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5 people ensnared in the probation system

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Elliott  Special
Special
Elliott


SHANNON M. ELLIOTT

Shannon M. Elliott spent several weeks in jail this spring because of a drunken driving incident six years ago. The stay cost taxpayers $1,850.

When she pleaded guilty in Richmond County State Court in October 2003 to DUI, following too closely and driving without insurance, she owed a total of $1,350 in fines and surcharges. Less than a year later, when she reportedly failed to pay toward the fines, failed to report to probation, failed to attend a driving program and failed to undergo an evaluation for an interlock device for her vehicle, Ms. Elliott owed $2,569 in fines, surcharges and probation fees.

She was arrested in February 2006, and her probation was revoked for three years, four months and 24 days. She was ordered to spend that time in jail.

The next month, Ms. Elliott, with the help of an attorney, got another chance in court. Judge David Watkins ordered her release from jail and put her back on probation on the condition that she pay $406 in restitution and agree to electronic monitoring until she could get into a drug rehab program.

A year later, her probation officer filed another warrant for Ms. Elliott's arrest, alleging she had violated basically every condition of her probation and owed $2,913.

On May 27, Judge Watkins ruled that Ms. Elliott had violated probation again. He sentenced her to one month and 20 days in jail. Because of the time she had already spent in jail, Ms. Elliott was released and her probation has been terminated.

JOSEPH MCCORKLE

In less than a year, the money Joseph McCorkle owed for speeding and driving with an expired driver's license doubled, and he was looking at two years and 26 days in jail.

Mr. McCorkle, 33, pleaded guilty in Richmond County State Court on June 13, 2008. He was sentenced to 24 months' probation and ordered to pay $448 in fines and surcharges. His probation supervision fee was set at $44 a month.

Mr. McCorkle saw a probation officer for the only time on June 25, 2008, which was one of the reasons cited for a request for his arrest in March. Mr. McCorkle also now owed $883 in fines, surcharges and probation fees.

He was arrested on April 29 and the next day Judge Richard Slaby signed an order that revoked his probation for two years and 26 days unless Mr. McCorkle came up with the $883.

If he would pay, the judge would terminate the remainder of his probation sentence.

Mr. McCorkle spent more than a month in jail before he was able to get the money paid. In the meantime, his jail term cost county taxpayers $1,900.

RHONDA NEAL-SHIELDS

Rhonda Neal-Shields could get out of jail today, if she had money and a home phone. Because she has neither, she has sat in the Richmond County jail since June 23, costing county taxpayers more than $6,000.

Ms. Neal-Shields and her husband have gotten into fights a number of times, leading to domestic violence charges four times since March 2008. Her arrest on June 22 occurred because she scratched her husband's face, Ms. Neal-Shields wrote.

This last time, she pleaded guilty in Richmond County State Court and received the sentence she has received in the past -- 12 months' probation and $405 in fines and surcharges. This time, however, Judge David Watkins also ordered SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), an alcohol monitoring device, according to the product's company Web site.

Before she can get out of jail, she must pay the start-up cost for the SCRAM, $208. She can't get back in court to tell the judge that she doesn't have the money, so she sits in jail. Her public defender attorney cannot help her because his services ended when she was sentenced on June 23.

When and if she gets out, her probation fee on top of what she owes the court will be $44 every month. Her latest 12-month probation sentence runs consecutively to the other sentences, so unless or until she pays all she owes, and completes the SCRAM program successfully, she remains on probation for four years.

CHARLIE F. BARKER

Charlie F. Barker has spent more days in the Richmond County jail for traffic violations than most people accused of committing felonies.

His trouble started in October 2003, when he admitted he ran a red light and drove without a driver's license. It meant two years' probation and $825 in fines and surcharges and a monthly probation fee.

In April 2004 in Richmond County State Court, he admitted he made an improper turn and was driving without a license. He got two more years' probation, another $1,325 in fines and surcharges, and another monthly probation fee.

Then he got caught stealing a $10 item in August 2004. He got another year of probation, another $405 and another $39 monthly probation fee.

Mr. Barker made payments, but after a year on probation he still owed $1,233, according to court documents. Two years later, Mr. Barker's debt to the court and to probation services had grown to $2,394.

