Meghan Quinn is a thief.

She is also a human being.

Quinn, who has more than a decade of petty convictions and trouble controlling her behavior, was charged with forgery in 2011. She stole $1,800 from her mother by writing checks on Mom’s account.

Had she abided by the terms of a plea agreement, the charge would eventually have been dropped. But Quinn drank alcohol and that deal was rescinded. Her sentence was three months in jail, followed by two years of probation. That probation also had standard restrictions against using alcohol, which Quinn ignored by having a drink. And she violated other terms, such as failing to check in with her probation officer. So, a bench warrant was issued.

When she was located in Florida last fall, Androscoggin County hired a for-profit company to transport her home.

Cost? $1,500.

Quinn’s extradition is not unusual. It’s a routine process across this country to locate, collect and return defendants to answer charges. It’s also a process that needs far greater scrutiny than it gets.

When extradited, a person is in official government custody and all the rights and protections the law affords prisoners must be observed.

When the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office assigns its deputies to this task, these rights are carefully preserved. But, when Quinn was transported from Florida to Maine last November, her rights were ignored. Her dignity was ignored. Her basic humanness was utterly ignored.

This woman — who deserves the punishment handed down to her by the court for her violations — absolutely did not deserve to be physically, emotionally, sexually and psychologically violated as she was by an agent of the government.

Quinn was transported to Maine by U.S Prisoner Transport, a subsidiary of Nashville-based Prisoner Transportation Services. The trip took five days, during which she was denied timely access to a bathroom and was forced to defecate in a used fast-food wrapper in a moving van while a group of male transports watched. Some hooted and hollered as she had her pants down. When Quinn got her period, the transport company refused to provide her sanitary supplies, so she sat curled in her own blood, and other bodily fluids.

That trip was Thanksgiving week. Two weeks earlier, Surface Transportation Board Vice Chairman Deb Miller had called on the Justice Department to investigate Prisoner Transportation Services for human rights violations, citing the company’s track history of disregard for passengers. Had someone taken that seriously, Quinn’s treatment may have been quite different.

OK. Got it. These companies transport criminals. The accommodations and travel conditions don’t have to be luxurious. They do have to be humane.

In August, according to Business Insider, a merger between Prisoner Transportation Services — which is the nation’s largest prisoner transportation company — and U.S. Corrections was stalled after the Human Rights Defense Center objected to that merger. In November, the merger was allowed to move forward when the Surface Transportation Board found it to be “consistent with the public interest.”

In July, then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee her office was reviewing “apparent lapses in federal oversight of prisoner transport companies,” according to Business Insider. These lapses were highlighted in a report published by The Marshall Project that examined outrageous treatment of prisoners under the care of transport companies.

Lynch — an Obama appointee — left office in January, and her acting replacement was in place less than two weeks before she was replaced by Jeff Sessions. So, who knows where that review stands.

The merger of PTS and U.S. Corrections will create the nation’s largest transportation company, one that controls the market with virtually no oversight.

It would be easy to look away. These are prisoners after all. They deserve whatever they get, right?

Wrong.

According to The Marshall Project, in the 16 years since Jeanna’s Act — lightly regulating these transport companies — was enacted, 16 prisoners have died while in custody. Since 2012, four of them died from alleged abuse or neglect inside the transport vans.

None of these prisoners was sentenced to death, but that’s what they got.

In response to findings of The Marshall Project, PTS President Joel Brasfield said the company outfitted some of its vans with cameras and changed its regulations to provide longer and more regular breaks for its driver-guards.

The van Quinn was on did not have a camera. And, despite Brasfield’s claim to provide 24-hour breaks for guards every two days, the two guards who transported Quinn and her fellow passengers did not get these breaks. The guards were the same for five consecutive days, catching rest in the passenger seat while the second guard drove.

Brasfield has ignored the Sun Journal’s repeated requests for information, including access to public records that the company is required to provide under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and Florida’s Sunshine Law, so his desire to confront this issue does not seem sincere.

The situation is this: The Justice Department is long aware of the problem. The problem is being studied and reviewed. Promises have been made to provide better oversight.

And, still a 34-year-old woman can be loaded into a van in Florida and neglected for five days travel to Maine.

Quinn and her fellow passengers were treated like animals. If society continues to ignore that treatment, we are the animals.

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