Prison Transport Service Accused of Abuse

VICTORIA, Texas (CN) - A private "prisoner transport service" kept a woman shackled and handcuffed in its van and denied her water during a sweltering two-day trip across Texas, the woman claims in court.
     Stephanie Luna sued PTS of America LLC dba Prisoner Transportation of America, and its employees William Brandon Buhler, Billy Micheal Helms and John Doe in Federal Court.
     Luna was arrested on July 30, 2013 in Victoria County for a warrant out of Tarrant County, she says in the complaint, which was filed Thursday.
     Victoria County is two hours south of Houston; Tarrant County is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
     After less than a week in the Victoria County Jail, Luna says, the Prisoner Transportation of America crew picked her up in their van. The private company had a contract with Tarrant County, according to the complaint.
     Luna says that from the outset the agents were "very disrespectful and condescending" to her.
     "Plaintiff was handcuffed and shackled and placed in a small sectioned off area of the van which had no air conditioning vents. She suffered leg cramps and knee pains as a result of being in a restricted area for an extended period of time," the complaint states.
     The crew went south to pick up and drop off various inmates before heading north to Fort Worth, Luna says.
     She says she wasn't the only detainee who complained about the harsh ride.
     "Two additional female inmates were picked up in McAllen, Texas and placed in the same small sectioned off area as plaintiff. ... Plaintiff and the other females requested, on multiple occasions, to open the window and turn the air vents toward them," the complaint states.
     "They also requested that the defendants open the door in the area they were contained to allow them more room."
     Luna says the worst part of the ride was her dehydration, as defendants gave her access to water just once during the trip, at a motel they stayed at in Sierra Blanca.
     The complaint states: "During the entire transport in the van, plaintiff was offered sodas and juice only, not water. Plaintiff was so dehydrated that she suffered nose bleeding. She also suffered with vaginal bleeding during the transport. There were bottled waters in the van but plaintiff was denied access to them even after requesting water."
     Luna says that after she was dropped off at the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office she immediately asked to see a nurse about her bleeding, and became "distraught and emotional" about the "inhumane" way she was transported.
     She seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, infliction of emotional distress, negligence, false imprisonment, negligent hiring and breach of contract.
     She also wants her past and future medical bills paid, as she sought counseling for the van ride.
     She is represented by Douglas Peterson with Anthony & Peterson of Corpus Christi.
     Prisoner Transportation of America, a Tennessee corporation, says on its homepage that it transports more than 100,000 detainees a year and its agents are "highly trained professionals."