PHOENIX — A security company contracted by Pima County to extradite prisoners is coming under fire from former inmates. Two men who say they were falsely accused of crimes tell KVOA in Tucson that Security Transport Services (STS) is not equipped to handle dangerous criminals.
“The security there was very minimal,” Thomas Bray told the NBC affiliate after hearing about the escape of murder suspects Susan and Blane Barksdale.
Another former inmate who did not want to reveal his identity says, “It would have been very easy—had I have had that desire—to subdue a guard, knock them out, kick them over and take off into the woods. That wouldn’t have been hard.”
The Barksdales escaped an STS van and its security driver while being extradited from New York to Pima County. U.S. Marshals say the Barksdales asked to use the bathroom, which was part of their plan to overpower the driver. Despite shackles and belly chains, the couple was able to escape, subdue the guard and drive off in the van.
“They’re incredibly out of shape so they were not catching anyone if they had tried,” Bray said about the STS guards who transported him. Bray says the county’s decision to contract STS in their extradition of two murder suspects was trouble waiting to happen.
“Two people together,” Bray said. “It’s just a terrible idea.”
Pima County has since stopped using STS for their extraditions while this incident is being investigated. The county does still, however, contract a company called Prisoner Transport Services of America, according to a spokesperson.
12 News contacted local sheriff’s offices to see if others are using third-party companies and found that, currently, Pinal is the only one using this practice.
Maricopa, Yavapai and Mohave Counties all currently handle extraditions with their own detention officers, sometimes utilizing aircraft for out-of-state transports.
Pinal continues to utilize a third-party company as a cost-saving method, but this recent incident is making many, including two former prisoners, question the practice.