Ailing shoplifter dies after private prison transport forces 1,000-mile trip in cramped van
Prisoner in handcuffs on grey background (

The Miami-Dade Police Department has opened an investigation into a private prison transport company after a woman who had shoplifted died in its cramped van during a grueling 1,000 mile trip.

Tennessee-based Prisoner Transportation Services of America was given the job of transporting 54-year-old Denise Isaacs from Kentucky to Punta Gorda, Florida after her probation was revoked over a shoplifting accusation, The Miami Herald reported.

During stop at a Miami-Dade Taco Bell, transport officers noticed that she was slumped over. So they first called their superiors at Prisoner Transportation Services of America in Tennessee. And then they called 911, but it was too late.

“I knew she wouldn’t be able to make a trip like that because of her weakness and pain,” Isaacs' daughter, Kallie, told the paper.

Sources told The Miami Herald that Isaacs had suffered hallucinations during the trip. She reportedly drank little water, and refused a meal just hours before she died.

Isaacs had been arrested in 2012 for stealing $1,200 worth of merchandise from a Port Charlotte Walmart. She pleaded no contest, and was allowed to return to Kentucky under the supervision of corrections officers. But when the Florida Department of Corrections found that she had not completed her 200 hours of community service, and still owed $607.90 in restitution, it revoked her probation.

Her daughter said that she had not been given her psychiatric medication, and had been complaining about hallucinations after she was taken into custody.

A spokesperson for the private transport company called Kallie Isaacs after her mother's death to insist that she had been cleared by a doctor to make the 1,000 mile journey shackled in a cramped van with 10 other inmates.

“They shouldn’t have let her make the trip in that condition, knowing she was not eating, knowing she was hallucinating,” Kallie Isaacs noted. “They should have left her here [in Kentucky] and given her medical attention.”

Prisoner Transportation Services of America calls itself the “nation’s largest prisoner extradition company and one of the largest international transporters of detainees.” It claims to transport more than 10,000 detainees each year.

“We can move your prisoner at less cost than if you did it yourself,” the company promises on its website.

But the death of Isaacs raised questions about whether governments were hiring unqualified personnel in an effort to save money.

“They let someone die on their watch, and this should not have happened,” In the Public Interest executive director Donald Cohen, who studies privatization, told The Miami Herald.