Jails and prisons are not the only parts of our criminal justice being turned over to private companies with terrible consequences for justice. Some states also have turned over their parole and probation services to private companies, one of the largest of which has been found guilty of illegally extending sentences to keep the money flowing in.
Last week, a Georgia county judge ruled that Sentinel Offender Service had illegally extended the sentence of Mantooth and potentially thousands of others who were required to pay the firm monthly probation fees, and was illegally ordering electronic monitoring for misdemeanor offenders — prohibited by state law — while charging probationers for their own monitoring.
Other named plaintiffs in the pair of cases were hauled off to jail and/or subjected to electronic monitoring for alleged probation violations six years after their probation had ended for minor offenses like possession of marijuana and no proof of insurance.
Sentinel Offender Services has become notorious for using every means available to extract funds from low-level offenders, motivated by profit rather than the public interest in supervising and rehabilitating these low-level offenders. Those in Columbia or Richmond counties who cannot pay fines associated with minor offenses like speeding or public intoxication are placed on private probation, which carries monthly fees of $34 to $44. They are also charged additional “start-up” fees, photo fees, and electronic monitoring fees. When they cannot afford to keep up with these fees, they end up in jail,unfamiliar with a state law that prohibits incarceration for inability to pay.
Not only have some places brought back debtors’ prisons, they’ve privatized them as well. This should be absolutely illegal and the DOJ should be cracking down on it.