Questions remain after prisoners escape Nashville-based van - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Questions remain after prisoners escape Nashville-based transport van

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A Nashville-based company that transports inmates from state to state is in the hot seat after eight prisoners escaped from one of the company's vans Tuesday in Oklahoma.

It turns out the driver, working for Prisoner Transport Services, left the prisoners alone with the keys in the ignition. Although the men have now all been caught, the incident has a lot of people wondering who runs these transport companies and if the drivers are even qualified.

"It's something that goes on every day - inmates being transported up and down the interstates and in and out of communities. You have got to have good policies and procedures when you're transporting inmates," said Terry Ashe, executive director of the Tennessee Sheriff's Association.

Ashe said he used Prisoner Transport Services on occasion when he was sheriff in Wilson County and has always believed it was a well-run organization.

But, truth is, there's no real way to know. In 2000, Congress passed a sparse law that was supposed to regulate the industry, but 13 years later, there's absolutely no state or federal oversight to enforce the law.

"The federal government comes out with rules and policies all the time, then very seldom send the money to implement those laws. That's one of the particular ones there," Ashe said.

The state of Tennessee has a board to oversee everything from nail techs to tattoo artists, but the hauling of prisoners is going completely unchecked.

"Transporting prisoners is one of the most dangerous things you can do. You're going through multiple jurisdictions. You've got to keep public safety on the forefront of everything that you're doing. And common sense has to apply, even when policies and procedures do not," Ashe said.

Another Nashville-based company called Transcor also transports inmates privately. According to the company's website, it is the largest inmate transport company in the nation, moving more than 1 million inmates over the past 23 years.

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