cared about was getting him from Florida to Ohio no matter the worst which included the brutal death of Steven. There needs to be changes and regulations for these transportation companies or there will continue to be more deaths. CBS12 News Investigates made multiple attempts to reach PTS and its attorneys for comment. No one responded. The Galack family settled their lawsuit against PTS for a confidential amount. Our investigation found that they were not alone. CBS12 News Investigates uncovered 40 other lawsuits against PTS from former inmates. The allegations range from physical abuse, to sexual abuse, to a lack of medical care, bathroom breaks and water. In two cases, inmates suffering from stomach ulcers on the transport van allegedly did not receive medical attention.

They both died on the van. There are five documented cases of inmates dying in PTS custody.


U.S. Representative Ted Deutch (D-Boca) said the death of the Steven Galack alerted him to issues in the private prison transport industry. Since 2016, he has been asking the Department of Justice to investigate companies like PTS. “People are treated worse than furniture when furniture is moved,” Congressman Deutch said. Last February, Deutch joined U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and sent a letter to PTS President Joel Brasfield asking for information about their policies and procedures to ensure that PTS and its subsidiaries are complying with federal regulations. The letter asks how many inmates have died, experienced medical emergencies, been sexually assaulted, or abused in PTS custody between 2008 and 2018. Congressman Deutch said the company responded with limited detail. “The only thing we have been told is that they ‘follow best practices,” said Congressman Deutch. He said his next step may be looking at legislation to strengthen regulations and enforcement for private prison transportation companies. “If it’s your family member who is being transported and is hoping to have the ability to defend himself or herself and never has the chance because they die while being transported, I think most people would agree that’s a terrible outcome,” Congressman Deutch said. “It shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Prisoner Transportation Services of America
Oct 13, 2019

Sen. Warren Asks DOJ Inspector General To Investigate Private Prison Transport Companies

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is asking the Department of Justice's inspector general to investigate private prisoner transport companies, and examine whether the DOJ is doing its job to oversee an industry frequently under fire over abuse allegations. Companies like Prisoner Transportation Services of America, or PTS, have been the subject of harrowing stories of alleged prisoner abuse, neglect and sexual assault. That includes the alleged sexual assault of a Massachusetts woman. As WBUR reported in May, the woman, Smith, said she was raped by a PTS guard during a two-week trip in a van from California to Massachusetts. (WBUR only identified Smith by her surname as the station doesn’t identify victims of sexual assault without their consent.) Warren and other lawmakers brought their requests to the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General after an attempt to get information from the companies directly earlier this year. The Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate initially sent a letter to PTS in February asking how the company keeps detainees safe, as federally required. The letter was also signed by fellow 2020 hopeful New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, as well as Florida U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. The Democrats also asked how many detainees in PTS custody have died, or been injured or sexually abused. Get news from the Capitol and the campaign trail sent to your inbox each week by WBUR’s Kimberly Atkins. Sign up now. PTS was able to say how many people died in its custody (five), and how many people reported a sexual assault (six). But the company said it couldn't report how many people suffered a medical emergency or needed medical attention. PTS president Joel Brasfield called it "impractical" to gather that data going back more than 10 years, as the lawmakers requested. PTS also didn't identify any audits or evaluations conducted by the DOJ, the agency responsible for making sure minimum standards protecting people being transported as well as the public are followed. The lawmakers called it an "alarming omission." "The information we have obtained from our request to PTS suggests that, despite numerous reports of problems that endanger prisoners and the public, DOJ may be failing to provide critical oversight of private prisoner transportation companies," the lawmakers wrote in their letter sent Friday to the inspector general. In that notice, Warren and her colleagues asked the IG's office to examine the DOJ's oversight of the private prison transport industry dating back to 2003, spanning three presidential administrations. PTS did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Neither did the DOJ. The Massachusetts Probation Service has tapped PTS to move more than 460 adults since 2015. PTS and its subsidiaries collected more than $1.3 million in the last 10 years from Massachusetts, mostly from the probation and parole departments. In Smith's case, she was put into PTS custody in January 2016 after she was picked up on a probation violation while attending a drug rehabilitation program in California. A guard, Jermaine Taylor, was charged with three counts of sexual assault for allegedly putting his hands under her pants while she was handcuffed and shackled during a stop in New Jersey. Taylor pleaded guilty in August — not to sexual assault, but third-degree aggravated assault causing significant bodily injury. He admitted only to securing the woman's handcuffs too tightly, causing "impairment of functions." Smith told WBUR she was angry with the plea, and wasn't informed by Atlantic County, New Jersey prosecutors about the specifics to which Taylor was pleading. Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced next month. As part of the plea deal, he is expected to receive no jail time beyond the nearly five months he's already served.

