Private Prisoner Vans’ Long Road of Neglect

Court documents, federal records, news articles and interviews reveal a pattern of abuse in private extradition vans, an industry that operates with almost no oversight.

Comments: 188

  1. Thank you, Eli Hager and Alysia Santo for your reporting on this tragic aspect of our society.

  2. There seems to be a typo in the title. The word "torture" does not begin with "neglect".

  3. The people who run these companies are the ones who should be in jail. All in the name of saving money, basic human rights are violated. Where is the accountability?

  4. With top-to-bottom disregard for laws and rules, things can only become worse. When people do things simply because they can, everything will go down the drain eventually.

  5. Just a reminder to those who shut their eyes to the person behind the term, but in these stories "Prisoner" means a person and U.S. Citizen. This is yet more barbaric treatment that the accused are put through in a country that prides it self on "Truth and Justice".

  6. It seems that the moral of these stories is that, when left to their own devices, companies to which we privatize services will relentlessly cut quality of service and safety to the bone and beyond in order to maximize profit. This is why private companies cannot be trusted to oversee themselves. They must be tightly regulated to make sure that the public interest comes before their shareholders.

  7. Right- so what you're describing is not so much a failure of the private companies, who are acting as private companies might be expected to, but a failure of overseers. How ironic how the ones calling for this prisoner transport work to be placed into the public sector somehow instill the pubic sector with the competence to run such an enterprise efficiently while the evidence clearly shows oversight failure by public officials? Again, I ask those complaining about private-vs-public - what evidence do you possibly have that the government would do a better job of running fleets of vans than the private sector, properly regulated, would?

  8. "By comparison, the prison systems of California, Florida and Texas — which together transport more than 800,000 inmates every year, most of them in-state — have each had just one prisoner escape from transport vehicles over the same period."

    It's a start.

    It's fascinating that you state "...private companies, who are acting as private companies might be expected to", and in the same paragraph suggest that the fault is really with the public sector for not regulating the private sector better. Really? Are human rights abuses and a failure to allow for due process -- in the interest of profit margin-- what's to be expected of the private sector? The lack of oversight is problematic, but the problem of having privatized the prison industrial complex can't be minimized.

  9. The evidence was in the article itself... "By comparison, the prison systems of California, Florida and Texas — which together transport more than 800,000 inmates every year, most of them in-state — have each had just one prisoner escape from transport vehicles over the same period." The incentive of profit when combined with a lack of oversight, encourages abuse, or at least negligence. When the guards are trained and get paid and the vans are repaired and monitored independent of the quantity of prisoners or the distance traveled, there is no incentive to do the job badly. I know this is shocking to some, but humans by and large aren't a bad lot. Treat them well and pay them well, and they do their jobs well.

  10. These people are treated as if they are disposable, not worthy of any respect or attention. I know this article is true from personal experience. I have a brother who was transported by this company in Georgia. He told me a story that was hard to believe. Of days spent in a hot van, having to void in an old coke bottle, no water for hours, the "guards" just mocking them when they asked for food or water or to use the bathroom. Now I see that his experience was better than most. At least he lived through it.

    Just because you have committed a crime, be it a serious offense or a minor one, does not make you an animal nor does it warrant taking anyway all of your civil rights as a human and an American.

    Mr Galack was murdered on that van, and apparently the Georgia Criminal Justice system did not care enough to do an investigation. This is shameful, as is the deaths from medical neglect. Thank you NYT for a light shined on this practice.

    Recently NPR did a piece on how poor people in this country are put in prison for not being able to pay fines. What have we become in this country? Debtors prison was supposedly a thing of the past.

  11. To be clear, many of these people have just been accused of a crime, but not convicted, and have had it thrown out. So for everyone who smugly argues that if you don't want to be in the criminal justice system, don't commit a crime, watch out, you only have to be suspected of one minor one, apparently, to get a death sentence.

    If you think you are somehow immune to being falsely accused, then think again. It's happened to several people I know, all of whom are white and upper middle class. I can't IMAGINE what it must be like for the poor and/or minorities dealing with this mess every day.

  12. When I look at some of these crimes these people were in jail for, I understand why so many people are angry at the "elites" who get away with much worse. Clearly if you get arrested, the justice system turn you into a commodity where many get a piece of the pie.

  13. A guy falls behind on child support and a woman doesn't turn in her rental car on time, and they end up dead.
    Attack Iraq and needlessly kill 10's of thousands in Iraq and you get to retire on a full pension and benefits for the rest of your life.
    Something wrong here?

  14. Remember two things, privatization of public services is a GOP and conservative promoted nightmare and under the GOP this will get worse.

  15. So, communism now and forever then? Is that what you're saying? Yes to more big government? You might want to think hard about what you are asking for. It's not hard to find problems in any status quo; but you've not provided anything other than partisan ideology to suggest why you think that a centralized bureaucracy would do this particular job in a more humane, more efficient, or more cost effective way given that the real issue is not likely to be private vs public but rather the warped voter-driven "tough on crime" policies which effectively call for dehumanizing and asocializing offenders.

    Privatization has worked in many aspects of government in many countries, including the US. There are times and places where it makes sense, and prisoner transport, an industry as straightforward as any, should be privatizable if we had competent regulators, buyers, and lawmakers in government managing it. But what politician will waste his political capital on what will inevitably be dubbed "limousines for felons" or some other nonsense by his next political rival?

  16. Reagan lied. Government is not always the problem as this and many other stories demonstrate.

  17. Sorry, but so not true. That's the point of Bernie Sander's campaign. The neoliberals, starting in particular under Bill Clinton, pushed privatization of everything--including our armed services. Please, stop blaming the Republicans for everything, they are awful, but the neoliberal Democrats are right behind them.

  18. Take a public function, privatize it. Watch profit motive lead to abuses. Read NY Times exposé of same. Wait for action to address abuses. Wait and wait and wait and wait ... Privatizing public functions has been a disaster in this country by every measure.

  19. And in a year or so, I can pretty much guarantee we will be reading in the Times about abuses under the third pilot program in recent years to privatize federal tax collection.

    Privatizing inherently governmental tasks always leads to disaster.

  20. "... he was fully in shackles and ended up dead?"

    Everyone knows that doesn't just happen. The abusive, negligent, and irresponsible people behind these incidents are the total dregs of society.

