LEWISTON — Androscoggin County’s district attorney said a recent effort by the state’s county prosecutors to pool their resources and hire a single full-time extraditions officer to fetch prisoners held on warrants from distant states appears to be “not feasible.”

In response to a Sun Journal investigation in March that found a private prisoner transport company based in Tennessee often contracted by Maine prosecutors had mistreated prisoners during the extradition process, most district attorneys in Maine cut ties with that company.

That led those prosecutors, largely in southern and central Maine counties, to look into the possibility of a collaborative effort to hire an officer whose sole job would be to transport out-of-state prisoners wanted on Maine warrants requiring overnight stays.

Androscoggin County District Attorney Andrew Robinson said this week that the reasons for scrapping the effort were twofold: not all district attorneys in Maine need to go outside of local law enforcement for extraditions and, because extraditions are paid through fluctuating bail forfeitures, funding a salaried position would be subject to too much uncertainty.

For those reasons, Robinson said the prospect of hiring a dedicated extraditions officer “does not seem like it’s tenable.”

Since severing ties in March with U.S. Prisoner Transport, Robinson, who is also district attorney for Franklin and Oxford counties, said his office has learned of a different private prisoner transport company, Security Transport Services, a Kansas company that his office has used four times in the past seven months, twice in Androscoggin County and twice in Oxford County.

Robinson said his office only contracts with that company when all other options have been exhausted. For extraditions, Robinson said he will look first to the law enforcement agency that has brought the case against that defendant. He looks next to the local sheriff’s department, followed by any other local agencies who might be able to assist with transport. Sheriffs departments in Androscoggin and Oxford counties have said they will try to accommodate extradition requests from Robinson’s office. Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has said it would only be able to retrieve prisoners in cases that originated in that county’s department, Robinson said.

“Clearly, there are too many demands on the limited resources there are,” he said.

If no local law enforcement agencies are available, Robinson will turn to the U.S. Marshals Service. But timing and cost are often prohibitive factors when seeking to arrange an extradition with that federal agency, Robinson said.

The Kansas company was recommended to Robinson by Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson’s office, Robinson said. Although that company appears to have a “good reputation,” Robinson said he is taking no chances and has set up his internet account to alert him when that company’s name pops up in the news.

If he were to learn of complaints lodged against that company, Robinson said, “we would immediately stop working with them until we were able to determine if there’s legitimacy to the complaints. And if there are, or we can’t confirm that there aren’t, then we would just stop using them.”

Robinson also would alert other prosecutors to those complaints, he said.

“The minute people are hearing something that’s concerning to one of us, we all talk about it to see if they’re aware of anything and what steps they’re taking because we all have a common problem that we need to address,” he said. “Just as we did when the (U.S. Prisoner Transport) issue came to light, in the future we would be doing the same thing.”

The Sun Journal’s monthslong investigation revealed that while sworn local and county law enforcement officers go through state-sanctioned training in handling prisoners – a lengthy and rigorous process – training of transport officers at private companies varies from state to state and is not federally regulated.

According to its website, Security Transport Services is the oldest private prisoner transport company in the United States and one of the largest. The website says it provides for “gender specific” transports of prisoners.

In the Sun Journal report, a 34-year-old Lewiston woman said she was forced to perform bathroom functions, including her menstrual period, in front of male prisoners in the back of a van and that there was no female security officer during her five-day van trip from Florida to Maine.

Overall, county prosecutors appear to be using private transport less than in the past, though Robinson said the criteria his office uses hasn’t changed since dropping U.S. Prisoner Transport last spring.

Over an eight-year period ending last year, Robinson’s office contracted with U.S. Prisoner Transport to extradite a total of 55 prisoners, including seven women.

District Attorney Stephanie Anderson told the Sun Journal in March that her office had contracted with U.S. Prisoner Transport 21 times in 2016, performing roughly half of her office’s 40 extraditions last year.

Jennifer Ackerman, Cumberland County deputy district attorney, said Wednesday that her office has used the new private transport company, Security Transport Service, only five times since March, but no longer contracts with that company and only uses Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department.

She added: “We have not used US Prisoner Transport since the (Sun Journal) article and have no intention of using US Prisoner Transport in the future.”

Garry Higgins, transport officer for District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, chief prosecutor for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, said that office has had “a number” of out-of-state extraditions since March and has used Security Transport Services. His office no longer uses U.S. Prisoner Transport for extraditions, he said.

Matthew Foster, district attorney for Hancock and Washington counties, said his office now only uses those counties’ sheriffs offices for extraditions. His office had used U.S. Prisoner Transport a couple of times before the Sun Journal report was published in March.

York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery didn’t respond to efforts to reach her by phone and email earlier this week.

She had told the Sun Journal last spring that her office had used U.S. Prisoner Transport for at least a decade. In 2015, 21 prisoners were brought to York County by the private company; 19 in 2014; 15 in 2013; and 27 in 2012.

After the Sun Journal’s report was published, her office suspended use of that private transport company.

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