Apr 26, 2018
Man shackled for days in prisoner transport van files suit
McLEAN, Va. (AP) — Edward Kovari's 18-day ordeal began Sept. 12, 2016, when some guys in a van showed up to take him from a jail in Virginia to Texas, where he was wanted on charges that he had stolen a car. But the trip from Winchester, Virginia, to Houston took more than two weeks in a crowded van where inmates had to urinate in bottles and take turns sleeping on the van's floor, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by Kovari. The private company that contracted with the jail to transport Kovari, 39, kept him shackled in the back of that van for 18 days as it wound through the country picking up inmates in an effort at cost efficiency. The charge on which Kovari was brought to Texas was later dismissed. The company that transferred him, Nashville-based Prisoner Transportation Services, bills itself as the nation's largest prisoner extradition company. It did not respond Tuesday to messages seeking comment. The lawsuit, filed by civil rights lawyers Jia Cobb, Glenn Schlactus and Orly May, alleges Prisoner Transportation Services prioritizes "transporting as many detainees, with as few stops for rest or care, as possible over their obligation to safely transport those in their custody." In Kovari's case, that meant 18 days, most of which he spent in shackles. On only two or three nights did the van actually stop at a jail where prisoners were allowed to get out and spend the night in a bed. Inside the van, no provisions were made for restroom stops, and inmates urinated into bottles which spilled and sloshed on the floor of the van. In one case, a prisoner defecated on the van floor, and in another instance, a prisoner vomited. The lawsuit alleges that nothing was done to clean the mess. "He spent the duration of the transport sitting in human waste and filth," the lawyers wrote. The van was poorly ventilated with no functioning air conditioning, according to the lawsuit. At one point, according to the suit, the van pulled over on the highway after a flat tire and inmates were left in the back of the van. When police responded to the breakdown, one officer threatened the guards with arrest if they did not let the inmates out for fresh air and an opportunity to relieve themselves. The van was so crowded — at times with up to 15 passengers — that inmates including Kovari took turns lying on the floor with other inmate's feet on top for the opportunity to sleep. Kovari was also not permitted to take his medication and asked to be taken to the hospital on a daily basis, according to the lawsuit. But the drivers responded that that any stop at the hospital would require all the other inmates to wait in the van for as long as Kovari was hospitalized. As a result, according to the suit, the other inmates threatened Kovari if he insisted on a hospital stop. When Kovari finally made it to the Harris County Jail, his systolic blood pressure — the so-called top number — exceeded 200 and he was admitted to the jail infirmary, where his condition did not stabilize for two days. Kovari's lawyers declined to make him available for an interview. Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News, a publication focusing on prisoner rights and geared toward inmates, said stories like Kovari's are not uncommon. He said the private prisoner transport industry has been plagued with problems for more than a dozen years, with little effort toward reform. The only federal law governing the issue is designed to protect the public from inmate escapes as opposed to securing inmate safety. Dropping people off in a timely manner is not the priority," he said. The inmates who are most often subjected to these transports are, like Kovari, pretrial detainees who are presumed innocent, Friedmann said.

Oct 27, 2017
Our View: Humiliation, abuse and profit
Quinn, who has more than a decade of petty convictions and trouble controlling her behavior, was charged with forgery in 2011. She stole $1,800 from her mother by writing checks on Mom’s account. Had she abided by the terms of a plea agreement, the charge would eventually have been dropped. But Quinn drank alcohol and that deal was rescinded. Her sentence was three months in jail, followed by two years of probation. That probation also had standard restrictions against using alcohol, which Quinn ignored by having a drink. And she violated other terms, such as failing to check in with her probation officer. So, a bench warrant was issued. When she was located in Florida last fall, Androscoggin County hired a for-profit company to transport her home. Cost? $1,500. Quinn’s extradition is not unusual. It’s a routine process across this country to locate, collect and return defendants to answer charges. It’s also a process that needs far greater scrutiny than it gets. When extradited, a person is in official government custody and all the rights and protections the law affords prisoners must be observed. When the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office assigns its deputies to this task, these rights are carefully preserved. But, when Quinn was transported from Florida to Maine last November, her rights were ignored. Her dignity was ignored. Her basic humanness was utterly ignored. This woman — who deserves the punishment handed down to her by the court for her violations — absolutely did not deserve to be physically, emotionally, sexually and psychologically violated as she was by an agent of the government. Quinn was transported to Maine by U.S Prisoner Transport, a subsidiary of Nashville-based Prisoner Transportation Services. The trip took five days, during which she was denied timely access to a bathroom and was forced to defecate in a used fast-food wrapper in a moving van while a group of male transports watched. Some hooted and hollered as she had her pants down. When Quinn got her period, the transport company refused to provide her sanitary supplies, so she sat curled in her own blood, and other bodily fluids. That trip was Thanksgiving week. Two weeks earlier, Surface Transportation Board Vice Chairman Deb Miller had called on the Justice Department to investigate Prisoner Transportation Services for human rights violations, citing the company’s track history of disregard for passengers. Had someone taken that seriously, Quinn’s treatment may have been quite different. OK. Got it. These companies transport criminals. The accommodations and travel conditions don’t have to be luxurious. They do have to be humane.
  In August, according to Business Insider, a merger between Prisoner Transportation Services — which is the nation’s largest prisoner transportation company — and U.S. Corrections was stalled after the Human Rights Defense Center objected to that merger. In November, the merger was allowed to move forward when the Surface Transportation Board found it to be “consistent with the public interest.” In July, then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee her office was reviewing “apparent lapses in federal oversight of prisoner transport companies,” according to Business Insider. These lapses were highlighted in a report published by The Marshall Project that examined outrageous treatment of prisoners under the care of transport companies. Lynch — an Obama appointee — left office in January, and her acting replacement was in place less than two weeks before she was replaced by Jeff Sessions. So, who knows where that review stands. The merger of PTS and U.S. Corrections will create the nation’s largest transportation company, one that controls the market with virtually no oversight. It would be easy to look away. These are prisoners after all. They deserve whatever they get, right? Wrong. According to The Marshall Project, in the 16 years since Jeanna’s Act — lightly regulating these transport companies — was enacted, 16 prisoners have died while in custody. Since 2012, four of them died from alleged abuse or neglect inside the transport vans. None of these prisoners was sentenced to death, but that’s what they got. In response to findings of The Marshall Project, PTS President Joel Brasfield said the company outfitted some of its vans with cameras and changed its regulations to provide longer and more regular breaks for its driver-guards. The van Quinn was on did not have a camera. And, despite Brasfield’s claim to provide 24-hour breaks for guards every two days, the two guards who transported Quinn and her fellow passengers did not get these breaks. The guards were the same for five consecutive days, catching rest in the passenger seat while the second guard drove. Brasfield has ignored the Sun Journal’s repeated requests for information, including access to public records that the company is required to provide under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and Florida’s Sunshine Law, so his desire to confront this issue does not seem sincere. The situation is this: The Justice Department is long aware of the problem. The problem is being studied and reviewed. Promises have been made to provide better oversight. And, still a 34-year-old woman can be loaded into a van in Florida and neglected for five days travel to Maine. Quinn and her fellow passengers were treated like animals. If society continues to ignore that treatment, we are the animals.

