No one else will be arrested and jailed on probation violation warrants obtained by Sentinel Offender Services unless an independent receiver signs off on the warrant, Judge Daniel J. Craig ruled Friday.
The order isn’t permanent but will remain in place until civil cases against the private probation firm are completed.
Sentinel’s attorneys objected to the ruling, with James Ellington describing the order as novel and dangerous. He said it will elevate a non-elected “czar” over Richmond County State Court judges.
Ellington argued that plaintiff’s attorney John Long was improperly bypassing State Court and that the State Court judges should be a party to the civil lawsuits because their ability to run their court could be affected.
Long has filed several lawsuits for people arrested and jailed on Sentinel probation violation warrants signed by Richmond County State Court judges. This week, he asked Craig to extend an order protecting his clients to thousands of other people who could face what Long contends is wrongful arrest and incarceration.
Long said a recent client was jailed and “shook down for money” on false allegations by a Sentinel employee, and that three other people came to him within the past week with the same civil rights violation cases.
“I can’t get everybody out of jail,” Long said.
While Ellington argued that Sentinel was the strawman and that the warrants are issued by the judges, Craig said the judges have the right to expect probation officers to be truthful when they make sworn statements that warrants should be issued.
Craig said a person on probation is entitled to due process, which means being entitled to proper notice that he is in danger of violation and what the consequences are, along with a prompt hearing and an opportunity to contest the allegations.
Arrests and incarceration on 8-year-old warrants, which happened to two of Long’s most recent clients, isn’t even close to due process, Craig said.
“The allegation is that this is just the beginning,” he said of the possibility that there are 10,000 probation violation warrants that haven’t been served yet.