Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Can Prisoner Transport Result in Failed Libertarianism?

Martin Hill emails:
Bob, could not your opponents argue that this was a failure of libertarianism ? 😁

 murder suspects Blane & Susan Barksdale were being transferred not by the US Marshalls, but a private company, Kansas-based transport company Security Transport Services (STS).

Martin (@LibertyFight) Tweeted:
The transport company STS was in hot water just this year for not keeping contractually required trip logs of inmate transfers. 

  "They’re making money, That’s all they care about. The floor was soaked with piss and vomit...."😷
Martin (@LibertyFight) Tweeted:
Turns out that Blane & Susan Barksdale were being transferred not by the US Marshalls but a private company, Kansas-based transport company Security Transport Services (STS).

Sheriff's Department Suspends Secure Transport Contract After Prisoners Escape https://t.co/aLFYZvbMQv https://twitter.com/LibertyFight/status/1168530747931496449?s=17

TUCSON – A private company has not been keeping contractually obligated records to prove they are treating Pima County inmates properly.

Pima County pays Security Transport Services to extradite people to the local jail from all over the country.

Thomas Bray said he was falsely accused of a felony by his ex-wife. His charges were later dropped with no chance of being refiled.

Bray’s order to appear in court was mailed to the wrong address. He was extradited from Texas. He was in an STS van with other inmates.

“They could have just reached over and killed me if they wanted to,” Bray said. “They’re not shackled to a bar or anything like that.”

The contract between STS and Pima County requires, “Vehicles shall be clean inside and out at all times.”

“The floor was soaked with piss and vomit,” Bray said.

The contract requires restroom stops at least every 5 hours.

“It had to have been at least 6 hours,” Bray said. “I’m being nice at 6 hours.”

Prisoners are entitled to at least 2,467 calories per day, 3 meals per day. Meals cannot be more than 14 hours apart.

“It wasn’t substantial. It wasn’t healthy,” Bray said. “And for guys like me with type 2 diabetes, they could have killed me.”

The contractor is required to record a transit log of each transport. The log is supposed to include meals, rest stops and stretch breaks. It is supposed to be signed by the prisoner and delivered at the end of the trip.

The News Four Tucson Investigators spent months requesting the public records. They were never fully completed by STS.

STS President Thomas Baumann stated in an email, “Security Transport always follows the rules for rest stops, medical/medication meals and rest overnight on transports. Employees have completed travel logs most of the time, but have been advised that it is necessary on all future transports.”

The logs included overnight stops, but they did not all include breaks, meals or inmate signatures. Some were just a few notes on a spreadsheet.

“We have told Pima County that we have not adhered as closely as we agreed to on the transit logs,” Baumann stated, “We are correcting that and although we were performing the practices, did not notate as agreed.”

Some members of Congress recently requested information from another private transport company, concerned about its practices.

Corene Kendrick is a staff attorney at the Prison Law Office. She said transport companies across the country lack supervision and accountability.

“Pima County has an obligation to the taxpayers who are paying for this,” Kendrick said, “to make sure that their contractor is abiding by the requirements of the contract.”

Bray and STS disagree about his treatment, but STS does not have the contractually obligated logs to prove he was cared for properly.

“They’re making money,” Bray said. “That’s all they care about. Each inmate is a dollar sign to them and it’s all it will ever be.”

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department stated in an email, “The Pima County Sheriff’s Department maintains a policy where prisoners/arrestees shall be kept securely, treated firmly but humanely, and not subjected to unnecessary restraint or use of force. Further, Department members shall conduct themselves professionally in all transactions with persons who are in the custody of any criminal justice agency. Should the Sheriff’s Department be made aware of malfeasance in regard to the treatment and welfare of inmates being transported by an independent contractor, we along with the assistance of Pima County Procurement will examine the services provided.”

The STS contract was signed in 2016. It is subject to 1-year renewals for 4 years.
RW response:

This is an excellent question. I see various forms of it raised all the time.

The key here is that this is not a libertarian transaction.

Libertarianism/free-market transactions occur between consenting adults. This is not what is going on here. One of the parties to the transaction is the government which imposes its will on others, in this case, on Bray. It is the Pima County government which determines what methods are used for transport, good or bad methods. And we see regularly that the government has little concern for the prisoners under their care whether they hire outside firms or do the work internally. (See recently, for an internal example, the Jeffrey Epstein death.) The governments, in these cases, are evil monopolists.

In order for proper protections, you need both parties involved to be allowed to use free-market solutions otherwise it is a sham "private sector service."

In a libertarian society, or more accurately a Private Property Society, this abuse of prisoners would much less likely occur. Presumably, Bray would have some type of contract with a private-sector police agency that would lay out how someone accused of a crime would be treated. A private agency would not have many customers if people were aware that the accused were treated in the manner that Bray was treated.

For more on how private police agencies would develop and function, see: Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Paperback.



  1. The way libertarian opposition would use this is to again make the false equivalency between privatization and the free market. This is privatization where government has rewarded a contract to some company that does not fear losing the contract for one reason or another.

    The nature of this business is the privatization of what is a government monopoly. That means someone created this company and pitched it to governments or it was created knowing that a government would privatize this task. These companies rarely survive without political influence and connections.

  2. This looks like a public-private partnership to me. There is another word for that: fascism.

  3. Same reasoning for the general contracted private prisons: the funding is from tax payers, this will always, everywhere, fundamentally warp any kind of market incentives the firm has in running their services.

    If I am in the tax district paying their contrwct fees, I cannot stop paying for their contract without being thrown in jail myself! Wonder if that perspective might help clarify the reality of the situation.