Oct 8, 2017

Former South Dakota prison inmate escapes transport in Illinois
A recent inmate of the South Dakota state prison was one of three inmates who escaped from a transport company in Illinois. According to a release from the South Dakota Department of Corrections, Alonzo Young was being transported to another state when he reportedly escaped in West City, Illinois. Young, 24, is a black male, 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs approximately 140 pounds. Young is serving two sentences for first-degree robbery and also has consecutive sentences for assault on a law enforcement officer, simple assault on a law enforcement officer and escape. The South Dakota Department of Corrections is providing information on Young to law enforcement agencies tasked with getting him back into custody.

Apr 27, 2017
Congressman Calls for Probe into Private Prisoner Transport
A Florida congressman urged his colleagues and the Department of Justice on Wednesday to investigate deaths and abuses on for-profit prisoner transport vehicles, renewing calls for scrutiny of the industry first raised on Capitol Hill last summer. Rep. Ted Deutch (D.-Fla) cited a recent Marshall Project story of a 29-year-old New York man who died in March on a bus operated by Prisoner Transportation Services, the nation’s largest extradition company. It was at least the fifth prisoner death on a PTS vehicle since 2012. “I am extremely concerned with recent reports describing horrific conditions and loss of life,” Deutch said at a general Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Marshals. Deutch has repeatedly called for a hearing to probe the lack of federal oversight of private prisoner transport companies. After a Marshall Project investigation on the industry was published in the New York Times in July, then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch promised her office would report back to the committee on the issue. But there has been little follow-up. After Deutch’s remarks, the subcommittee moved onto other topics without comment, as is common at general oversight hearings. It is not clear if a hearing will be scheduled. Every year, tens of thousands of men and women — many of whom have not been convicted of a crime — are transported by private extradition companies to faraway jurisdictions where they have open arrest warrants or pending criminal cases. Countless state and local law enforcement agencies hire these companies, paying by the mile. Since 2000, the industry has been responsible for 16 deaths, 14 alleged sexual assaults, 60 escapes, and more than 50 crashes, The Marshall Project found. Kevin Eli, the Queens man who died last month, was being transported from Virginia to Florida to face a nine-year-old burglary charge. Passengers said he begged for medical attention but was ignored by guards until it was too late. At Wednesday’s hearing, Deutch noted that lawmakers could revisit and strengthen a 2000 federal law meant to regulate the extradition industry, commonly known as Jeanna’s Act. The law has been enforced only once. Deutch then asked the two witnesses at the hearing — Thomas Kane, acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, and David Harlow, acting director of the U.S. Marshals — whether the federal government contracts with PTS. Both said no and added that extradition companies are used mainly by state and local agencies.

