LEWISTON — The state’s district attorneys agreed Friday to explore using a state law enforcement agency to conduct the extraditions of prisoners back to Maine.
The move comes just a few weeks after the state’s prosecutors halted their use of a private prisoner transport company following allegations of neglect and mistreatment that were featured in a Sun Journal special investigative report published March 26.
Since then, the district attorneys have said they are looking at alternatives to using U.S. Prisoner Transport, a company that many counties had used for years prior to allegations outlined by Lewiston inmate Meghan Quinn after a five-day trip from Florida to Maine in November.
Quinn and a male prisoner in the same transport van claimed she was kept in a cage in an unheated area and was made to sit in her menstrual blood and to defecate in a burger wrapper in front of the male prisoners.
“We are exploring trying to pool our resources and create a way to use one of our state law enforcement agencies to be responsible for our extraditions,” Andrew Robinson, district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties, said Friday.
Robinson said he’ll take the lead in exploring the financial feasibility of the idea, calling it a “preliminary” plan. He said he didn’t yet know which law enforcement agency would be chosen if the plan moves forward.
Of the state’s eight county prosecutors, six had contracted with U.S. Prisoner Transport for extraditions. Robinson said the option could lead to a new position at the chosen agency, paid through the pooled resources from each county’s extradition account. Each of those accounts is funded through bail forfeitures.
Robinson hopes to have concrete financial numbers to share with the group by the time they convene again in May. Their meeting took place via conference call on Friday, with seven of the eight prosecutors taking part.
Robinson said he’ll have to calculate how many extraditions each county is conducting, how much they cost, and determine the costs of contracting with one specific agency to handle all of the extraditions.
He said they’ll also continue to look at using other private companies that may be more affordable. But, he said: “How do you vet them? How do you know they’re performing the way they should, and treating people the way they should be treated?”
The state law enforcement agencies that have handled extraditions in Maine are state police, county sheriff’s departments, local police departments, and county probation and parole officers.
However, county sheriff’s departments currently handle the bulk of prisoner transports within the state.
The extraditions performed by the private U.S. Prisoner Transport have typically been those requiring overnight trips.
Robinson said the group did not discuss the recent response to the allegations sent to Androscoggin County by U.S. Prisoner Transport parent company Prisoner Transport Services, which largely denied any mistreatment of prisoners by its personnel.
“I think the fact that we’re discussing what our alternatives are shows that none of us are intending to go back,” he said.
District Attorney Andrew Robinson