  21. Sadly, nothing is going to be investigated by an inquiry panel!

  22. If a federal agency had done this, especially one the GOP dislikes, Congressional hearings would already be scheduled. For this, crickets and approve the next contract, no questions asked.

  23. I am not shocked this is occurring in various southern states, where individual rights of citizens -- via the practices local governments and law enforcement -- are vaporizing before our eyes. I do wonder what will become of these states in another 20 years time.

    "Where not to live" should be made into a T-shirt with Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia emblazoned on it.

  24. For a look of prisoner brutality elsewhere - please see almost any story in the NY Times about Rikers Island (eg. "Even as Many Eyes Watch, Brutality at Rikers Island Persists") or about any other prison in NY State (eg. What's Going On in Our Prisons?").

  25. Having just recently escaped from several years enduring having to live in Kentucky, I couldn't agree more.

  26. Rufus I hear you but I am addressing the broader issue of individual (non prisoner) citizen rights as trampled on in the southern courts and officers and local govts -- not just prisoner rights (which are important but not really my point here)

  27. In America everything is a business. There are privately run jails, privately run extradition services, and so on. After all, that's what it says on the money "In God we trust", all others pay cash.

  28. Why not just do away with the Constitution, all our rights except the right to own guns to kill people we don't like, and privatize the entire country? It's what the GOP wants and, by extension, those who vote for them. Therefore if you vote for the GOP remember not to complain when the main street in your area is privatized, turned into an expensive toll road to pay for repair work that is done poorly (to make more money for the private sector), has potholes big enough to eat a car (helps the private tow truck operators), and your medical care is a bargain at two small band aids for the price of one but the cost of using the ambulance is $100K, courtesy of the private ambulance service your town uses.

  29. A number of state and federal agencies have passed the buck and failed to do due diligence in these instances, to the point of gross negligence. The law governing these "businesses" isn't enforced, local law enforcement washes it's hands, and these prisoners are denied due process wholesale, because there is no mechanism nor funding for enforcement. I doubt there are any standards for employment as a guard, and will wager many in those positions would fail a basic background check. Like the private corrections industry, this is a rats nest of potential for corruption and graft. It's as if we as a country have decided that due process is too expensive, and these folks are guilty of something anyways, right? Since there seems to be no accountability nor a schedule to be followed, I'd advise these companies to rent out their charges as prison labor en route, maybe for chain gangs and such, to fatten up their bottom line. Maybe these cash strapped, beleaguered jurisdictions could just use Uber or Lyft instead?
    As comprehensive as Hager and Santo have been, I'd further wager this is just the tip of the iceberg. In as much as there's no regulation or reporting requirements and enforcement is essentially nil, I'm certain there are many more injuries and deaths that have been written off for the sake of convenience and profit, to say nothing of denials or violations of basic constitutional rights. It's essentially extraordinary extradition without waterboarding (that we know of).

  30. This poor man's body on the front page of the Times. Sensationalistic, sad, disrespectful, unnecessary.

  31. I was really shocked to see bodies in two of the pictures in this article. This is a horrible situation, but the Times has traditionally not shown pictures like these. Seems rather unnecessary, except for clickbait.

  32. If you look closely at the photo you will see that the man's ankles are shackled. That detail alone is newsworthy.

    Other details you apparently missed:
    * No padding on the front wall and doors.
    * Loose shackles in a box on the left door.
    * Yellow "sheriff line" tape between the doors.

  33. Photos of the dead on the front page are incredibly disrespectful. This is a person. Objectifying a person for profit is what the system does the prisoners by treating them like objects. The NYT did the same thing on the front page by objectifying this human being.

    This photo violates the personhood of this prisoner and unwittingly demonstrates one of the article's points: that it is wrong to treat people as objects.

    The photo is another violent assault topping off the violence in the back of that van.

    As a reader, it's disturbing. What's seen cannot be unseen. I don't know this man but now I have seen him in his vulnerability.

    Also: He didn't consent to the photo. Why is it ok to spread an image of a vulnerable person around the globe? This also happened last week with an incident overseas on the front.

    I refuse to disengage with the news by turning away from reality, but it is disturbing to see that this level of thoughtlessness is mainstream.

  34. Privatization of the justice system often means no justice, or even simple humanity, at all. Capitalism is going berserk and will eventually destroy civilization.

  35. This is absolutely horrific

  36. Total disgrace. Another fatally flawed facet of the incarceration-industrial complex. Another indelible black mark on the fate of America.

  37. Shows the inhumanity of the prison industry this country has reached in the name of money. The photo goes a step further showing the body just laying there as if it was a piece of cattle.

  38. This is worthy of some African country with a dictator, or maybe ISIS. I can't believe my country has come to this.

    Privatization of health and prisons must stop. Profit should not be involved.

  39. Let's remember this the next time our taxes are increased.

  40. Did you know that these private jails and prisons are only placed in communities if the community can promise that they will supply the private prison or jail with a certain capacity over a certain amount of years? In other words the community has to promise that they will lock up so many people in the future to keep the jail or prison open which in turn will give the community X amount of jobs. Where is the capacity going to come from? More than likely the poor. Not black or white but the poor no matter the color because they are the least represented by the deal makers of the community. Ask yourself, logical person, how can any one person or group of people guarantee that a specific amount of people will be locked up over a specific time in the future without having a very specific plan in place to make it a reality?

  41. We cannot afford the legal system we have. The only solution is to radically reduce the number of things that are treated as criminal acts. Decriminalize all drugs, reduce the legal system to managing violent or highly damaging white collar crime and let everything else go. We cannot afford to transport petty criminals or spend 100,000 dollars a year housing petty criminals. Our schools are in ruin, our medical system is in taters, and our infrastructure is falling apart and we spend a fortune on playing cops and robbers.

  42. Where does "failing to pay child support" fit into your proposal?

  43. I'm sickened by this story. Human beings treating other humans like disposable trash. How angry I feel over this. I'm fairly conservative when it comes to crime and how people who break the law should be held responsible. But, this is nothing more than torture and unwarranted treatment of a man who is suffering from an illness despite breaking the law. He wasn't violent, didn't harm anyone. The deep south and the midwest wonders why m,any people in the Northeast harbor such stereotypes over ignorant and primitive behavior. Stereotypes have a kernel of truth to them and in this case it is proof. The company, guards and all law enforcement who okays this, should be indicted. How can they sleep at night I wonder? May Mr. Galack rest in peace. I hope he has found a way to forgive what other human beings did to him while he was amongst us.

