On March 4th at approximately 6:00 am, I found myself being summoned from a holding cell in the Lake County Jail, in Waukegan, Illinois, to be transported back to Tarrant County, Texas, for six days in a transport van across the country.
I’m a real estate attorney from Southlake, Texas, an affluent suburb of Dallas. Prior to 2016 I had never been charged with or committed a criminal act or incurred an incident record of any kind beyond a speeding ticket. I’ve never had any mental or medical issues or been medicated beyond Advil, antibiotics and blood pressure medicine. Today I am a newly self-professed civil rights activist, wife, mother of three minor children living in Texas on an ankle monitor awaiting indictment for allegations of embezzling and theft from the title company I owned, Millennium Title. In December 2015 through January 2016 following a prolonged audit by the Texas Department of Insurance, I began negotiations for the sale of my company. After failing to sell the company, I decided in January 2016 to put the company into receivership and move to the Chicago area near my younger sister’s family to start over. At the time I moved, no criminal charges were threatened or pending against me. On February 11th, two weeks after moving and with no notice, I was arrested in Illinois on an arrest warrant from Texas. I would spend nearly 30 days sitting in an Illinois county jail waiting for the state of Texas to file a case against me so that the extradition process could begin. My family and I were told I would be transported to Texas by airplane and accompanied by a Federal Marshall. That was not the case.
My six days of transport from Illinois to Texas were the most dangerous, terrifying, demeaning and inhumane conditions I have ever witnessed. The private transport companies hired by jails and prisons to move inmates across the country disregard all basic human rights and protections.
During the interstate transportation process, there was no attempt to classify inmates. Women and men, violent and non-violent offenders were transported together. Nonviolent inmates awaiting trial are transported alongside convicted violent inmates with little or no supervision. For six days, my family called to obtain a status report on my transport and to confirm my safety; no information of any kind was provided, allegedly for “safety reasons”. There is absolutely no oversight or supervision of the drivers placed in charge of inmates’ health and safety while traveling across the country. Furthermore, the policies and procedures for monitoring the condition and safety of the transport vehicles are inadequate or improperly implemented.
What follows is a brief description of two legs of my return to Texas. The first was from Lake County, Illinois, to Mississippi County, Missouri. We had two drivers. I was refused my prescribed blood pressure medication. Upon arrival at the Carver County Jail in Minnesota, my blood pressure was recorded at 180/100, or hypertensive urgency. Carver County contacted the transport company, which refused to authorize blood pressure medicine. Carver County medical authorities finally paid for and authorized the blood pressure medicine.
In St. Cloud, Minnesota, an inmate suffering from pneumonia and on a regimen of prescribed antibiotics was picked up. The St. Cloud jail authorities gave the driver the antibiotics, which then somehow disappeared. One driver chain-smoked the entire trip, to the dismay of an inmate who was asthmatic and the prisoner suffering pneumonia.
We would drive for over eight hours, without a stop. We would be shackled for eight to ten hours, again without a break. Not surprisingly, inmates would urinate and defecate in the van.
We were in the freezing northern Midwest winter, and the van had no working heat system. We were not provided with adequate winter clothing.
Only one of the two drivers actually drove, which meant driving in excess of the Department of Transportation allowed hours of non-stop driving. The van’s headlights didn’t work. At one point, there were twelve inmates crammed into the van for over eight hours.
Male inmates would scream sexual obscenities and threats day and night at the female inmates demanding sexual acts and for the female inmates to expose themselves. I was seated next to an alleged violent male inmate in a segregation cage for over 36 hours. He would reach through open areas of the cage and grab for me, verbally threaten to find my family and me and inflict unspeakable violence.
The second leg of my return was from Mississippi County, Missouri, to Tarrant County Texas. We had two drivers again. In Missouri, the primary driver received a speeding ticket. He consistently drove over 85 miles per hour.
After 7 1/2 hours of no restroom, water or food, inmates asked the drivers as to when there would be another rest stop break. The primary driver responded by shouting obscenities and in then accelerated the van and immediately slammed on the brakes, throwing inmates into one another, on the floor and onto the metal caging in the interior of the vehicle. One inmate suffered severe lacerations to his ring finger and foot and another suffered lacerations to her chin and face. All injuries were witnessed by the sheriff on duty at the next rest stop in Johnson County Texas. The drivers provided no medical attention.
(Photo Credit: PTS of America)