Apr 18, 2017
Prison transport company denies mistreatment; DAs seek alternatives
LEWISTON — A private prisoner transport company used for years by Maine prosecutors to extradite prisoners back to this state has denied it mistreated a Lewiston inmate during a five-day trip from Florida to Maine in November. Maine's district attorneys are seeking alternative sources for those extraditions. In a letter (see related story) from Prisoner Transport Services to the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, an internal affairs investigator at the company addressed allegations of the neglect and mistreatment of Meghan Quinn, 34, that were featured in a Sun Journal special investigative report published March 26. "Based on the allegations in this complaint there (are) no findings that U.S. Prisoner Transport personnel violated policy and procedures and/or any U.S.P.T. standard operating procedures," Lt. Christopher M. Snow, investigator for internal affairs at the company, summarized in his four-page report. "Although the conditions during transport may have been unpleasant, they did not amount to deprivation and is only the opinion of offender Quinn and that U.S.P.T personnel acted in good faith." The company's president and general counsel, Joel Brasfield, told the Sun Journal by phone Friday that he considers the matter closed. "We stand by our findings," he said. Brasfield declined to comment on the Sun Journal's reporting, including a harrowing account of Quinn and another inmate, except to say he had not been aware of a problem until the Sun Journal's story was published. The Sun Journal also had reported that district attorneys in Southern and Central Maine had halted their use of that transport company after learning of the allegations by Quinn and David Bowden, 45, of Bangor as chronicled by the Sun Journal. In January, the newspaper filed a request for records from the company regarding Quinn's transport. Brasfield said he "had two lawyers look at it and they do not believe we are required to give a response — at all." The Sun Journal filed its request citing Maine and Florida right-to-know laws that mandate private companies comply with those laws if they are acting as agents of a public entity by performing a service that would otherwise be performed by a public agency. Not responding within five days of a freedom of information request is a clear violation of the law. Brasfield said: "We're not prepared to share any of our documents with you at this point." Androscoggin County District Attorney Andrew Robinson, whose office had contracted with U.S. Prisoner Transport for Quinn's extradition, said Friday the company's letter fails to answer all of the questions his office has about Quinn's transport. The company's letter has been shared with five other Maine district attorneys whose offices had used the services of U.S. Prisoner Transport for extraditions, he said. Two district attorneys in Maine said they don't use private prisoner transport services. "At this point," Robinson said, "We're not scheduling any new transports with them until we're satisfied that (allegations made by Quinn and Bowden) did not occur." The six county prosecutors who had used the transport company are planning to meet to discuss other options for extraditing those prisoners whom they would in the past have had transported by the Florida-based company, Robinson said. Instead of each county going it alone, Robinson said, discussion is likely to include: "Is there a way we can coordinate our resources to make it easier on all of us, but we haven't had that meeting, so I don't have the answer to that yet. I have some ideas." None of the prosecutors have decided to continue to use or resume using U.S. Prisoner Transport's services after viewing the company's internal affairs letter, Robinson said. He declined to comment on the contents of the company's investigation and its conclusions, saying he preferred to wait until he and fellow prosecutors had a chance to meet and discuss the four-page letter. "If we can find a legitimate alternative and we all decide that we're not satisfied with the report, we'll proceed with the alternative," Robinson said. "If, after looking at the report and speaking as a group we decide we have questions and want to meet with the president of the company, then we should do that also." Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, whose office contracted with U.S. Prisoner Transport to perform 21 of that county's 40 extraditions last year, suspended all future contracts with the company after reading the Sun Journal report on March 26. Anderson said in an email Friday that she had reviewed the company's recent letter. "We are looking into two other companies and will give one of those a try for an extradition from North Carolina that will be coming up in a couple of weeks," she wrote. Matthew Forster, district attorney for Hancock and Washington counties, wrote in an email to the Sun Journal that, after reviewing the company's letter, he concluded that, "with the information I have, I am not comfortable using (U.S.) Prisoner Transport." Foster noted a "dearth of information" contained in the letter. "It has not changed my decision about the use of their services," he wrote, though that decision could change if more information were to "come to light." He said his office hasn't identified any alternative transport services to take the place of the private contractor, other than the U.S. Marshals Service. Christopher Almy, district attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, said he, also, had read the company's letter from its internal investigation of Quinn's account of her five-day trip. "The incident was disconcerting as reported," he wrote in an email. "We have not yet had to hire PTS since that time. The company has responded to the allegations. We are still deliberating on whether to use PTS again." Geoffrey Rushlau, district attorney for Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties, said his office had used U.S. Prisoner Transport for extraditions for "quite a number of years," but had considered looking elsewhere largely due to price increases, even before he learned of the Sun Journal's report on Quinn's transport experience. He said the company's service "had gotten more impersonal." The Florida company had, for years, gained a reputation for being "very responsive. They provided good service and they were reasonably priced." He said he hadn't been made aware of any complaints about prisoner conditions during transport with them. But more recently, his office's experience with the company, since it had been acquired by Prisoner Transportation Services LLC of Tennessee, "had not been as positive. We were trying to figure out if that was something we could work with and make it more positive. But we're prepared to look elsewhere if there were other options. We're not sure if there are other options that are particularly good," Rushlau said. He pointed to the U.S. Marshals Service as an option his office has used before. "That's a good way to go, sometimes" he said. For extraditions closer to home, he said, his office will tap local law enforcement agencies as long as the transport isn't too distant. If the extraditions would require a trip farther than upstate New York, they wouldn't be as cost-efficient to hire local agencies, he said. "We will continue to look at other options if any of them look reasonable to use," he said. Asked whether he would use U.S. Prisoner Transport again if an alternative can't be found, Rushlau said: "I don't know. A lot of it will depend upon timing and cost." Prisoner conditions during transport is one of several elements his office would consider in choosing who should be entrusted with extraditions, Rushlau said. Other factors include security, training and qualifications of personnel and safety. "That's what we've always looked for," he said.

Mar 17, 2017
Inmate escapes at Cleveland Hopkins Airport car rental facility
CLEVELAND - An inmate escaped at a rental car facility at Cleveland Hopkins Airport after reportedly being left unattended late Wednesday. According to police reports, Wesley Massey, 36, of Meadville, Pennsylvania, reportedly escaped while traveling with a man who works with a private prison transportation company. Massey was wanted on at least one bench warrant after Conneaut Lake Regional Police in Pennsylvania reported he fled before sentencing after facing several theft and fraud charges. Police said Massey was accused of making more than $40,000 in purchases on a company credit card. Authorities said he was being transported from Florida to Cleveland, and was then to be transported by vehicle to his final destination. The man working with the prison transportation company reported he was at an Enterprise counter inside the car rental facility at the airport when Massey asked to use the restroom. The man said he left Massey unattended for a couple of minutes to return to the counter. When he went to check on Massey, he wasn’t in the restroom. Reports stated Massey left the facility and immediately went to the employee parking lot adjacent to the rental car facility, and stole a grey 2013 Volkswagen Passat. Hertz managers at the car rental facility tell WKYC Channel 3 News that the stolen vehicle belonged to an employee who reportedly left the vehicle running before preparing to leave for the night. The man transporting the inmate told officials that Massey was handcuffed with shackles attached to his waist. Massey fled in the car, but was later stopped by Pennsylvania police. Police said he ignored verbal commands from officers and fled once again. Officers reported Massey was speeding on I-90 in Pennsylvania, hitting about 100 mph. Massey was eventually stopped by spike strips in Girard County. He is now facing additional charges including fleeing and eluding police and receiving stolen property. He was booked into Erie County Prison.