  44. People in the Northeast who live near constant abuse of prisoners at Rykers by renegade guards shouldn't be so quick to throw stones. Capice?

  45. This is what happens when Republicans control the Congress, especially the House of Representatives. They outsource everything, and half the time their buddies get the lucrative contracts.

    Since this crosses state lines, shouldn't this be a Federal function?

  46. You may not have noticed the dates referenced in the article - this has occurred over a long period of time. Not just when one party or the other was in control of Congress.

  47. Margo - You make a valid point, but it is the GOP whose big mantra is "smaller government"....so to make it smaller so much stuff is outsourced.

  48. Can one imagine the outrage that people would feel if the Times had published a story about people's pets, dogs, for example, being transported under such conditions? Yet this happens to human beings and is allowed to continue. It reminds me of the atrocious conditions in the cattle cars that took people to the concentration camps during W.W. II.
    And this goes on now, and in our country! Thank you for researching and writing this article. The private companies that make money out of prisoners' suffering should be put out of business.

  49. for profit ????? we , the us and a have made 'profit making' the ultimate achievement

  50. I'll bet that I'm not the only person who had no idea this sort of "business" existed in the U.S. An I'll bet that nothing will be done about it.

  51. I suppose there are people out there who think this only happens in third world countries.

  52. Another example of why no human service to vulnerable people - prisons and health care come to mind - should not be subject to the pressure to make a profit. Time to end the disastrous push toward privitization and corporatization of everything.

  53. And, how much taxpayer money is being saved by outsourcing prisoner transportation? My guess is little to none. But outsourcing is always presented as a cost cutting measure. So this is what taxpayers get for saving a few bucks, if they are really saving at all. How many legislature even bother to compare costs after they do the initial outsourcing?

  54. Based on what we hear about life inside prisons, turning these trips over to corrections union members wouldn't make much of a difference in terms of quality.

  55. Wait, did I read that right? That someone was shackled, transported in conditions that would be illegal for animals going to the slaughter house, and then repeatedly sexually assaulted because she was accused of using someone else's gift card?

    But apparently murder (or death by negligence) en route isn't worth investigating?

  56. Extrajudicial executions of both unarmed people on the street as well as detainee sis now so common in the U.S. that...yawn...no one thinks much about it. In fact, I'm surprised that Donald Trump isn't campaigning on a promise to increase death squad activity on our streets.

  57. Everyone has a constitutional right to freedom and due process. A private, for profit company should NEVER have the authority to interfere with people's constitutional rights. This industry doesn't only need to be regulated, it needs to be completely abolished and these activities need to go back to being performed only by government agencies that have to answer to the people they serve.

  58. Raj wrote: "Everyone has a constitutional right to freedom and due process. A private, for profit company should NEVER have the authority to interfere with people's constitutional rights. This industry doesn't only need to be regulated, it needs to be completely abolished and these activities need to go back to being performed only by government agencies that have to answer to the people they serve."
    Seconded. Abolish these companies.

  59. Why oversight? This is a free country, anybody can do whatever. Free enterprise.

    Anarchy. The Republican way.

  60. Just remember, 'there but for the grace of God go I'. This can happen to any of us.

  61. How different is that from Abu Graib?

  62. The Abu Ghraib abuses were carried out by US military personnel, who are in a chain of command that extends to the US President.

  63. The only thing that would make these companies clean up their act are million-dollar lawsuits for every death and injury. Some of the victims here committed offences so trivial it is a shame they were arrested in the first place (using someone else's gift card? really?).

  64. "...An out of state warrant for back child support..."?

    "...charges (later dropped) of using someone else's Bed Bath and Beyond gift card"??

    How non-violent offenders are dealt with needs to be seriously re-examined.

  65. It simply doesn't matter if any human being is violent or not. This is no way to treat any human being. Privatization of anything connected to crime-related conduct is wrong!

    Years ago as a prosecutor in Los Angeles County, I went to a privately run jail (with several Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators) to interview a potential witness to a major crime. I've never been so scared; the few guards I saw were in their 20's, were simply roaming around, were not at their stations, were eating snacks and just passing away the time. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

    Although I went to my senator's office in person to complain, his aide said he was busy but would get back to me immediately. Four phone calls later, I finally gave up...

  66. Is anyone ever held accountable in this country?

  67. I was in one of those vans once - it's not a pretty sight. The world of incarceration is one which we never see or hear about. It's a very violent world - even before you get to prison. Mr. Galack's death was a tragedy; it appears it could have been prevented. While I understand it was a private company which was responsible, abuse takes place both in the private and public sectors of incarceration. States and the Federal Government should have tighter regulations governing the procedures used by private companies transporting prisoners. They should have an oversight process set up to insure those regulations are being followed. I applaud the Times for bringing this story to the public; hopefully, with awareness, change will happen.

  68. "I was in one of those vans once ..."

    Were you shackled or abused by the guards?

  69. Incarceration and law enforcement in America are not that much different than some brutal Third World countries, it may even be worse. It is in need of very serious reform or totally scrapped and reinvented from scratch. We should study what other civilized countries are doing. None of these services should be outsourced to private companies. The outcome is always predictable, squeeze as much as they can to make a buck. It is disheartening to read.

    I am not proud to be an American when I read stories like these. Violence in America has become a numbing experience and accepted way of life. I truly don't want to get use to it. Indifference will come to bite us .

  70. It's a vicious cycle. Brutishness begets brutishness begets brutishness begets....

  71. Justice is an inherently governmental function akin to diplomacy and national security. How can anyone justify outsourcing our justice system?

  72. Privatization of Prisons
    How soon we forget, a Clinton Machine plan against blacks
    and minorities.
    Just another Wall Street connection.
    Building a Wall has been a plan a long time.
    One ''Huge Wall Around the Rich''

  73. Bring ALL of these services back to the government domain, where it can be accountable, and not for profit. NO MORE PRIVATIZATION! Put cameras on EVERYTHING. And, shun the dregs of society who commit these crimes against citizens.

