Road Hazard

Traveling with private extradition companies is no joy ride -- particularly for female prisoners.

Craig Cowie, litigation fellow for the ACLU's National Prison Project, says it's an open question whether government agencies can be held liable for the actions of a subcontractor such as a private transport company. "It really depends on whether the county did appropriate investigation before hiring them and whether there was a record of prior complaints," he says.

The Washington-based National Prison Project is currently conducting a research study on the incidence of sexual assault among female inmates. "For a long time, people just didn't talk about it," Cowie says. "We're seeing more cases now, but it's unclear whether people are just more willing to come forward."

Late in 2000, President Clinton signed federal legislation designed to increase regulation of the private prisoner-transport industry. The new law seeks to cut down on escapes and other blunders by tightening security, boosting training requirements and limiting driving time; it also calls for various "prisoner safety" measures, including separating male and female prisoners. But it's expected to take several years to implement the new requirements.

Cure insists his company already does a solid job of training and monitoring its employees. "You can give them all types of training, but you can't build in the human factor," he says. "You may get the occasional pervert who slips in. But if it does occur, I will be the first to drag them in in handcuffs and see that they're charged. If an officer does anything like this, I don't want them around."

Darbyshire says EI didn't do a particularly good job in her case. "You're going to have sexual misconduct in prison," she says. "But this didn't need to happen. It was wrong."

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