Transport company’s internal affairs probe differs from inmates’ accounts

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An internal affairs officer at the Prisoner Transportation Services LLC in Tennessee (parent company of U.S. Prisoner Transport in Florida) investigated allegations of mistreatment suffered by a Lewiston woman who was caged in the back of a van on a five-day extradition from Kissimmee, Florida, to Auburn, Maine, in November.

Her account was the focus of a Sun Journal investigative report published on March 26.

In a four-page letter dated March 31, Lt. Christopher M. Snow responded to six of Meghan Quinn’s claims in a Sun Journal story. Snow paraphrases in quotes those complaints below.

• Quinn “spent five days locked in a cage in the back of a van, her hands cuffed to her belly, her ankles shackled together.”

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Snow wrote that the van was in compliance with federal regulations regarding prisoner transport and that Quinn was restrained and transported in compliance with federal law.

• Quinn “was forced to sit in her blood-soaked pants for hours before one of the officers tossed her a pad.”

Snow wrote that the van’s drivers “were questioned and deny any such accusations.” But Snow went on to write that Quinn was given a sanitary napkin as a “temporary solution . . . in addition to temporary clothing (a black T-shirt) in order to help conceal offender Quinn’s soiled clothing and prevent further embarrassment.”

The drivers stopped at a “local court house 10 minutes away and were denied the use of shower facilities,” Snow wrote. The drivers bought or provided “Quinn with new/replacement clothing” and Quinn was allowed to “shower and change at the nearest secure law enforcement facility within two hours of notification.”

The drivers disposed of Quinn’s clothes that she had been wearing because they posed a “health/bio-hazard concern,” Snow wrote. He said “no additional witness and/or sources of evidence to the incident(s) in question have been discovered or provided that clearly outline the accusation in question. He concludes that the drivers “acted in good faith and in accordance with established policy and procedures.”

That account differs markedly from the narratives given by Quinn and fellow passenger, David Bowden, 45, of Bangor, who occupied the back of the van with Quinn during those five days. Bowden, who is serving a sentence at Maine Correctional Center in Windam, was featured in the Sun Journal story and witnessed Quinn’s treatment. He apparently was not interviewed by Snow for his internal affairs probe.

Among the many differences between Snow’s account and that of Quinn and Bowden are: Quinn said she was not allowed to shower at any time during the five days and the black T-shirt given to her by one of the drivers was meant to conceal the aftermath of the bloody nose she suffered when the driver slammed on the van’s brakes because he was annoyed that she had been trying to get his attention. Her nose bled down her white shirt, which the driver covered with his black T-shirt, she told the Sun Journal.

• “Offender Quinn had to use the wrapper from her $2 burger as a toilet in full view of strange men.”

Snow wrote that a GPS auto tracking system showed the van was operated in accordance with the company’s policies and procedures.

“Offender restroom breaks were completed at secure facilities in the time frames established by policy (approximately every four hours), Snow wrote. “Offender Quinn was housed in the forward compartment of the prisoner transport van by herself and separated by a metal partition from the male offenders.”

Quinn and Bowden both said in separate two-hour interviews with the Sun Journal that they were promised at the start of the trip regular breaks every three-four hours, but actually the time between restroom breaks was roughly twice that long. Both Quinn and Bowden said there was no privacy separating Quinn’s cage from the area for male prisoners because the “metal partition” was, in fact, a diamond grid-patterned metal sheet that allowed for easy visibility from one side to the other. For most of the trip, Quinn and Bowden said they and the other prisoners were given plastic bags to use to perform bathroom functions because the stops were so infrequent.

• “Denial of basic hygiene.”

Snow wrote that Quinn was temporarily “held at a secure facility” in High Point, North Carolina, for 12 hours where the use of hygienic facilities “was at the discretion of local authorities.” The drivers asked that the transport inmates be allowed to use showers, Snow wrote, but he failed to include whether authorities at that facility complied. Neither driver nor staff at the two facilities the van visited overnight reported that Quinn or her fellow prisoners say they were denied basic personal hygiene, Snow wrote.

In their interviews with the Sun Journal, both Quinn and Bowden said they complained repeatedly about the poor hygienic conditions during their transport, but were ignored.

• “The van suddenly braked and swerved in highway traffic, Offender Quinn’s unseat-belted body tumbled, jamming her upside down under a metal partition door that drove her shackles into her ankles so deeply they left scars.”

Snow wrote that “no medical incidents took place and/or the request for emergency medical services by offenders regarding unsafe and/or questionable vehicle operations.”

Both Quinn and Bowden, during their interviews with the Sun Journal, spoke at length about how they and the other inmates were thrown around in the back of the van, where there were no seat belts to prevent them from slamming into each other and into the metal walls. Quinn said she injured her ankles and face as a result of the van driver’s slamming on the brakes and swerving in traffic. Bowden said he witnessed Quinn’s injury.

• “Freezing temperatures in her (Quinn’s) unheated space.”

Snow wrote that the vehicle maintenance log for the van showed there were no heating, ventilation and/or air condition mechanical problems or failure that occurred during the transport of Offender Quinn or the repair of any such HVAC issues.” The drivers didn’t report the heating and air conditioning had stopped working during the trip, he wrote.

“However, (drivers) did state that the northeastern region was experiencing severe weather conditions (cold.)” Snow wrote.

The trip started in Florida on Nov. 20 and arrived in Maine on Nov. 25.

Quinn said the area where she was confined in the front portion of the back of the van, where all surfaces were bare metal, had no heating ducts or vents, unlike the portion of the van where the male prisoners sat.

She said she could see her breath at night that fogged the metal grid that caged her in. The male prisoners and even a corrections officer at one of the jails where they had stopped to pick up prisoners had taken pity on Quinn and had given her spare clothing and a “raggedy blanket” in an effort to help her try to keep from freezing, Bowden said.

During his internal affairs probe, Snow said he spoke with the van’s drivers, reviewed vehicle maintenance logs, bank records and GPS tracking systems data. He wrote that no additional witnesses (including the eight additional offenders who occupied the van at one time or another) or complaints were received by his department. He didn’t say he made any effort to speak with any of those passengers who might have witnessed the treatment Quinn claimed in the Sun Journal report. Bowden’s corroborating statements about Quinn’s conditions and treatment during the five-day van ride and his whereabouts were included in the Sun Journal’s report from which Snow quoted.

Snow concluded, “The investigation failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove the accusation of ‘misconduct’ occurred by transport personnel. No additional witness and/or sources of evidence to the incident(s) in question have been discovered or provided to this department that clearly outline the accusations in question without clear and convincing evidence.”

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

Part of report of Prisoner Transportation Services investigation.

Part of report of Prisoner Transportation Services investigation.

Part of report of Prisoner Transportation Services investigation.

Part of report of Prisoner Transportation Services investigation.

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