  74. And vote for the tax levies to cover the costs.

  75. Thanks I will, in order to safeguard safety and justice for every citizen, even you.

  76. There seems to be this theme - that when we privatize services - particularly those associated with law enforcement - there is a lot of neglect. No one ever seems accountable in these scenarios. Clearly, this trend is not working (see NY TIMES companion piece: "When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers"). Yet another thing I wish the candidates would talk about it............but don't.

  77. How's that privatizing thing working for you America?

    When Liberty dies, it will not come in one big crash; it will happen in operating rooms and in prison vans and in schools where accountability has been replaced by pursuit of profit and justification of abuse and incompetence.

  78. The courts may be the last hope here. Everyone in authority in the highlighted cases should have to explain themselves to a judge and jury in federal court. Butler County, OH--and every other place that chooses to treat its warrantees like cattle--should be made to pay so steeply that it has no financial incentives to use these shady transportation services in the first place.

  79. A fantastic country, the USA!

  80. Where is the ACLU or other civil rights people? Those who have not been before a judge yet should have rights. I have no words to describe my outrage. These people are treated worse than animals.

  81. The privatization of law enforcement is a scary thing that always seems to lead to accidents and abuse in the name of profit.

    However, the scariest thing in this article is the total lack of accountability and serious inquires in all the death that happened there. Once more, police forces show that all crimes are not equal and they are only willing to investigate the ones they see fit.

  82. I've had the misfortune to witness the big business of incarceration as the family member of an inmate the past few years. The "machine" is fed by money at every turn. One pays for phone calls, basic supplies such as paper or postage to write home to loved ones. On a recent transport to a hearing, my family member asked for portable urinal to relieve himself and was scoffed at and ignored by the guard. Upon finally reaching the destination and being let out of the van, he was desperate to find a restroom. When asked what the problem was, he said "a 40 year old man should not have to urinate on himself". Yet another unnecessary indignity. For those of you who believe that the basic human rights of convicted criminals, don't matter, this kind of treatment says more about us than them. This post-Independence Day article reveals some of the true colors of the justice system we live with today. "Justice for all?" Not even close.

  83. "On a recent transport ..."

    Do you know the name of the company?

  84. As Republicans rush to privatize government services, stories like this become more and more commonplace. At what point will we admit that certain functions in our society--police, fire, education--are best served by government? The profit motive presents an immediate conflict of interest when it comes to government services.

    Placing people's lives in jeopardy in the pursuit of profits is a common cause for lawsuits--except in the case when those lives belong to the poor, the outcast or those at the margins of society. We shirk our responsibility and wash our hands of the consequences.

  85. This is what happens under neoliberalism whether it is Republicans or Democrats like Bill Clinton and his "Third Way" policies. This is just business as usual in our country these days and I doubt HRC will do anything to change it should she be elected. The NY Times publishes these articles and wrings it hands and pushes more neoliberalism by supporting Hillary. Funny.

  86. Well put, Izolatrov! Keep on writing including writing a check to Sen. Sanders' campaign -- he's the one human candidate who's triumphed in primaries from "Sea to Shiny Sea" despite (because of his humanity?)! And once you help Uncle Bernie overcome media opposition, distortion and indiference tell your friends with every tool from snail mail to social media.
    Tom

  87. Private vans, private prisons, private employees says it all. No oversight. Driving for hours, days, lack of food, water, sleep. Prisoners dying or becoming permanently disabled is deplorable. Sounds like something in Russia or in South Korea, not the USA. Thanks for a great article. Now, let's see if it promotes any kind of action. The government likes privatizing everything, using our tax dollars to pay for it. Investigating them doesn't happen to much.

  88. Lack of accountability is rampant in these so-called public-private partnerships, otherwise called privatization of public responsibilities. We all interact with similar businesses every day. We are used and abused by them with little recourse. Why are we shocked when we see examples like this? It happened in Iraq, too.

    Take back government functions. End privatization.

  89. There should be no profit to be made in society's heaviest labors. We are already struggling to preserve integrity in public sector activities such as law enforcement and corrections. How can the private sector possibly do any better, incentivized by money and operated without community oversight?

  90. I thought Obama was president the last 8 years? He seems more like Bush every day as a presdent of a country that allows these kinds of practices. America has become a horrible place.... I won't be going back there again anymore, probably safer to be kidnapped by a politcal group in bunga-bunga.

    Just imagine if a tourist you bring back a rental car late, like the lady in this story, or use a gift card the wrong way, and then you might get picked up, just like that, and dumped in such a transport? The land of the free? What a laugh!

  91. Stop blaming President Obama; if you need to blame anyone, start with a dysfunctional Congress, currently run by Republicans who have obstructed everything he and the Democrats have tried to achieve for years...

  92. This is a story of the contempt for human life that still pervades the South. Every service provided by the 'Conservative' states of the Old South, AKA The Confederate States, is inferior to the services provided in the 'Progressive' states of the North. Nothing has changed since Paul Muni starred in a film called, "I am a Fugitive from a chain gang," in the 1930's. Nothing will ever change for them until their citizens wake up to the reality that you have to treat people like human beings and must spend money on them if you place them in jail. This is especially true with regard to people arrested and imprisoned for failing to support their children. If you put them in jail you prevent them from ever supporting their children.

  93. Given so many Northerners and Midwesterners cheering for Mr. Trump's ideas, for example, I'm not convinced that 'contempt for human life' is found only in the South.

  94. This is what you get when you privatize what should be a state function. The state is responsible for the incarceration of these people and should take responsibility for their safety and the safety of people they encounter. What kind of abuses must occur before we wake up to the reality that outsourcing services to the private sector is a bad, bad idea. Atrocities certainly happen at state run agencies of all sorts, but at least they do not quite so easily dodge responsibility for their actions and while state agencies are cost conscious the bottom line is not the only factor as it appears to be here.

  95. Another example of the free market doing such a good job.

  96. The "free market" is not the problem. The problem is that government agencies are the customers. The prisoners are just "packages":

    '“You route the prisoner like a package, but miss a single deadline, and you lose money,” said Kent Bradford ...'

  97. And the GOP wants to privatize Social Security - among other things!

  98. The creeping privatizatioon of the criminal justice system is a national disgrace. It is societies responsiblility to deal with its criminals. Farming them out to private, profit making companies is immoral. Even the Netfix show Orange is the New Black is addressing that issue. It serves the for profits to have more criminals not fewer. Just the opposite of what we wish for for our socieity. They should be eiiminated immediately. Praise to the Marshall Plan and NY Times for shedding light on this disgraceful situation.

