• Attorney Joseph Soler

I’m a woman who was extradited across the United States. Here’s what happened and how I survived.

Florida is notorious for extraditing people from all areas of the United States to answer for their criminal charges. As a criminal defense attorney, I have heard horrible stories from people who have gone through the extradition process from various states across the country.


In 2019, The Marshall Project and The New York Times investigated the private prison transport industry and the case of 48 year-old Johnny Smith, who died while being extradited from Kentucky to Florida to answer for the charge of possession of a single Oxycodone pill. The article states that, “The handful of companies that make up [the private prison transport industry] have been involved in more than 50 crashes, 60 escapes and 19 deaths since 2000.”


I spoke to a young woman who was recently extradited from Michigan to Florida and her story is pretty similar to the others I have heard who have undergone cross-country extraditions. I thought it would be of interest to a person who is about to be extradited and is wondering what to expect. Below is her account.


How old are you?


20


Where were you extradited?


From Detroit, Michigan to Tampa, Florida


What time of the year were you extradited?


In the middle of the summer.


What was the criminal charge in Florida that caused you to be extradited?


Possession of a Controlled Substance.


Were you extradited with men also?


Yes, there were both men and women on the van.


When you were being extradited, what was a typical day like?


We would be in the van non-stop for days and nights, without stopping to sleep at all. I would estimate we would drive anywhere from 18 to maybe 36 hours straight without stopping for any significant period of time in order to sleep or rest. If we stopped at all, it was to get McDonalds drive through or for the van to get gas.


They would stop three times a day at McDonalds. They would pick something off the McDonalds dollar menu for us to eat. We were given one hamburger or one chicken sandwich each and a small child’s cup of water to drink. That is all.


Throughout the five days that I was extradited, we only stopped for a long period of time twice, at two different county jails. We would stop at the county jails for about five hours and then we would be back on the road.


Also, the van did not make a trip straight from Michigan to Florida, it veered and zigzaged to different states all across the country in order to pick up people, or drop them off, at county jails along the way.


What was a typical night like?


You would try to sleep but you couldn’t. You would nod off occasionally, that is all. One of the male inmates, who apparently was not restrained properly could somehow reach through the plexiglass and side of the van and grab at us.


How many guards were in the van you were transported in?


Two.


Explain what the transport van looked like?


It was a large, white van. There were two front seats where the driver and other guard sat. There was a metal mesh screen behind them separating them from the prisoners. There was the area where the ladies were, which was immediately behind the guards.


We sat on a hard metal bench painted pale blue that was all scratched up. There were no seat cushions. There was plexiglass at our back. Behind the plexiglass were the male inmates. It was slightly larger than where the women sat but looked the same with the same metal cushion-less bench seats.


Were there seat belts on the metal benches?


There were no seat belts. If the van turned or stopped quickly everyone would just kind of smash together or fall forward because our hands and feet were shackled.


Was there any A/C in the transport van?


There was no air-conditioning or even air flow at all. This is in the heat of summer through states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. It was cruel. People were nauseous and pooled in sweat. Toward the end I quit sweating as much because I was dehydrated.


Were the guards armed?


They were armed with handguns, Tasers, zip ties, and handcuffs that I could see. I’m not sure if they had more weapons up front.


What were they wearing?


They were wearing tan kakis with a black t-shirt.


How did they restrain you?


Throughout the entire extradition we were handcuffed, our handcuffs were attached to a belly chain, and the belly chain was attached to ankle shackles. We could barely move our hands and feet. We were not attached or handcuffed at all to the van itself.


When would they search you or how often?


I wasn’t searched at all by the guards while being extradited. I may have been searched when entering the county jails by the local officers, but I honestly do not remember.


What were you wearing?


When we left county, they gave me the street clothes that I was originally arrested in to put on. I wore the same clothes the entire 5 days. They did not provide a change of clothes or any way to wash them at all during the entire extradition process.


How often did they stop?


They would stop to go to McDonalds, three times a day. They stopped to get gas a few times also. They would not stop to let us go to the bathroom at all. The girl next to me literally had her period and they would not stop to get her feminine hygiene.


Was there any entertainment at all?


No entertainment whatsoever. They didn't play music, nothing. The guys in the back tried to sings a little bit.


How many males and how many females?


There were anywhere from 5-8 males and about 2-3 females (remember we would stop and drop people off and pick new people up along the way).


Did the male inmates harass the females?


Yes, they would say things to us and try to grab at us.


Did anyone talk about their charges?


A few of them did. The charges ranged from one guy who failed to pay child support to a guy who stated he was facing murder charges out of Broward County, Florida.


What was the craziest thing that happened while you were being extradited?


We picked a woman up, a middle aged, white female, she seemed mentally ill and confused. She got her period the second day we picked her up. There were no sanitary napkins or feminine products. She literally bled onto the metal seat for days. The guards refused to give her anything or stop to pick up any feminine products. She would also sit on her McDonalds sandwiches instead of eat them. She refused to eat the entire time.


Did you see anyone get in trouble over the 5 days?


One of the males got in trouble for begging for tobacco. He started hitting his head on the plexiglass divider. The guards threatened to do some kind of restraint on him and he quit complaining. That was about it, there were no big problems.


Did they charge you money for the extradition?


Yes, the county charged me a little under $10,000 that I had to pay off as a condition of my probation. I paid it off in full in order to get off of probation.


What advice can you give someone who is about to be extradited?


Honestly, it is a terrible experience and there really is no way to prepare.

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