Over and over, Mr. Barker has been locked up in the county jail when probation officers obtained nonbondable warrants for his arrest because he allegedly did not pay the money he owed and did not report to his probation officer. His probation has been revoked and modified several times. Over and over it was: pay $400 or spend four months in jail; pay $200 or spend two months in jail; do 70 hours of community service and get credit for more than $400 in fines; $500 or five months in jail; pay $1,461 and probation will be terminated; or serve one year and nine days in jail.

Five years after Mr. Barker first got into legal trouble, he is still on probation and still owes money. Most recently, Mr. Barker was arrested on April 29 for not paying and not reporting to his probation officer. Once again, he was given the option to pay $400 or serve four months in jail.

Mr. Barker did the jail time in two months because the jail gives 2-for-1-day jail credit.

The cost to county taxpayers for Mr. Barker's latest jail term: an estimated $3,000.

HEATHER HENDERSON

Heather Henderson's father has been beside himself for months since she was sent to jail for violating probation.

It's not that he contests the fact she wasn't doing what she was supposed to do on probation, or that some time in jail could make her see the light, Roger Altman said. It's what might happen once Ms. Henderson is released from jail that causes him to wake at 3 a.m. nearly every day and pace the floors, he said.

Ms. Henderson, 31, was sentenced in Richmond County State Court to 24 months' probation and fined $1,350 in March for two counts misdemeanor shoplifting. She was supposed to get into a drug rehab program. When that didn't happen, she was arrested and in July Judge David Watkins revoked her probation for one year. The judge ordered electronic monitoring once she is released back to probation.

And that -- the electronic monitoring -- is the problem, Mr. Altman said. His daughter has no job, no family and no home in Augusta. How, he asks, can she comply with electronic monitoring, which requires a home, a land-line telephone, start-up fees and extra monthly fees?

Because she would be homeless in Augusta, Mr. Altman repeatedly called Sentinel Offender Services, the clerk's office, the judge's office -- everyone he could think of, he said. "They run you around like a dog chasing his tail." What he wants to request is for Ms. Henderson's probation to be transferred to the Jesup area of coastal south Georgia once she is released from jail. That way he and his wife can help her with a place to live and a chance to make it through the rest of the probation sentence, Mr. Altman said.

The latest report Mr. Altman has is that only Judge Watkins can order Ms. Henderson's probation transferred to south Georgia. But her case is not scheduled to go back to court again. An attorney can ask the judge for a hearing, but Ms. Henderson didn't qualify for a public defender, and after $600 phone bills and hundreds of dollars spent on trips back and forth to Augusta, Mr. Altman doesn't have the money right now to hire an attorney.

The fear that his daughter will be released from jail only to be arrested for violating probation is tearing him up, Mr. Altman said. "It's like if they want you in jail you're going to jail."

So far, Ms. Henderson's jail stay has cost county taxpayers $6,250.

Comments (21) Add comment
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justus4
113
Points
justus4 11/15/09 - 05:34 am
0
0
Again, nothing new here and
Unpublished

Again, nothing new here and nothing will change because the lawyers are the one group who can change this, but they don't care one little bit - they want to get paid, so the vicious cycle continues and gues whose lives are adversely impacted: U guessed it, the permanent underclass. These cases are horrible examples of a system gone bad, and then U hear about a case where a judge give someone a sentence of, reporting to jail on the weekends, to serve out a sentence. That is unheard of for a minority citizen! It would not happen! And nothing can be done, and nothing will be done, and some persist on flag-waving, and founding documents stuff, and shouts of "U.S.A." as some great nation while we've got more people locked up than Iran or Russia, but our's is a private industry. Justice is bought and sold and the poor can't pay, so they sit and rot behind bars. And this problem is only going to get worse, because now we've got returning troops who are being snagged in this system and many of them have short fuses. Seven states have seperate courts especially for recent vets (betcha never knew that) to help them navigate this mess. Again, nothing will change and will only get worse.

cheeringonthedawgs
108
Points
cheeringonthedawgs 11/15/09 - 07:09 am
0
0
Rhonda Neal-Shields is a

Rhonda Neal-Shields is a career criminal with various charges and convictions including aggravated stalking, forgery, family violence, and DUI. Her history as a CSRA criminal can be tracked as far back as 1997. She's not in jail for probation violation, but rather new violent criminal charges. If she would abide by the law and the terms of her probation she would find herself out of of jail and quite possibly a productive member of society.

jericojones
0
Points
jericojones 11/15/09 - 07:24 am
0
0
So that's how it

So that's how it works--disregard the conditions of your probation, don't pay your fines and sooner or later some limp wristed judge will wipe the slate clean--some judicial system we have here!