  99. The Donald Trumps of the world running the prison system with the sole goal of maximizing profits?

    What could possibly go wrong?

  100. Profit margins must be maintained at all "costs!" One wonders given the economic industriousness of the booming private prison industry whether at some time the prison population will exceed those "free." Jefferson roll over....(again).

  101. There is more government supervision and regulation of my accounting business than there is of a business dealing with LIVING HUMAN BEINGS. While my errors may cause loss of money, errors in the prisoner transportation industry may cost people their lives.

    While this is no mitigating factor, I think the exponential growth of the prison industry has substantially outpaced regulation of the prison industry. People are dying while we are awaiting legislation to catch up. And thinking the rate of imprisonment will slow down any time in the foreseeable future is incredibly naive.

    Justice for all? Right...

  102. PRIVATIZED JUSTICE? Barbaric! This is not how a civilized nation treats people.

  103. Clearly you mistake the USA for a civilized country. We are not. No nation that cannot provide basic services to its citizens - universal health care, free education, fair and humane justice system, a financial safety net and a safe infrustructure - is not worthy of the term.

  104. It is noted that many of these prisoners have not been convicted of anything. While that fact might serve to enhance public concern, it should not matter. The point is that we, the Leader of the Free World, are subjecting people to conditions unfit for animals.

    On another note, I recall reading an old Chinese story involving a prisoner being sent to a frontier prison camp. He made the arduous journey on foot, escorted by two guards who abused him because he did not have family to bribe them for decent treatment. This may be where we are headed next- the more affluent will have the option of upgrading, at considerable cost, to a better appointed coach bus.

  105. This is the new normal, gifted to us by Reaganism and the conservative movement ever since then ... the consequence of union-busting, crony capitalism, and starving budgets for public services. Don't say we didn't see it coming. Tell me again about this "exceptional" country we live in.

  106. Impunity.

    That one word sums it up about what's going on here. Yet you cannot find it in this article. Yes, great reporting, other than "What took so long?" and the lack of the one word which describes the sort of official corruption that sustains this ongoing abuse of human rights - impunity.

    "Justice" is a sham for so many reasons in the US. "Justice" focuses on designating some who do as the please (or are simply accused of that) as violators and others as those with the sordid liberty of impunity to do as they please to the accused. Then the famed "rule of law" crumbles into a screen for further crime in the name of the state.

    I'd bet that those whose negligence and wanton acts lead to these tragedies might think twice if they faced the prospect of taking a ride like that, but expanding such despicable abuse of government authority is not the point. Rather it is time that American face up to the fact that what passes for justice here is pretty much the same as what goes on in the banana republics we long sponsored overseas - only we mass produce it through the lack of concern for basic human rights that every American should expect from our government, those who work for it, and those it contracts with.

    Given these outfits cross state lines, they should be strictly regulated by the federal government - or outlawed in favor of returning this government function to strictly supervised government employees who face loss of job and pension in the face of such abuse.

  107. Thank you NYT for this well researched article.

    It seems to me that the states that are using these contractors - i.e. the state that issues the arrest warrant - should be held accountable, and civilly liable - for the mistreatment of these prisoners. Where personnel hired by these private contractors commit assaults on prisoners, those persons should be criminally charged. Maybe that will curtail these abuses.

  108. Let's not quibble. This is a sickening failure of morality and decency. This is what we have become. Captive vulnerable human beings, some ill, some violent. No oversight, for-profit private purveyors of what is a public function (we outsource it, we pay for it). We can debate all we want about whether such functions belong with private companies, but in the end this depravity belongs to us, the people who let it happen. How do we change that?

  109. These companies should be shut down immediately. The pattern of neglect and indifference is crystal clear: those running them are criminals themselves. Of course, transportation will still be needed, I suggest that the assets of these companies be seized and the vans operated with a Federal marshal in every vehicle to supervise personnel and enforce Federal laws.

  110. And let's also hope that a few of these companies remain in business just long enough to haul their leaders and indifferent guards across several state lines to face trial.

  111. We call it privatization, but how about it's real title, Unregulated Capitalism. Sure, it's privatization, and the feeling is that we all have the right to make money any way possible....as long as it's...well... maybe... meets the standards of society, whatever they are? Which society are we talking about? This one is going toward anarchy, where anything goes and give me a gun and I'll show you why I'm right, where the regulator can be bought, or the industry's lobby can show us why we're wrong to demand controls. Other systems weren't born out of vacuums, they were created to care for the 99%. The poor were/are exploited and few can risk livelihood, even life, to fight the system. We're all a part of it. The Republicans call controls, instruments of the nanny state, and mock anything that smacks of a humanitarian approach, but use abortion as their hook, and welfare as their unifying force to make the poor and uneducated feel better about themselves. Someone's poorer than them, and eating their taxes. Can't have any of that. The rest of the ugliness doesn't matter as long as you vote against yourself and in favor of the antiabortionist. Doesn't matter what happens to the fetus after birth, but at least, republicans have the vote, to do away with more controls, and maybe start a war somewhere else. After all, doesn't war fuel this economy?

  112. The purpose of capitalism is to provide a return on investment for shareholders. Period. The system that benefits labor is communism and that has never worked out.

  113. How to provide that return on investments? Is it anyway a corporation can? So...I'm attacking unregulated capitalism and I'm asking you to look at countries in Europe such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and on and on. They're considered socialist, and the yes, the worker comes first. High taxes but a safer world, where the citizen is protected, education doesn't mean mortgaging your future, and health is a right for all citizens at a reasonable cost. It's also a safer world, which I don't think anyone would deny. And, don't tell me to go live there, that doesn't solve our problems.

  114. Many comments point to the privatized nature of the companies as the source of these terrible problems. But NYT has exposed many abuses overseen by the NYC (and other) Department of Correction, as well. Neglect for human dignity can happen in a private or in a government-run setting. Enforceable (and regularly enforced!) regulations and a major culture change are necessary before we see improvement, no matter who handles the business.

