“If you even possibly imagine how bad being locked down for 23 hours a day in a cell with a woman who just killed somebody could be, transport was a thousand times worse...” Sandra Grazzini-RuckiA recent interview of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki on F.A.C.E. U.S. describes her torturous journey on prison transport that involved nearly a month of being shackled hand to foot, and placed in a dog cage, as she was driven in a jagged route from Florida to Minnesota from October-November 2015 after a sealed warrant was issued for her arrest. At the time of transport, Sandra had no prior criminal history, and was not convicted of any crime.
“Diesel Therapy” – The Dangerous Route of Prison Transport
Prison transport is often referred to as “diesel therapy”, nicknamed for the exhaust fumes that permeate transport vans. Diesel therapy is notorious for its extreme and degrading treatment of prisoners where neglect as well as physical and mental abuse is common. Trips can last weeks and months at a time; in which prisoners are held at the mercy of their captors.
In the United States, tens of thousands of suspects and fugitives, many who have not been convicted of a crime (like Sandra at the time of this transport) are transferred from jails and prisons into the care of private companies that handle transport, and operate with almost no oversight or accountability. Transport companies are usually paid per mile, and guards are generally paid only for their time on the road, so they have an incentive to pack vans tightly and take as little breaks as possible. Numerous investigations into the prison transport industry have revealed rampant abuse and neglect of prisoners, and in some cases prisoners actually die from the inhumane conditions, abuse or vehicle crashes/accidents.
On prison transport trips, violent and repeat felons are often transported alongside suspects (and may be chained together). Even something as simple as a child support warrant could land you into diesel therapy, shackled next to a child predator or drug lord. The lack of security on prison transport is also a concern – in some cases prisoners have escaped from transport, or have attacked guards or other prisoners. Sexual assault of female prisoners is also routinely reported on transport – with perpetrators identified as guards, drivers or even other male prisoners. Once inside the prison system, there is little or no recourse for prisoners to file grievances, and they risk retaliation for raising concerns.
At an emotional moment in the show, Sandra’s distress can audibly be heard as she struggles to put into words the abuse she suffered in jail and transport, “About after about 6 days of what was going on.. I don’t know if people really want to know what goes on, because you don’t know what goes on in jails, but people know that people that aren’t really that type of people and they take full advantage of it..and if they feel they got somebody in there that may be proper they will do whatever they can to make it worse for them… And that’s what they did to me. They took advantage of the fact that … whatever..” Sandra is not able to talk further… perhaps she is afraid to say anymore.
From American Mom to Fighting for Survival
How Sandra went from former beauty queen and mother to being criminally charged for her efforts to protect her children from abuse is a journey that has transported her from “a basic American mom” to a woman who is now fighting for her survival.
In her former life Sandra lived in Lakeville, a rural suburb in Minnesota, where she was a stay-at-home mother of 5 children. She also worked as a flight attendant. Sandra is a former beauty queen who is known not just for being attractive but having a beautiful heart as well. She actively volunteered in her community, opened her doors to the neighborhood children to stop by and devoted her life to the care of her 5 children. Sandra has said it was her dream to be a wife and mother, and that“my children were my world”. However, she did not anticipate that her husband would be an abusive monster with a lengthy criminal history, who would also physically and mentally abuse the children she so loves.
So how did Sandra become destitute, homeless, and now, a 6 time felon who is permanently banned from seeing her children for the rest of their lives? The answer will shock you: she sought a divorce. David Rucki, ex-husband, is a wealthy, well-connected abuser, who has continued to batter Sandra through the family court and legal system. The Grazzini-Rucki family court and criminal case has been overwhelmed with corruption, abuse of judicial power and laws that are routinely broken…the victims in this are the 5 Rucki children who continued to be trapped in an abusive home, and Sandra, whose life remains endangered by the court system that should have protected her and the children.
Sealed Warrant Used to Ambush Sandra Grazzini-Rucki
Now, shocking new details emerge about the initial arrest of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the inhumane treatment she received during transport.
Some background needed to understand this story – A nationwide warrant for Sandra’s arrest was submitted by Dakota County Prosecuting Attorney Kathryn M. Keena and not only approved but put under a seal on August 12, 2015. Sandra was charged with 3 counts of felony deprivation of parental rights, a seal means the warrant was kept secret. The seal was to last until Sandra is arrested, and returned to Minnesota. A sealed warrant also means that Sandra was not notified that a warrant was issued against her – and given absolutely no chance to voluntarily turn herself in.
Despite the seal, information regarding the warrant was leaked to a local reporter from an unknown source. Whoever leaked the warrant committed an illegal act, though the reporter did nothing illegal by receiving or publishing the information.Sandra was not living in Minnesota at the time of the warrant, and is not aware of the news reports. Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie claims the leak was just a “glitch”. Dakota County’s mishanding of Sandra’s arrest warrant is NOT just a “glitch” – it is a serious error that has violated Sandra’s due process rights and resulted in egregious harm being inflicted upon her.
Since the warrant was leaked into the press, there was no legitimate reason for it to remain sealed. But that is not what happened in Dakota County – after the warrant is leaked, it is then re-sealed, making it impossible for Sandra, or her attorney, to be notified of its existence. Providing Sandra with a notice to appear in court would have been appropriate in this case, and easier than what happened next. Instead, Dakota County relentlessly pursued Sandra.
Sandra was apprehended by U.S. Marshalls, in Florida on October 18, 2015. She was temporarily held in jail then transported across the country to be brought back to Minnesota to answer to criminal charges. The story continues… Pt. II Diesel Therapy: Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s Torturous Journey on Prison Transport