2 more civil actions filed to release men jailed in Richmond County on violation probations

Two more civil actions alleging illegal imprisonment have been filed in connection with the Richmond County State Court and Sentinel Offender Services.

Attorney John Long filed habeas corpus petitions on behalf of Clifford Hayes and Kelvin Ashley who are in the Richmond County jail on probation violations.

Hayes’ probation was revoked for eight months on Jan. 8, although he could be released if he pays $854, according to state court documents.

But Hayes, according to the civil petition, is unemployed with life-threatening illnesses, homeless and incapable of paying anything.

According to court documents, Hayes pleaded guilty in April 2007 to driving under the influence, driving on a suspended license and failure to maintain a lane. Three months later, he pleaded guilty in a second traffic case to driving on a suspended license and failure to maintain a lane.

A petition for Hayes’ arrest was filed that accused him of failing to pay, attend driver’s class, undergo a clinical evaluation and report to Sentinel.

At $48 a day, county taxpayers will have spent about $11,500 to keep Hayes in jail for eight months.

As of Wednesday, taxpayers have already spent $3,600 to keep Ashley behind bars since his latest probation violation.

Ashley’s probation was revoked Nov. 3 for one year. According to court records, the warrant alleged that Ashley failed to pay fines, fees and for Sentinel’s services.

Ashley pleaded guilty to battery and cruelty to children in the second degree and was sentenced to 24 months’ probation and fined $1,080 on Sept. 7. Although the judge could have included no alcohol consumption as a special condition of his probation, the judge did not, according to court records. State Court Judge David D. Watkins did, however, order SCRAM, an electronic monitoring device to detect alcohol consumption.

The civil petition seeking Ashley’s release alleges the original conviction and subsequent court sanctions are unconstitutional because there is no transcript proving Ashley’s plea was voluntary or that any questions were asked of him about his ability to make payments.

While Sentinel has declined to address specific cases because of pending litigation – nine civil actions since November – the company issued a statement through a public relations firm that included the following:

“The constant interruptions brought on by this barrage of lawsuits coupled with the misleading media coverage that Mr. Long has garnered, have undermined our case management effectiveness and negatively impacted operations in the Superior Courts of Richmond and Columbia County.”

Another private probation company is to replace Sentinel in the Superior Courts.

New probation firm to replace Sentinel in local courts
Court petition contends woman jailed because she can't pay fines
Judge orders release of more held on Sentinel warrants
Sentinel Offender Services cuts ties with Richmond, Columbia County Superior Court
Sentinel barred from seeking arrest warrants in Columbia County Superior Court
2 lawsuits filed against Sentinel Offender Services
Augusta woman sues Sentinel Offender Services
Fight over probation fees ends

HEARING SET

The civil petitions against or involving Sentinel Offender Services has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Craig. He has scheduled a hearing Jan. 25 to consider the habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Virginia Chase, who was jailed in October for five months unless she pays $535.

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