  115. I agree. Additionally, the city could have ensured that protocols were in place for the safety of the arrested and the guards by making those protocols part of the vetting process when they took bids. Often times the decision of what vendor to pick is left in the hands of procurement officers who lack experience in the regular workflow, for example prisoner transportation, and base their decisions solely on price. That is fundamentally a mistake of public policy that led to picking poor vendors.

  116. Agreed. But in this case, I still think that if the police were handling it, they would have far more to lose by making a mistake, and thus be substantially more careful.

  117. Oh, you mean the people who are gunning down black men like it's a turkey shoot are going to be more careful? Pull the other leg, it has bells on.

  118. The Clintons of the world running the prison system with the sole goal of maximizing profits?
    The Clinton Administration was the mastermind of this program.
    The invisible wall not called "Wall Street for "nothing'''
    Build that wall around wall street profiteers !

    What could possibly go wrong?

  119. This is where you need the lawyers. Sue the pants off of these companies and put them out of business. Another question is why on earth are we extraditing people who have seemed to have been initially arrested for petty crimes. I bet another article lurks there.

  120. We also have a form of private corporate slavery in private prisons where prisoners work for private companies for pennies on the dollar.
    We are turning into a Fascist state little by little, bit by bit.

  121. not so little by little

    and not so bit by bit

    faster than you think

    faster than you want it to be

  122. Just add a "D" to the end to P.T.S. and there you have it... PTSD for all concerned.

  123. Our country is better than this, and Kudos to the Times for shining a light on the extradition business. The Justice Department should be providing proper oversight.
    As your piece illustrate, it's too easy for complacent employees to treat offenders like packages. But, when someone can earn an arrest warrant based on returning a rental car late...there must be a the regulations to ensure humane treatment regardless. The fault lies in the inadequate enforcement of basic rights.

  124. "our country is better than this"...
    Except when it isn't.

  125. Anytime the government privatizes anything this is the result. Private prisons, private prison vans, mercenaries in Iraq killing at will.
    The people these companies hire are always sub human brutes who should be riding in the back of the van instead of the front, these are the people charged with making sure that the prisoners get their medication.
    Don't forget that many of these passengers are just charged with a crime and will not be convicted. The horror, the horror.
    Ain't America Great?

  126. Well, outsourcing is the king now. We are outsourcing everything because we are made to believe that outsourcing can save money and is more efficient. I won't be surprised that most functions of our government at both fed and local levels are outsourced. The Citizens United ruling is also a form of outsourcing. Let money do the talking and work. Forget about the people and what matters.

  127. As one of many who will read this and be both nauseated and outraged, I implore The Times to keep readers appraised of further developments in the oversight of this "industry". The current conditions have developed due to a combination of an allegiance to a political experiment, privatization, which proves a disaster wherever its applied in the correctional field and the fact that the victims are largely powerless and have no constituency of their own. While some are accued of abhorent deeds, many others have committed acts which would make them otherwise candidates for immediate release on bail. Either way, this is a barbaric punishment and has no place in our criminal justice system.

    Please continue to shed light on this dark corner of corrections.

  128. I know this sounds strange to some people but I really believe that there is no constitutional basis for giving custody of a prisoner to a private organization. On what grounds does a privately employed individual employ force to restrain a prisoner? He doesn't represent the state: he represents shareholders. Some enlightened judge some day will raise the question. The public does not have a constitutional, accountable relationship with shareholders.

  129. "He doesn't represent the state: he represents shareholders."

    As the article makes very clear, the prisoner transport companies have CONTRACTS with government agencies.

  130. Private prisoner vans, private jails and prisons, private healthcare services inside jails and prisons, private corrections officers and wardens, and private telephone services for prisoners. States and municipalities have outsourced a whole range of penal activities to for-profit entities whose ultimate responsibility is to investors, including an array of private equity firms.

    "Freed" from the responsibility of providing these public services, state and municipal governments feel little need to oversee these companies, and the results can be tragic for anyone caught up in the criminal justice system, as detention by private companies has led to the death of detainees, even those held for minor, non-violent offenses. And so long as these entities can afford paid lobbyist and make campaign contributions, little is likely to change without the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court finding aspects of the treatment of prisoners has violated their constitutional rights.

  131. Privativation is an invitation for abuse. What an awful way to die.

  132. But "privatization" is exactly what the God-forsaken GOP wants. What the GOP wants, it gets, no matter how inhumane, as long as it benefits their wealthy patrons.

    When people are allowed to get away with bad behavior without any consequences whatsoever, of course the rest of us will suffer. The GOP gets away with murder quite literally.

  133. The commodification of people for profit. Those profiteers should be strung up from the highest rafters.

  134. "“Some agencies take huge advantage of the taxpayers’ money by sending deputies ‘on vacation’ to extradite an inmate,” said Mr. Baldwin of U.S. Corrections, and pay them “a considerable amount of overtime” for doing so. They also have to cover fuel costs or plane tickets and, often, hotel rooms.""

    There's your answer to all this! Police Unions are the real criminals !!!

  135. I am so saddened by these pictures. It's hard to not get infuriated at the national discourse that has elevated the lesser creed of profits over humanity. When we have all these damning issues, the populace are given bread and circus ("Monica-gate", Benghazi, e-mails, etc...) Here's something for Republicans - I want an investigation on Iraq's WMD's; an investigation on the false economic reports that allowed them to squander billions in surpluses at the end of the 1990s to a massive debt crisis. Let's bring back IranContra. In the meantime, corporations will find more ways to dehumanize people for the sake of profits.

  136. It is simply despicable how we treat prisoners in this country. We know that crime is in large part a systemic issue and yet we do nothing to alleviate those conditions that lead to criminal activities. Instead, we incarcerate at some of the highest rates in the world, treat prisoners like chattel, and do nothing to rehabilitate them or prepare them for the outside world. We further hamstring those who have served their time by limiting their rights to vote and their opportunity for employment. And we wonder why recidivism is high and crime keeps occurring. To top it off, we privatize the functions of the state to corporations that care far more about profits than people. Anybody remember the idea that we shall be judged on how we treat the least among us?

  137. All this time I thought prison brutality was the worst thing to fear- now I know it's the ride getting there.

  138. and he is a Native American.

  139. What kind of society have we become?

  140. Increasingly it seems the kind of society that Lady Liberty used to offer refuge from.

  141. People are making money on the deaths of prisoners...how is this legal? Why has no one been held responsible?

  142. What a nightmare. For some time now, I've been fearing my own country.

  143. Inviolate legal principles are the foundation of our country's very being. Outsourcing any portion of the justice system is patently wrong. The foundation is crumbling.

