Prisoners Aren’t Cattle
A federal jury in Wilkes-Barre recently cast some much-needed light on a shadowy aspect of the justice system, while awarding $450,000 to a man who had been abused by a private-sector prisoner transportation company.
Darren Richardson, 53, of Spring Hill, Florida, filed suit in 2015 against Prisoner Transport Services of America, a Tennessee-based company that counts among its clients Lackawanna County and others in Pennsylvania.
Richardson was wanted in Pike County for failing to pay a $250 fine for writing a bad check in 2008, when he was stopped in Florida for a traffic offense on May 29, 2013. Pike County extradited him and hired Prisoner Transport Services of America to return him to Milford.
In his suit, Richardson alleged that guards had urinated on him, denied him food and shackled his ankles so tightly that he had lost circulation.
According to James Conaboy of Scranton, Richardson’s lawyer, Prisoner Transport Services of America had been sued more than 20 times in counties nationwide.
According to a 2016 investigation by the investigative news organization the Marshall Project, published in The New York Times, at least five prisoners have died from abuse or neglect while being transported by the company. Another dozen prisoners and guards have died in van crashes since 2000.
The U.S. Surface Transportation Board complained about for-profit prisoner transport in 2016 and the Department of Justice opened an inquiry, but nothing has come of it.
Congress should establish stringent standards for for-profit prisoner transport and the DOJ civil rights division should ensure enforcement.