A judge denied a request Monday to dismiss civil cases against the private probation company Sentinel Offender Services.
Attorney James Ellington, representing Sentinel, argued that since Judge Daniel J. Craig issued a ruling last month that voided the misdemeanor convictions of four people, the habeas petitions filed on their behalf should be dismissed.
In the habeas petitions, attorneys for Clifford Hayes, Kelvin Ashley, Virginia Cash and Amanda Stephens contended not only should the four be released from jail, but that the Georgia law that allows local governments to hire private firms to provide probation services is unconstitutional, and that certain practices in Richmond County State Court are not legally enforceable.
Ellington’s argument sought dismissal of the additional claims on legal technicalities. The only issue for a habeas petition – a writ ordering a person in custody be brought before a court to determine if his incarceration is legal – is the petitioner’s freedom, Ellington said. Since Craig voided the four petitioners’ their state court convictions, the cases are over.
On behalf of Hayes, Ashley, Cash and Stephens, attorney John Bell countered that the other claims must be addressed because the alleged illegal and unconstitutional actions continue and will continue to be issues throughout Georgia.
Local governments may set up a government probation office or hire private firms to provide probation services for misdemeanor convictions. The state’s Department of Corrections has a probation department that supervises felony probation cases.
With Craig’s order Monday that keeps the habeas petitions open at this point, there are 10 civil actions in Richmond and Columbia counties against Sentinel.