  144. And our illustrious State Department and DOD spend MILLIONS of tax payer dollars per year on private security contractors who escort our government officials around the world. Same glove- different finger.

  145. This is nothing but a modern day slave trade. Shackles, no room to change position, filth, sickness, crew who are paid not to care, the dead tossed overboard. We have a deep soul sickness in the United States, going all the way back to the unacknowledged and unatoned sins in our history. We still have a very long way to go to be a decent nation, much less a great one.

  146. Prisoners should not be transported in vans owned and run by for profit companies. This is a core government function and should be carried out by the government. We are not saving money; we are turning our government and our lives to corporations who view their only obligation as making money. Their commitment to service and safe transport is non existent!

  147. Justice Holmes, unfortunately no one wants to pay taxes, so how can government do it. You know, hire people to do it, pay them not only slaries as union workers, pensions, sick pay etc. Where is the money going to come from?

  148. These private companies do not do this transporting for free!! I would love to see a comparison of above the line & below the line costs of the private company & the government transporting these human beings. Then what is the price on humanity.?

  149. Stunned and thoroughly disgusted by this excellent piece of investigative journalism. So what is going to be done to remedy this longstanding issue? We can't just say Nothing.

  150. Privatization=Globalization. You asked for it, be careful what you wish for. And then everyone criticizes Brexit because the supporters want the freedom to make their own choices.

  151. The drivers of these vans, and the company owners, belong in jail. If these were children or elderly patients being transported we all know they would be there now, but the lives of someone in handcuffs apparently are with nothing.

  152. Medical transport for the elderly isn't much better, either.

  153. I literally feel nauseous after reading that article. Could our prison system be anymore of a circle jerk? Strained jails and budgets? You don't say? Gee, I wonder why. Seriously, if these people worked in different industries doing the terrible jobs they do, they would've been unceremoniously fired. The problem isn't taxpayer funded deputy vacations, Mr. Baldwin. Far from it. This is an untenable, immoral and unacceptable system we have.

  154. This transportation by these companies (and police debts. in general) and treatment of those either convicted or alleged of crimes is criminal and those drivers involved in this behavior should be charged with crimes committed. What has our country come to locking up people for life for petty crimes, mistreatment of inmates etc. we should be ashamed as a country.

  155. Where is the Justice in the "Criminal Justice System"? Just when I've thought I have heard it all, now this. This is sick but the beat goes on, and on, and on.....what a terrible way to make money!

  156. Most are Black, but not mentioned in article

  157. Can't believe how many retired people I know own private correction company stocks . All GOP voters I might add .

  158. Man's inhumanity to man, American style. We are a country that was born of violence. Look what we did to the Native Americans. What is happening today is nothing new. So very sad and shameful, but not surprising.

  159. A woman mistakenly charged with using a Bed Bath and Beyond card is housed like a violent felon and transported? Are you kidding me?
    When I read articles like this I can't believe I'm reading about the United States.
    This feels like what would happen in a dictatorship or very poor country.
    What does this say about us?
    I always say, the US is a great country, if it weren't for the hypocrisy

  160. As bad as the treatment of that lady was, worse happened with the unfortunate soul whose body is on the cover, a nuclear physicist was mocked and literally tortured to death for confronting a newspaper which defamed him.

  161. As I watch the outcomes of trials in Baltimore I fully expect that when all are duly tried Freddy Gray will be alive.

    This is the nation we have become.

  162. We have created a society in which its members are feeding on each other...unless you're rich. This story is as much about morally corrupt privatization under the banner, like it or not, of unfettered capitalism as it is about inequality.

    Story after story in the New York Times is associated, in some way, with our chosen economic model and clear evidence it is failing us. It compels people to compromise moral and ethical decency for profit and not only do we accept this faustian bargain. We promote it at the expense of our humanity and few seem to care.

    Do we really desire to nurture a country where Ayn Rand would survey the political, economic, and sociological landscape with great pride? On the surface the answer would be a reflexive & resounding 'No!' But, I've long since dispensed with the requisite optimism and denial that requires such a response.

    We're ruining this country, prisoners in our own metaphorical vans, if we continue to think it okay to inflict pain and suffering for profit. Whether it privatized prisons, van transportation, health care, education, our judicial system...whatever the 'niche' is - it's clear we're wasting away. Republicans and Democrats as proletariat increasingly living on rainbows, unicorns, and the promise of change. HRC and DJT will do nothing, perhaps can do nothing, to shift the prevailing winds that promote deepening inequality if we accept what we have become.

    I love my country and I am sick of what it has become.

  163. To American Plutocracy,

    Well said, especially your opening sentence.

    History teaches us that as more and more of a society's power and wealth become concentrated in fewer and fewer people, those people maintain their power and wealth by turning everyone else against one another.

  164. What is good businesses isn’t good for America. I hope the Americans will learn before everything is outsourced and privatized.

  165. For profit!...... It's clear that in this case nobody cares how people are shuffled around. Shackled on arms, waist and legs, nice. How said this famous Jewish entertainer : What a country!

  166. This is the logical destination of "free market", "capitalistic", "the private sector does it better than the government", "government is the problem not the solution" etc. way of thinking that prevails in our "big government scares me" baloney that the right wing always uses to rip off, abuse, harass, and control the population that they believe exists to serve their interests. It's Laissez-Faire economics run amok. Government exists to protect society from money grubbing, bottom line, venture capitalists like the "private contractors" that fight our military excursions, guard and transport prisoners, etc. etc. If the municipal, county, state and federal authorities can't use government employees to do these jobs, but prefer to hire unskilled, uncaring, sadistic thugs to perform these tasks as a means of cutting costs, well, I have a great idea. Let's privatize THEIR jobs. Let us the people, the sons and daughters of this country's founding liberators from oppressive government abuse remove them from the jobs they refuse to perform on our behalf. The system IS rigged! Only a political REVOLUTION will fix it! Every American is at risk for a Kafkaesque experience. Terminate these politicians with extreme prejudice NOW!

