Rolling Torture Chambers % NFA
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California May 23, 2001Rolling Torture Chambers
Two lawsuits filed against local prisoner-transport firm
By Rob Johnson
Staff WriterFrom the nation's highways, where the extradition vans of Nashville-based TransCor America ferry thousands of wanted men and women, come graphic tales of alleged civil rights abuses committed by the people in the driver's seats.Two female detainees in Texas say they were sexually assaulted during a
five-day odyssey by a driver previously implicated in a New Mexico assault. In Colorado, a mother of four filed a federal lawsuit alleging sexual assaults during a TransCor journey across the West. A busload of
Wisconsin inmates sued in federal court alleging the group endured a frigid winter trip to Oklahoma on a TransCor bus awash in human waste.State and local law enforcement agencies, including the Tennessee
Department of Correction, have embraced private extradition as a cost-saving alternative to sending its officers to retrieve detainees from faraway jurisdictions. TransCor, the self-declared giant in the extradition industry and a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corrections Corporation of America, says it safely and routinely hauls 77,000 detainees annually. The people moved by these companies range from stone-cold killers to housewives accused of passing bad checks. Prisoners call the trips ''diesel therapy.''Regardless of the extradition firm, hundreds of these trips pass routinely without incident. But in 1997, a Memphis-based Federal Extradition Agency van exploded, and its six caged prisoners were incinerated. In February, a federal jury in Nashville awarded $9.5 million to one prisoner's daughter.A plaintiff's attorney asserts that the underlying facts in the burned FEA van incident are echoed in the TransCor assault case now before a U.S. District Court in San Antonio, Texas.''The parallels between the cases are eerily similar,'' said San Antonio attorney Tim Maloney. ''The absolute and total disregard for the prisoners' rights, welfare and safety. That the most important thing is the bottom line. That it is nothing to transport these people for three or four or five days. That they are absolutely and completely helpless and at the mercy of these guards.''The facts of the Texas case stretch from New Mexico to Nashville. One of
the plaintiffs, a 39-year-old suspect in a jewelry-store theft, says she was shackled inside a TransCor van in October 1999. During three or four days, while she was locked inside with its shotgun-wielding agents, the lawsuit says, she was ''subjected to individual acts of sexual assault perpetrated by two employees of defendant, TransCor.''She says she was forced to perform sexual acts and was penetrated with
fists and a gun barrel. She says she was subjected to ''screen tests'' when the drivers stomped on the brakes, hurtling her face against the van's wire mesh security screens.After she was delivered to the Houston jail, Harris County officials were able to collect evidence that helped them build sexual assault cases against TransCor agents Michael Jerome Edwards and David Jackson.Jackson has agreed to plead guilty to an undisclosed charge, according to the Harris County district attorney's office. Edwards is in jail awaiting trial.Women file civil rights lawsuit.
A federal civil rights suit filed by the woman and another female extradition passenger charges that TransCor did little to protect female prisoners from its male agents after at least four allegations of similar sexual assaults in the past five years. Those allegations include a one-page statement that a female TransCor prisoner handed to a company official during a stopover in Nashville. It described a New Mexico assault perpetrated by the same agent, Edwards. Because it was delivered a month before the alleged Texas assault, its existence could constitute a potentially damning corporate oversight, plaintiff's attorneys say.Company officials repeatedly told a New Mexico attorney general's
investigator that they couldn't find the statement. When the investigator arrived at TransCor's Nashville headquarters, she had a plan to execute a search warrant, and she took a Davidson County district attorney general's official with her. But before there was any search, a TransCor attorney suddenly produced the long-sought document. He said it had been misfiled.
It is now part of a continuing criminal investigation in New Mexico and the civil litigation in San Antonio. ....In Colorado, TransCor is the defendant in a lawsuit filed by a married
woman of four who was picked up in Texas on a welfare theft charge. The
all-male TransCor crew that delivered her back to Colorado, the lawsuit
says, repeatedly assaulted her while she was wearing an agent's shackles. ''When you are wearing my jewelry,'' he allegedly told her, ''you belong to me.''In a Davidson County Circuit Court case, a Texas state inmate charges that a TransCor driver raped and repeatedly sexually assaulted her in a rest room. The 2-year-old case was moved from state court to federal court and back again.In Wisconsin, 39 prisoners have filed a federal lawsuit protesting their transfer on a TransCor bus to a private Oklahoma facility in frigid winter temperatures. They say their feet and legs were splashed with waste from an overflowing toilet. They say they vomited on one another because they were sickened by the smell. Dressed only in jumpsuits for the 31-hour journey, the prisoners claim some arrived in Oklahoma with frostbite and hypothermia.Company officials say that because of the ongoing litigation, they cannot comment on those allegations. ....Sent by: PENNYHOSS@...
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