By Noel Scott
Four people have died during extradition by the company Prisoner Transportation Services (PTS) since 2012, The Marshall Project reports in collaboration with The New York Times.
In 2012, Steven Galack was beaten to death in a transport van by other inmates. Galack had been arrested for failing to pay child support.
Two men died from perforated ulcers while being transported, and a woman from Kentucky died from fatal anti-anxiety medication withdrawals.
“Unless it’s life or death, we can’t open the cage on the vehicle,” said Robert Downs, chief operating officer of PTS. “We don’t know if they’re setting us up for something.”
The transport vans offer no amenities like toilets or medical services. Due to deadlines and out-of-pocket expenses, guards almost never stop during transport.
A single trip can take weeks, often crossing a dozen state lines.
The Marshall Project uncovered a clear pattern of abuse and neglect after reviewing thousands of court files and federal records and conducting more than 50 interviews with current or former guards, executives and inmates.
It’s all about the money, The Marshall Project found. Industry monitoring is infrequent, and while federal regulations require escape notifications by extradition companies, the law is almost never enforced. Since 2000 news reports and court records document more than 50 crashes, resulting in the deaths of a dozen guards and prisoners. Of 26 accidents for which a time could be determined, 14 occurred between midnight and 6 a.m. The Marshall Project also found that 60 inmates have escaped during extradition since 2000.
The extradition industry currently operates in 26 states with little or no oversight, The Marshall Project reports.
Guard training is limited to tutorials on pepper spray and handcuffs, so guards are vastly under-trained for the task at hand.
“It’s like the airport shuttle from hell,” said Zachary Raines, a former PTS guard.
While packed like sardines in transport vans, inmates must succumb to water rationing and a diet of fast food. They often have to use a plastic urinal for days at a time. Inmates say that if the heat in the van doesn’t get you, the smell will.
“People were screaming, complaining, passing out. I threw up,” said Roberta Blake, 37, who in 2014 spent two weeks in a stifling PTS van going from California to Alabama.
In 2012 Michael Dykes had to have both of his legs amputated due to untreated diabetes complications after just three days in an Inmate Service Coroporation van.
This past spring, the Galack family was awarded a confidential settlement against PTS. PTS responded by sending a bill to Butler County for $1,061 to cover Galack’s transportation costs.