Relman, Dane & Colfax filed a Complaint today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on behalf of Edward Kovari against Prisoner Transportation Services and two of its subsidiaries (PTS). Mr. Kovari alleges that PTS subjected him to extreme and inhumane conditions of confinement over 18 days while transporting him from Winchester, Virginia to Houston, Texas, in an overcrowded prison transport van.
Mr. Kovari was arrested in Virginia in September 2016, based on a false report of a stolen car. All charges were subsequently dismissed. The Harris County (Texas) Sheriff’s office arranged his extradition from Virginia and hired PTS for the transport. As the Complaint alleges, the drive should have taken 20 hours. Instead, because PTS repeatedly reversed direction and drove out of the way to pick up additional prisoners so as to maximize profit, the trip took 18 days. During that time, PTS denied Mr. Kovari adequate food and water, and rarely stopped overnight so the detainees could sleep. The Complaint further alleges that the van did not stop to allow Mr. Kovari or the other detainees to use the bathroom and instead ordered them to relieve themselves in empty cups or bottles. Mr. Kovari was restrained in shackles that were so tight they left marks on his body. He was locked in a small cage in the van, which was packed with so many prisoners that at points he had to lay on the floor with the feet of other prisoners resting on him. Mr. Kovari was not allowed to change clothes or perform basic hygiene tasks and spent the transport sitting in human waste and filth. The drivers routinely mocked and abused Mr. Kovari and the other detainees.
Throughout the 18-day period, PTS also refused to allow Mr. Kovari to take his required daily prescription medication for hypertension. He became seriously ill as a result, but PTS refused to take him for medical care. When PTS finally delivered Mr. Kovari to authorities in Houston, his blood pressure was dangerously high and he required days of in-patient emergency medical treatment.
PTS contracts with state and local governments nationwide to transport prisoners across state lines. It is the largest private prisoner transportation company in the country, transporting over 100,000 detainees each year. According to the Complaint, other detainees have died or been seriously injured during PTS transports because of the company’s documented history of abuse and mistreatment.
Mr. Kovari brings claims for deprivation of his Constitutional rights because PTS was acting under color of state law, and for violation of state common law. The Relman, Dane & Colfax litigation team is led by Glenn Schlactus, Jia M. Cobb, and Orly May.