BELL COUNTY, Texas — Texas Prisoner Transportation Services is the company that was transporting Cedric Marks to Bell County from Michigan when he escaped on Sunday, according to Conroe police.
Bell, McLennan and Coryell counties all use the service, but to varying degrees.
Bell County Sheriff Department's contract with Texas Prisoner Transportation Services began Sept. 1, 2016, according to major T.J. Cruz.
The contract was to expire Aug. 31, 2017, but the commissioners court renewed it twice to have it last through August 31, 2019, according to documents filed by the Bell County auditor.
The most recent renewal was signed on June 4, 2018, the document said.
Costs for each prisoner transport is calculated per mile, according to the contract. The service takes the following factors into account for the price of a prisoner transport:
- Same day pickup for state and federal prison - $250
- Adult male prisoner - $1 per mile
- Adult female prisoner - $1 per mile
- Juvenile male prisoner - $1.50 per mile
- Juvenile female prisoner - $1.50 per mile
- Mentally ill transport - cost per mile determined on case-by-case basis
- Medical transport (wheelchair, special condition, etc.) - cost per mile determined on case-by-case basis
- Discount for multiple prisoners picked up or dropped off at some location: 25 percent off
- Penalty for cancelled trip: 50 percent of total trip cost
The following five county sheriff's offices in Texas were listed as references for Texas Prisoner Transportation Services in the company contract with Bell County:
- Midland County Sheriff Office (first used service in Feb. 2011)
- El Paso County Sheriff's Office (first used service in Feb. 2012)
- Bexar County Sheriffs Office (first used service in Oct. 2013)
- Collin County Sheriffs Office (first used service in Oct. 2013)
- Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (first used service in March 2011)
There are two one-year renewals left in the contract, if the commissioners court chooses to pick up that option, according to documents from the Bell County Sheriff's Department.
County Judge David Blackburn sent a statement to Channel 6 about the contract:
"It is my understanding that the current contract with Texas Prisoner Transportation Services (‘TPTS’) began on September 1, 2016. It is an annual contract, with options to renew. The contract will come up again for review and consideration for renewal within the next few months, as it expires August 31 of this year. Above said, I will certainly be looking forward to reviewing the investigative report of the Marks incident when it becomes available and taking appropriate action thereafter."
Sheriff's department deputies, along with U.S. Marshal Lone Star Task Force, took custody of Cedric Marks from the Conroe Police Department, then brought him to the Bell County Jail, according to Cruz.
McLennan County Sheriff's Department Captain Ricky Armstrong said the county uses Texas Prisoner Transportation Services, but it doesn't have a contract with the company.
Additionally, Armstrong said the county only uses the service for misdemeanors like DWIs, or transferring a person with a warrant from another county, but never for violent crimes.
Armstrong said the department transfers people with violent charges themselves.
The Coryell County Sheriff's Department said it doesn't have a contract with Texas Prisoner Transportation Services, and it varies on a case-by-case basis what service the county will use to extradite and transfer prisoners.
Travis and Williamson counties in the Austin area said they don't use outside transport services, and they move prisoners themselves.
“Our Prisoner Transportation Unit is comprised of 46 officers, four office specialists, three sergeants, and one lieutenant," a Travis County spokesperson said. "This year, our officers transported 28,285 inmates to Travis County Criminal and Civil Courts. 25,626 of those inmates were transported from the Travis County Correctional Complex located in Del Valle, Texas. The unit also handled 1,297 extraditions to and from agencies all over the United States.”
The other two big counties in the Austin area, Hays and Bastrop counties, said they use Texas Prisoner Transportation Services for long distance transports, but haven't had any problems with the service.
On Yelp, the company has two, one-star reviews, both from former employees of the transport service.
One of the reviewers said they wouldn't be surprised if another escape happened under Texas Prisoner Transportation Services' supervision.
An employee of Texas Prisoner Transportation Services sued the company in May 2016 for not paying him overtime for a work period of six days, according to United States District Court documents filed Jan. 9, 2017. The employee won, and the company had to pay him $1000, court documents said.
According to Texas Prisoner Transportation Services' frequently asked questions page on its website, the service moves detainees in waist chains, leg irons and handcuffs, and interconnects prisoners for additional security.
The company also said on the FAQ page that all agents must have two years of law enforcement experience, complete 100 hours of initial training and then get 40 hours of in-service and re-certification training every year.
Additionally, the company website said it treats all of the detainees it transports as maximum security.