Once again the Department of Corrections draws attention toward its inmate transport companies. Denise Isaacs who suffered from a variety of health issues including bipolar disorder, anxiety and chronic abdominal pain, was found dead in a crammed van along with ten other shackled inmates. Her case has now opened an investigation into the “little publicized world of private inmate transportation. According to the Miami Herald,
Isaacs, who was wanted in Southwest Florida on a probation violation for shoplifting, was crammed into a stuffy transport van with 10 other shackled inmates for a nearly 1,000-mile trip from Kentucky to Punta Gorda.
According to sources with knowledge of the investigation, Isaacs is believed to have acted strangely throughout the trip — apparently suffering hallucinations — while drinking little water and refusing a meal during a stop in Orlando.
The cause of death remains unknown. An autopsy of Isaacs has so far proved inconclusive while the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office awaits the results of more tests.
Last year, two company agents left their transport van unattended in Oklahoma, and the inmates broke through a partition and drove away. The eight prisoners were recaptured.
In 2009, the company lost two inmates in high-profile escapes during a six-month span.
One man accused of attempted murder vanished from a transport van somewhere between Fort Lauderdale and Philadelphia. In the other case, Delaware’s prison system cut ties with the company after a shackled inmate en route to the state escaped at an airport.
The Miami incident raises questions about whether the company had proper procedures and training — vital concerns often overlooked by governments looking to save money by outsourcing public safety functions, said Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, a nonprofit group that studies privatization.