  167. These prison transport vans are totally filthy, horrendous, unsafe & unlawful for any human being to be transported across states at a time. I myself experienced the horrid conditions when I was on a van for 18 hours without being strapped into a seat belt, shackled & handcuffs so tight that my wrists & hands were swollen for two days after I was transported from Union County, New Jersey to Forest County, Pennsylvania on a parole warrant. Security Transport Services was the company & the transport guards were so incompetent that detainees were giving them instructions & directions to where they were supposed to be dropped off or were supposed to be going. Also the guards were driving erratically & arguing among one another for lack of sleep & over all crankiness that they've been on the road for two to three weeks & couldn't wait to go back to Topeka, Kansas to see a Royals game. They need an independent watchdog to overall investigate & supervise theses companies that are racking up millions & cashing in on the biggest business in the United States, which is corrections. If your going to make money, you need to safeguard your merchandise & the merchandise are the detainees that are being transported in these unlawful & inexplicable conditions. The department of justice needs to step in & overall monitor theses private prison transport companies & hold accountable any company that are not following the mandated guidelines to ensure safety for detainees & guards as well.

  168. After the collapse of the USSR, when information about the Gulag became available, I read about the mistreatment of prisoners in the trains transporting them to prison and prison camps. What I read was terrible - but no worse than the conditions described in this article. The Gulag, which functioned until the last days of the USSR, remains the shame and the historical burden of Russia which had never reckoned properly with its Communist past. The prisoner vans will be the shame and the burden of this country unless something is done immediately to stop what, in my view, amounts to torture under the international standards. Privatization is not solely to blame. The government ran the Gulag trains and there was no profit motive involved. Rather, if ordinary, uneducated, low-class people are given the license to abuse others, abuse they will - just to show that they have this power. Unless guards are carefully trained and constantly supervised, they will develop into recreational sadists. This supervision is one of the major functions of the legal system, and I hope lawsuits will do their jobs and send companies into bankruptcy and guards and drivers to jail.

  169. Elana: I agree that what is relayed in this article is horrible and inexcusable, but let's try and keep things in perspective. Robert Conquest in his brilliant work on the Soviet terror state, estimated that of the 20 million of it's own citizens killed between the civil war and Stalin's death, some 7 to 10 million were worked to death in the vast complex of camps we now collectively term the Gulag. That is a great many orders of magnitude beyond what is described here.

  170. I'd like to see some numbers behind how many people have been killed while in custody for the entire US prison system over the past decade. I don't know that the analogy to the gulag is as unfit as you think.

  171. badphairy: I worked at a major prisoners' rights law firm in San Francisco for many years, and I assure you, the analogy is completely inapt.

  172. The only thing worse than for-profit prisoner transportation is for-profit prisons. The two businesses invite abuse by shaving nickels and placing the bottom line above people.

  173. This is almost unbelievable, but as usual it's all about the money. When it comes to too many US Corporations these days, the only value of a human life is how much they can make from it. Just like others on this thread have said, I feel terrorized by my own government, which all rights provided by the Constitution available only to the very rich.

    One question, why don't the corporate heads and judges ever get held to account?

  174. Horrifying, aboslutely horrifying. "I am confident that we will be vindicated," said Randy Cagle Jr., after Michael Dykes had his legs amputated for lack of health care for his diabetes. But I'm sure Dykes's doctors amputated his legs frivolously and now Dykes is suing frivolously, right, Mr. Cagle? Absolutely horrifying.

  175. America the beautiful....

  176. The treatment of these people is unconscionable. Why aren't the counties who are contracting the companies to do prisoner transport held accountable by local/state/federal laws? Or better yet, why don't they stipulate, as part of the contract that all individuals being transported must be treated with humane standards.

    Honestly, this mistreatment of criminals should never happen in America; I would have expected this from a country that had hardly any rule of law, and not the USA. We we believe in basic human rights of all. We historically use prisons to punish, and also rehabilitate.

    I want to know what our presidential candidates, and candidates running for office at state and local levels, think about this heartless treatment of people. And more importantly, how this can be stopped. Fixing tuition, immigration, social security/medicare, defense, etc., issues will take a bit of time. But something like this -- preventing inhumane treatment of criminals -- could easily be stopped quickly, with conscientious leadership.

  177. Cruel and unusual punishment, meted out without due process. You can't get more unconstitutional than that. The outsourcing of law enforcement and "corrections" to unaccountable private entities should itself be banned by constitutional amendment.

  178. This is truly awful. There is simply no justification for allowing a private company to perform this service.

  179. What truly disturbed me in this article were the flimsy pretenses in which people were arrested, extradited and subject to physical or sexual abuse and even death. Using someone else's gift card? Not returning a rental car on time? Not paying child support because they had no job? Our prison population has quintupled over the past 40 years while our population has gone up by one a third. Are we living in the United States, or are we living in a gulag state driven not by Communist ideology but corporate greed?

  180. It mostly depends on A: what you look like and B: how much money you have. If you fail both those tests, you live in the gulag and have been there all your life.

    It's why I don't understand what a certain demographic is talking about when they opine that "Racism is getting worse". No, it just wasn't covered in media they consumed, before. There was no "better past".

  181. Who says we don't need newspapers.

  182. We need more investigative reporting in newspapers to uncover atrocities like this.

  183. Common to both our penal and medical systems are layers of intermediaries motivated by greed. Why any of this should be in the hands of private business is beyond belief. Since we've chosen to incarcerate everyone we can for whatever reason we need to accept the cost. Because the rewards are based on miles per passenger or number of MRIs the motivations have become perverted to serve the provider rather than the accused or sick.

  184. So true. And it does not have to be like that.

  185. By coincidence, the July-August 2016 edition of Mother Jones has a scathing and eye-opening piece by Shane Bauer about his working as a guard in a privately run prison.

    For quite a long while we have been fed the mantra that government is the problem and that it should be run more like private industry, that private business is efficient and innovative and government is not, and that we need more people from the private sector in government. We've even turned part of our military operations over to private entities and contractors. And in November we'll have the opportunity to choose as president someone who is the epitome of all of that. Let's see what we've learned from the past.

  186. Same story for in-state prisoner transport per a lawyer. Doubtful most of these prisoners had a personal lawyer to consult on alternative transportation means, or even the choice to not attend a hearing in person. It appears that many of these instances are in fact murder, and people that we count on to know better do not see these people as human beings worthy of the truth.