Dec 11, 2016
Michigan: Troubling private inmate transport allegations
The security guard was a big guy of about 270 pounds, and 5-foot-10. The three other guards on the prison bus called him Abram. Over the course of a two-day bus ride through four states last fall, Abram wielded his authority over handcuffed and shackled prisoners, one prisoner recounted, sexually groping men. “He rubbed up against me, touched me on my buttocks,” Woodrow Wilson, 58, of Detroit told Bridge Magazine. “I was handcuffed. I felt violated.” The alleged abuse is outlined in a federal lawsuit Wilson filed in October against Prisoner Transportation Services of America, LLC, a private, for-profit company hired by the Michigan Department of Corrections to transport prisoners across states. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, PTS is one of the largest private prisoner transportation companies in the nation and has been the subject of lawsuits, public scrutiny and allegations of mistreatment of prisoners. At least four people have died nationally in PTS vehicles since 2012, according to the Marshall Project, a nonprofit, Pulitzer-Prize-winning news organization that focuses on criminal justice, which this year investigated for-profit extradition companies in collaboration with The New York Times. Prisoners in Michigan and elsewhere have sued for injuries suffered during their transport, while others have escaped while in the custody of these companies, in some instances causing harm to the public. A month after the Marshall Project investigation and several months after Wilson said he was abused, PTS said it had improved safety measures, including adding cameras and satellite tracking systems to its vehicles. The company did not respond to questions about its record from Bridge. In Michigan, contracts with private transport companies contain rules that address security measures, such as minimum officer training requirements, and requiring transported prisoners to be handcuffed, wear seat belts and be given food and medicine on a regular basis. However, the state leaves other measures to the discretion of vendors, such as the decision to require cameras or to schedule regular bathroom breaks for the fugitives or suspects they carry. Because companies are paid per prisoner per mile, they can make more money by packing inmates tightly into vehicles and stopping infrequently, putting speed of delivery ahead of safety and security concerns. In Michigan, it remains unclear what steps, if any, the state takes to ensure private transport companies follow safety and security rules. That’s because the Michigan Department of Corrections would not reveal if it inspects private transport vehicles, or discuss its enforcement protocols, saying its security measures are “exempt from public disclosure” under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, according to state prison spokesman Chris Gautz. Critics of the private prisoner transportation industry say PTS and companies like it interact with thousands of prisoners with little oversight, making it too easy for profit-minded companies to cut corners on prisoner safety and public security. The federal law regulating these companies has been used to fine a private business only once since it was enacted in 2000 despite deaths and dozens of escapes, said Alex Friedmann, associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, a prisoner advocacy group based in Florida. “There are more regulations for transporting cattle than for transporting prisoners,” Friedmann said. “And very rarely are those regulations enforced, even on a federal level.” Earlier this year, PTS announced plans to merge with a rival, a company Michigan had previously fired. Federal approval was delayed in August after Friedmann’s group objected to the merger, citing PTS’ history of safety, sanitation and security problems. Critics argue states like Michigan that outsource prison transportation should be more vigilant and transparent about the care these companies take to protect their passengers — many of whom have not been convicted — as well as the security of the guards and the general public. Prisoners complain of being packed into speeding vehicles for days with no seat belts, too little food or water and lax medical care, with passengers sometimes left to urinate or defecate on themselves. Friedmann’s research cites two notorious incidents. In 1997, six prisoners were burned alive in a private company van near Dickson, Tennessee, after parts on the 1995 Ford E150 broke away and the van caught fire. The vehicle had logged more than 240,000 miles in two years. The company, Federal Extradition Agency, shut down in 1998 and Friedmann reported the case was settled for about $24 million. In another case, 39 Wisconsin prisoners filed a federal suit in 2000 against the nation’s largest prison transport company, TransCor America, claiming that during a 30-hour bus ride to Oklahoma prisoners were “splashed with waste from the overflowing toilet” and arrived with frostbite and hypothermia from exposure to the cold. Wilson is one of at least three Michigan prisoners who have sued PTS. A second prisoner, who did not have a lawyer, withdrew his case. A third, Jim Henry Redd of Detroit, sued PTS in 2011, alleging he was injured in North Carolina when a PTS van crashed into another vehicle en route from Michigan to Georgia. Redd claims in the suit he was not in a seat belt when the driver made a sudden, improper lane change, causing Redd to be thrown to the back of the van, injuring his neck and back. A default judgment was entered against PTS after the company did not respond to the allegations. The cuffs on his hands and the leg irons on his ankles were proof to Wilson that the full weight of the law had fallen on him as the PTS bus moved him through the Midwest last year. Wilson was being returned to Michigan from a jail in Lima, Ohio, in 2011 on a parole violation after his conviction for car theft. He recalls about 10 prisoners in the van. The first leg of the trip was relatively short — a three- to four-hour ride to an overnight layover at a jail in Kentucky. The prisoners were given bottles to urinate in so the van could avoid stopping during the journey, Wilson told Bridge. At the Kentucky jail, the PTS security guard known as Abram set his sights on one prisoner, Wilson said. “What you looking at?” Abram asked the prisoner, to which the man responded, “I ain’t looking at you.” Wilson said a few words were exchanged, Abram was angered and soon Tasered the man, crumpling him to the ground. The following morning, there was more trouble as the prisoners were loaded back on the vehicle. According to Wilson, Abram was telling a younger prisoner that if they had met in prison, the guard would have “made him his bitch.” Wilson said he had had enough. “I said, ‘Why don’t you leave him alone?’ ” Abram responded that he’d had his eye on Wilson. And so it began. Over the course of two days as the bus picked up and unloaded prisoners, Wilson said Abram touched his thigh and buttocks. He also gave Wilson Pop Tarts and extra sandwiches. “I think he was trying to hook up with me,” Wilson said. At one point, he said, Abram sat down on Wilson’s lap. “I tried to push him off, and he put his arm around my neck.” The poor conditions didn’t stop at sexual abuse, Wilson said. There were no seat belts on the van that picked him up in Ohio, nor on the bus that he boarded in Kentucky. And the stench from an on-board lavatory was nauseating to the point that the guards made a stop to buy a liquid solution to tamp down the smell. The waste was never emptied over two days. Through it all, Wilson, who records show suffers from depression, said he was denied some doses of his twice-daily prescription during the trip. “They would say, ‘We’ll get to you,’ or ‘We’re busy right now.’ Wilson’s account echoes complaints from across the nation in the investigation by the Marshall Project and the New York Times. Reporters reviewed thousands of court documents, interviewed more than 50 current and former guards to expose rampant abuse that flourishes due to “almost no oversight” in the industry nationwide. Wilson’s fiancee filed a grievance on his behalf in August with the state prison system under the Prison Rape Elimination Act and is awaiting a response. Saying he could not afford to hire an attorney, Wilson filed his federal lawsuit against PTS in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in October. He was released on parole Oct. 18. The company has yet to file a legal response, court records show. The Michigan Department of Corrections contracted with PTS in 2008 for $3.7 million to provide extradition services through 2015. Most prisoners or suspects are wanted for failure to pay child support or parole violations. Others are federal inmates sent to Michigan to serve out sentences on state charges. After re-bidding the contract, MDOC briefly contracted with another private vendor, U.S. Corrections, in March of this year. However, that company was fired after less than two months when the state found out the firm was not veteran-owned as it had claimed, according to Gautz. (The state gives contract preferences to veteran-owned businesses.) But that was not the only problem cited by the state. A letter from Michigan prison officials in April, made public by the Marshall Project, shows MDOC also had concerns about late prisoner pick-up and drop-offs. MDOC acted to terminate the contract after U.S. Corrections notified state prison officials that two prisoners had escaped its custody in Florida. After ending that contract in April, MDOC re-upped with PTS, signing a three-year, $655,500 contract. Under the deal, the company receives about $300 per prisoner and 85 cents per mile. Gautz said the state has outsourced prisoner transportation since at least 1994, a practice that he said saves taxpayers money. “Given that these transport runs happen infrequently and often require travel across the country, it makes much more sense to have someone do this service for us rather than pay to have several state employees go on a week-long bus trip to pick up one prisoner,” he said. “This is a much more cost effective way of doing business, and just makes sense.” In fiscal year 2016, the state spent just over $170,000 on prisoner transport costs, which he said is low compared with the $200,000 to $400,000 spent in a typical year. On a federal level, the Interstate Transportation of Dangerous Criminals Act of 2000, commonly known as Jeanna’s Law, requires companies to notify police when a prisoner escapes custody. It also establishes minimum security and training standards for guards — such as a 1-to-6 guard-to-prisoner ratio — along with minimum standards for safety of prisoners, with a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation. The law is named for Jeanna North, an 11-year-old who was killed in 1993 by her neighbor, Kyle Bell. He was convicted of her murder in 1999 but escaped from a private prisoner transport bus in New Mexico. Bell was found three months later in Texas after a nationwide manhunt that included the television show, “America’s Most Wanted.” But despite the regulations, there is no evidence the private companies are held accountable. Asked how MDOC enforces state regulations or how often vehicles are inspected, that state responded that such information is exempt from public disclosure. “Per the contract with PTS the company is required to follow MDOC’s policies, but due to security concerns, those policies are exempt, so I can’t get into the standards and how they are enforced and the inspections,” Gautz wrote Bridge in an email.  PTS’ application to merge with U.S. Corrections, one of its competitors, was delayed after the Human Rights Defense Center filed an objection to the merger. The merger is under consideration by the Surface Transportation Board, a federal regulatory agency. Friedmann of HRDC takes a hard line when it comes to states hiring private companies to take on public services such as operating prisons and transporting prisoners. Whatever states save in upfront financial costs must be balanced against the widespread allegations of rights abuses and the legal consequences that sometimes follow. “If someone is hyperventilating and (the company) won’t stop at a hospital because they want to complete the trip … their goal is not to provide a secure public service, it’s to make money,” Friedmann said. “It’s like UPS and the prisoner is the package. We want the goal to ensure public safety.” Friedmann said there are some simple changes states can make to improve safety: Interview prisoners before and after transport to get information about transportation conditions; require video cameras on vehicles, require GPS on vehicles and enforce regulations such as Jeanna’s Law and state policies requiring seat belts and giving prisoners medication in a timely manner. Wilson said that after PTS dropped him off at the state prison in Jackson, he reported the sexual assault incident. Without that complaint, he said, no one would have known about the security guard’s actions. He agrees prisoners should be interviewed or given a questionnaire about their transportation to help ensure accountability. “The standards in place right now,” he said, “obviously are not sufficient.” The Human Rights Defense Center, a Florida-based nonprofit prisoner rights advocacy group, the federal government and states make the following changes when dealing with private vendors:
Require companies to take out higher minimum insurance amounts.
Restrict the use of certain vehicles. For instance, banning 15-passenger vans which are linked to more accidents.
Establish specific rules governing maintenance and inspection of prisoner transport vehicles.
Mandate seat-belt or other safety restraint requirements.
Increase civil penalties for regulatory violations that take into consideration a company’s size or annual revenue.
Pass a federal law requiring that all escapes, accidents and other incidents that endanger public safety during extraditions be reported to a central government agency, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and made available to the public.
Require government contracts with private companies to incentivize physical safety and security, with financial penalties for violations.