jericojones
0
Points
jericojones 11/15/09 - 08:08 am
0
0
Chronicle, since you seem to

Chronicle, since you seem to be agast at how much the county is paying to incarcerate these habitual law breakers who have a total disregard of the judicial system and it's sentenceing , what do you recommend?

jericojones
0
Points
jericojones 11/15/09 - 08:21 am
0
0
Everyone of the individuals

Everyone of the individuals the chronicle mentions above have failed to complete probation and pay restitution over and over again. Not only that, but continue to break more laws. Is this the best you could come up with editor?

Just me 2
0
Points
Just me 2 11/15/09 - 08:35 am
0
0
I found this article

I found this article interesting. I was not aware of how these criminals just got their sentences CHANGED just because they did
not follow the first sentencing. Thank you AC.

andywarhol
0
Points
andywarhol 11/15/09 - 08:59 am
0
0
I wish they would be this

I wish they would be this tough on all of our violent criminals that keep bouncing in and out of jail!

jericojones
0
Points
jericojones 11/15/09 - 09:23 am
0
0
Put them on the chain gang

Put them on the chain gang and let them work off their fines! So simple, even a cave man could figure it out!

andywarhol
0
Points
andywarhol 11/15/09 - 09:27 am
0
0
jericojones, that's right,

jericojones, that's right, but then they won't make money from the lengthy fines.

jericojones
0
Points
jericojones 11/15/09 - 09:44 am
0
0
Right andy, but taxpayers

Right andy, but taxpayers won't be paying for them to sit on their butts in jail watching Oprah!

peonynut
2
Points
peonynut 11/15/09 - 09:50 am
0
0
Too bad you guys, chain gangs

Too bad you guys, chain gangs were outlawed years ago. The present system of probation creates more problems by making it almost impossible for the person to comply if they have no money. If they do have a job they risk losing it because they have to report in person which some employers will not tolerate. I agree that they should be punished for breaking the law but the point is if they can not pay they are targets of a private system in place only to make a buck. I hope you never have to experience sitting across from one of us.

jericojones
0
Points
jericojones 11/15/09 - 10:02 am
0
0
peonynut, BS!

peonynut, BS!

EXAUGUSTAGUY
0
Points
EXAUGUSTAGUY 11/15/09 - 11:58 am
0
0
Georgia-The "only state in

Georgia-The "only state in the entire United States'' that makes minor traffic offenses a crime!!!!! No doubt, people should be responsibile for their actions, but any intelligient person can surmise that this system and topped with the Orwellian prospect of private probation constitutes a living hell for the poor. Shame on Richmond County for its treatment of these people. Furthermore, what about the poor taxpayers?
Why incarcerate poor people(non-violent of course) instead of requiring work, education and orcommunity service?

NedaKlugh
0
Points
NedaKlugh 11/15/09 - 12:16 pm
0
0
What is the purpose of this

What is the purpose of this article? To make us feel sorry for these repeat offenders? Who don't even adhere to checking in with the probation office? Sorry, just can't. It is their choice not to obey the laws - if they don't obey - THEY need to pay - not the taxpayers. And yes I believe those incarcerated somehow need to pay. I am tired of my hard earned money going to pay for the poor choices of people.

corgimom
38696
Points
corgimom 11/15/09 - 12:29 pm
0
0
Yeah, in Iran and Russia, if

Yeah, in Iran and Russia, if you commit crimes, they just shoot you or behead you. They don't need prisons.

anonymous03
0
Points
anonymous03 11/15/09 - 12:37 pm
0
0
Once again, the Chronicle

Once again, the Chronicle features one sided reporting. What everyone needs to asks themselves is "who would really benefit" from a locally run probation system? Could the good ole boys be controlling that system? Isn't that what this is really all about. And speaking of, probationers had to pay fees when it was a publicly run system just as they pay now. Furthermore, in all of the above examples, the person violated the terms of their probation over and over again. Are they just supposed to get away with it? Should they be allowed to disregard the rules? Also, how many of them asked to convert their fines to community service? Likely none or if they did, then they failed to do the community service.

FedupwithAUG
0
Points
FedupwithAUG 11/15/09 - 02:30 pm
0
0
Of the taxes I pay I do not

Of the taxes I pay I do not mind the portion that goes to jail these people. