AUBURN — Androscoggin County District Attorney Andrew Robinson said Friday his office would immediately stop using the Tennessee-based private transportation company U.S. Prisoner Transport unless new allegations of mistreatment of prisoners are disproved.

Robinson referred to a six-page letter written by an Androscoggin County Jail inmate who detailed the account of her five-day trip from Florida to Maine last November caged in the back of a private prisoner transport van during which she was denied bathroom breaks and subjected to other inhumane treatment.

“What is described in this letter is unacceptable,” Robinson said shortly after reading a copy made available to him by the Sun Journal.

“Someone who is being transported back to the state of Maine to be dealt with in the criminal justice system should be transported in humane conditions,” he said. “What is described in the way she was treated is not something we would ever knowingly allow to happen.”

Robinson said: “What we will need to do is suspend our use of U.S. Prisoner Transport until we can determine that this didn’t happen.”

His office has reached out to the company to learn what their standards of care are and what they believe happened during the trip, he said. If his office gets no response from the company, he will no longer do business with the company, he said.


The person in his office who schedules extraditions told Robinson she hadn’t heard any concerns about the company’s past performance.

“Certainly no one’s brought it to my attention because that’s certainly something I would have paid attention to,” Robinson said.

His office has used that company for about a decade, he said, starting long before he was sworn in as district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties in January 2015.

The private prisoner transport company had been recommended by the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office in Portland, Robinson said. Since then, his office has had an “established relationship” with that company.

“I think we’ll have to reach out and see if we can find alternatives until we determine this didn’t happen,” he said. Any other private transport companies considered for future contracts would have to be carefully vetted, he said.

“We have to check and make sure there are no issues if we’re using a different company,” he said.


Regarding the inmate who wrote the letter, 34-year-old Meghan Quinn of Lewiston, Robinson said: “To the extent that these horrific conditions existed, it’s inconsistent with the steps the state was taking to try to treat this person fairly, with respect, and keep her out of incarceration,” by trying to work with her through the plea and probation process over a number of years.

Transportation vans are shown in this image from the U.S. Prisoner Transport’s Facebook page.


Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said his deputies, who transport inmates from jails and prisons within Maine and from other New England states, would never demand a prisoner go to the bathroom in the van or cruiser.

“That, in my mind, is unacceptable,” Samson said when interviewed for a story about private prisoner transports to Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn.

“I’ve never, nor do I believe anybody that currently works for us has ever, done something like that,” Samson said. “We would have heard” if something like that had happened, he said, noting his department has easily accessible complaint and grievance procedures for prisoners.

Before he was elected sheriff, Samson served as supervisor of prisoner transports for a decade.


He said he was always able to find a security facility along the route. If he were transporting minimum security prisoners, like Quinn, he might stop at a public restroom, if necessary. When transporting a female, he always would seek to have a woman officer accompany her on the extradition, Samson said.

Quinn and another inmate driven in the back of the same U.S. Prisoner Transport van on a five-day trip from Florida to Maine the end of last November spoke at length to the Sun Journal about their experiences. The trip included infrequent bathroom stops that forced those being extradited to urinate and defecate either in bags or empty water bottles. Otherwise, they were told, they must go in their pants.

The man and woman said the van usually drove straight through the night; the woman was confined to an unheated cage too small to lie down in or even sit in without having her knees pressed to her chest.

The company’s two drivers, who were not sworn law enforcement officers, carried guns and Tasers, and likely had undergone only three days of company training to handle prisoners, according to a 2016 probe of that company by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit group of journalists who write about the U.S. criminal justice system.

The two inmates interviewed by the Sun Journal said that when Quinn got her period, she was forced to sit in her blood for hours. She also was forced to go to the bathroom in a fast-food wrapper, in front of others in the van. She vomited repeatedly and sat with that too until the van stopped hours later, she said.

Quinn said in a letter penned to a judge when she arrived at the Auburn jail: “I felt sexually, physically and mentally violated and humiliated.”


One of the prisoners transported in the back of the van suffered a heart attack, underwent emergency surgery and was placed back in the van, the inmates said.

Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputies aren’t allowed to dispense any medications, not even an aspirin, yet, the drivers of the private van, with apparently only CPR training, handed out medications to the van’s prisoners, who swapped their pills with one another, both prisoners reported.

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch reported to the House Judiciary Committee in July that her office would “review apparent lapses in federal oversight of prisoner transport companies” in response to The Marshall Project’s probe of PTS or Prisoner Transportation Services of Tennessee, according to published reports. The nonprofit had investigated PTS, the parent company U.S. Prisoner Transport.

That Justice Department report was in progress as of Dec. 8, the reporters for The Marshall Project wrote.

Although a federal law called Jeanna’s Act, enacted in 2000, set out standards for treatment of prisoners, it focused largely on public safety. That law has only been enforced once since its enactment, according to a December story by The Marshall Project. That story says that “at least 60 prisoner escapes, 50 crashes, 14 alleged instances of sexual assault, and 16 deaths (occurred) on these vans during that time.”

According to the U.S. Prisoner Transport’s website, all of its drivers are trained “in prisoner rights and privacy laws.” Yet the conditions described by Quinn and the other prisoner in the back of van No. 1304 would suggest those drivers either hadn’t been trained properly or ignored that training.



On Jan. 4, the Sun Journal submitted a request to U.S. Prisoner Transport for access to public documents in connection with the transport of Quinn in November 2016. The request was made under Florida’s Public Records Law and Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, both of which require that the records of private contractors be available to the public if the contractor is performing a service, including the movement of inmates, that would otherwise be performed by a government agency.

The request was sent to the U.S. Prisoner Transport company in Melbourne, Florida, the location of the office that contracted with Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office for Quinn’s transportation from Osceola County Corrections in Kissimmee, Florida, to the Androscoggin County Jail. The Sun Journal was seeking access to all communication between that company and the District Attorney’s Office here, along with passenger and personnel manifests of the vehicle that transported Quinn, and records of expenses and documentation of any incidents or events during the five-day trip from Florida to Maine.

Public access laws in both Florida and Maine require acknowledgement of public access requests. When the Sun Journal did not get a response from the company the following week, the newspaper contacted U.S. Prisoner Transport’s Florida office by phone. That office denied receiving the request, and referred all calls to the company’s headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.

Contacted at its Nashville office on Jan. 13, Joel Brasfield, president and general counsel of parent company Prisoner Transportation Services, said he was unaware of the Sun Journal’s request for records and asked the newspaper to re-send its request.

On Jan. 17, after receiving no reply to its repeated request, the newspaper contacted Brasfield again. In an email, he wrote: “It’s with the attorney. I expect a response soon.” Brasfield never responded to subsequent requests for comment or information.


To date, the Sun Journal has never received a formal response to its records request, despite reminders and additional requests sent in February and again most recently on March 14, in clear violation of those states’ public access laws.


The Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office contracted with U.S. Prisoner Transport to extradite a total of 55 prisoners, including seven women, over an eight-year period ending last year, according to records obtained by the Sun Journal. That office spent roughly $8,000 per year in each of the past two years for the transports of an average of seven prisoners.

Some of the inmates transported back to Maine had been charged with nonviolent felonies, others with more serious crimes. Some, like Quinn, were wanted on bench warrants for probation violations.

The extradition clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Extradition Act gives private prisoner transport services the same authority to move prisoners as public agencies, according to the Human Rights Defense Center.

The U.S. Marshal Service and a private company called TransCor were used to extradite Androscoggin County prisoners on overnight trips back to Maine until the mid-2000s, when the DA’s office turned to the Sheriff’s Department due to delays and costs, Samson said.


Martin Fournier, who took over as transport supervisor from Samson, said he personally would fly with prisoners back to Maine on commercial airlines until the day he retired from that position on May 30, 2015. Extra training was required through the Federal Air Marshal Service for those transports, he said.

Since then, Samson said, personnel from his department only take on the transportation of extradited prisoners if the trip can be completed in less than a day and can be carried out by cruiser or van.

“It was a number of different reasons,” Samson said of the decision to stop overnight transports by sheriff’s staff. It was largely driven by financial and staffing concerns, he said.

The Androscoggin Sheriff’s Department only uses vans for shorter trips because vans burn more fuel and are less comfortable and more difficult to maneuver in traffic, Samson said. A cruiser can accommodate three prisoners in the back seat, where they can be seat belted, unlike the U.S. Prisoner Transport van, which, according to Quinn and the other prisoner, slamming prisoners against each other or walls when the driver braked hard or swerved in traffic.

Sun Journal Executive Editor Judith Meyer contributed to this report.

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