Dec 11, 2016
Federal Official Urges Probe of ‘Abuse’ on Private Prisoner Transport
A federal transportation regulator has urged the Justice Department to investigate accusations of “human rights violations” on privately run vans that carry tens of thousands of prisoners across long distances every year. Deb Miller, vice chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, made her comments last month, echoing calls from lawmakers this summer for a probe of Prisoner Transportation Services, the nation’s largest private extradition company, and others in the field. The company was highlighted in a Marshall Project investigation that revealed a pattern of deaths and abuse in the industry. “The problems of prisoner abuse, sexual assault, and medical neglect by Prisoner Transportation Services, LLC… are very concerning,” Miller wrote in a comment appended to the board’s Nov. 10 decision to grant approval for PTS to merge with its largest competitor, U.S. Corrections. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee in July — shortly after The Marshall Project story was published — that her office would review apparent lapses in federal oversight of prisoner transport companies. A spokesman for the Justice Department said recently the agency is still working on a report. The merger between PTS and U.S. Corrections had been put on hold on Aug. 9 after the Human Rights Defense Center, a nonprofit prisoner advocacy group, filed an objection to the deal, arguing that both companies have a history of prisoner abuse. Those concerns, however, were deemed to be outside of the Surface Transportation Board’s purview, which is focused narrowly on the economic impact of a merger. For-profit extradition companies transport suspects, fugitives, and others with open arrest warrants across state lines to where they are wanted. Many of these prisoners are first held in a local jail, sometimes for weeks, before they are picked up for the transport. The companies are governed by a 2000 federal law commonly known as Jeanna’s Act, which sets out some broad standards for treatment of prisoners. But the legislation has only been enforced one time in the 16 years since, despite at least 60 prisoner escapes, 50 crashes, 14 alleged instances of sexual assault, and 16 deaths on these vans during that time, The Marshall Project investigation found. The story prompted some changes at PTS, which is based in Tennessee and has contracts with state corrections departments and hundreds of local law enforcement agencies. At least four prisoners have died aboard PTS vans from alleged abuse or medical neglect since 2012. PTS officials declined to comment on those deaths. In a recent interview at the company headquarters, Alan Sielbeck, the chief owner of PTS, and its new president, Joel Brasfield, said six of their 29 vans have been outfitted with cameras, although the software for recording and saving footage has not yet been installed. They said they hoped it would be available soon and the entire fleet would have cameras within 12 months. When asked how the video will be used, the officials said it would be too costly to record and preserve all of it for more than a few weeks. Simply having the devices in the fleet would influence guards and inmates to behave better, they said. In addition, PTS officials said they have increased their staffing to 80 guards from about 35 so each of them can have more time off. Instead of getting only 12 hours to rest in between every 36 hours of driving, they will now have 24-hour breaks every two days — although that schedule depends on finding a jail along the way that is willing to take the inmates overnight. To prevent further deadly emergencies during transit, Sielbeck and Brasfield said they have prioritized the position of “medical verification” officer to obtain advance information from jails about medical problems of inmates picked up by PTS. If an inmate has a severe diagnosis, he or she can be escorted on a commercial flight instead of a days-long trip in one of the vans. PTS said it does not yet have enough data to determine whether air transports have become more common. “We’re kind of a slave to that holding agency,” Brasfield said. He said jails can withhold medical information either intentionally or unintentionally. Meanwhile, classroom training for guards has been upped to two weeks from three days, including lessons on what to do if an inmate is in distress. Seatbelts have also been installed in six of the vans, although Brasfield acknowledged they may be removed because “the industry has gone back and forth” about whether the straps and buckles can be used as weapons or to pick locks. Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, who questioned Lynch about the federal government’s role in monitoring prisoner transportation companies, called PTS’s efforts encouraging but said he plans to continue advocating for oversight of the industry. “We need to stay on this and make sure things are carried out effectively,” Deutch said. “We’re going to share this information with Justice and hope that it spurs action,” he added, noting that the department’s upcoming report will allow him to “determine whether additional legislative action is necessary.” Despite emphasizing the improvements, PTS officials defended their business model. Sielbeck, who described himself as “a self-avowed capitalist,” said there’s no clear alternative to for-profit prisoner transport. “The government can do it different but very seldom does the government do it better,” he said, referring to the U.S. Marshals and local sheriffs. Asked about claims of abuse and neglect that have been made by inmates, Sielbeck said, “The transported community can take stories and embellish them.” Sielbeck and Brasfield also pointed out that PTS is more compliant with federal regulations than some of its mom-and-pop competitors, which use minivans not covered by the same passenger carrier rules. They suggested they might even advocate more scrutiny of the industry and demand that states put more safety requirements in their contracts with these companies. But when pressed on whether PTS would actually demand such higher standards, the officials said they do not have a large budget for lobbying and would only share their ideas about how to better regulate the industry if contacted by the government. They added that they believed chances of that happening under the incoming Trump administration are slim.

Aug 10, 2016

Merger Put on Hold for Prisoner Transportation Company Facing Federal Scrutiny
A proposed merger between the nation’s largest private extradition company, Prisoner Transportation Services, and its closest competitor was put on hold Tuesday after an advocacy organization filed an objection with the federal agency tasked with approving the deal.The Human Rights Defense Center, a nonprofit prisoner advocacy group, submitted its comment to the federal Surface Transportation Board on Monday, the deadline for public input before the merger became official. Citing a recent Marshall Project investigation into a pattern of deaths, escapes, crashes and abuse in the for-profit extradition industry, the filing argued that the merger would not be in the public interest because the companies have a history of poor treatment of prisoners. The objection also argued the merger would narrow the industry’s competitive field. “While the merger may result in economies of scale for the combined company, and result in efficiencies related to the combined company’s business model, that simply reflects benefits to the company, not necessarily to the public,” wrote Alex Friedmann, associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center. PTS, which transports suspects and fugitives who are arrested back to the jurisdictions where they are wanted, has until Aug. 23 to respond. The board’s final decision must be made by August 2017, although it could happen much sooner.At least four prisoners have died on PTS vans since 2012. Another two dozen people have been killed or seriously injured in crashes since 2000 aboard private extradition vans, which are operated by about a half dozen small private companies. Twenty-six states and countless local law enforcement agencies have contracts with private extradition companies.In an emailed statement, Nashville-based PTS defended the merger with its rival, U.S. Corrections. “This proposed transaction does serve the public’s interest,” the company said. “While we look forward to reviewing the complaint in detail, make no mistake, we are committed to doing things right and working to raise the standards of service across the entire industry.”Last month, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told lawmakers that her office would investigate apparent lapses in federal oversight of the prisoner transport industry. Last week, PTS said it was making improvements such as installing cameras and a real-time tracking system on its fleet, hiring a compliance officer and hiring an independent auditor to review its practices and the industry at large. In its objection, the Human Rights Defense Center also cited recent Marshall Project reporting about apparent ties between U.S. Corrections and a now-defunct extradition company, USG7, which has failed to pay at least $200,000 in legal judgments to former employees and inmates injured in crashes, according to court records and attorneys. Steven Kalishman, who represented one inmate injured when a USG7 van hit a tree, said he also filed a comment opposing the merger. The company never responded to his client’s lawsuit and has not paid the default judgement it owes in the case, he said.“Before the merger is allowed to take place, they should be held accountable for the judgments against USG7,” Kalishman wrote. It was unclear whether the board would consider his objection because it was missing a required document.U.S. Corrections has denied any ties to USG7, and the company did not respond to further requests for comment on Tuesday. PTS also did not respond to questions about ties between USG7 and U.S. Corrections. In their application for the merger, the two companies named large, national companies such as TransCor America and GEO Transport as their direct competitors, arguing that the merger “would not affect the competitiveness of the industry, which is sizable and robust.” TransCor and GEO transport prisoners between private prison facilities operated by their parent companies, Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, but are not currently involved in the interstate extradition business. On its website, PTS describes itself as “one of the very few nationwide prisoner transport operators in the United States.”

Jul 12, 2016
Suit: Guards mocked former professor before death in jail van
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An Amelia Island man is suing two companies after his son, a former college professor, died while be transported across the country in a private prison van. According to the lawsuit, he had been sick and lost 46 pounds in 10 days, but his pleas for help were ignored -- even mocked. An autopsy found 47-year-old William Weintraub, PhD, died of a perforated ulcer. In April 2014, Robert Weintraub got a call from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, saying his son had died in custody as a private inmate transportation company drove him from Colorado to South Carolina. GBI agent: "I have some bad news for you." Robert Weintraub: "Is this about William? Is he alive?" Agent: "No sir. I'm sorry." Father: "They didn't have the proper medications. They didn't take care of him. He was locked up, moving around from place to place. I knew that was going to happen. Nobody would believe me."  William Weintraub taught physics at a couple universities, most recently at Coastal Carolina University, but ran into trouble in 2014 when he was arrested, accused of making threats to a South Carolina newspaper, which published an article about him. Police in Boulder Colorado arrested him and hired Prisoner Transportation Services of America to drive him back to the East Coast. "Immediately they cut off all his medications," attorney Curry Pajcic said. "His problems were obvious. He was passing out on the bathroom floor; he was witnessed vomiting blood." Pajcic is suing Prisoner Transport Services of America and Advanced Correctional Healthcare, the business that screened William Weintraub as he was housed at a correctional facility during the trip. Pajcic said neither company did anything to help an obviously ailing prisoner. "He is described as looking like the Walking Dead. They tell him, 'You get in the van, it's time to go.' He can't even step up in the van. They pick them up, shackled hand and foot, pick him up and throw him on top of the other prisoners in the van," Pajcic said. As staff picked up other inmates across the country,  William Weintraub got sicker. "During the transport, when he leans over, he stops breathing, he urinates on himself. Other detainees start slamming on the door. 'We need help! We need help!' Pajcic said. When employees finally did stop the van at a North Georgia jail, William Weintraub had been dead so long, his body was stiff. Other inmates were chained by his side. Pajcic described it as a slow, painful and torturous death all at the hands of people hired to transport prisoners safely. "If they had just gotten him to a doctor an hour before, he would still be alive," Pajcic said. News4Jax has asked managers at both companies for comment. Neither has responded. Last week, the New York Times published an article on Prisoner Transport Services of America after learning that four inmates have died in while in its custody since 2012, and there are dozens of claims of mistreatment and brutality while being transported.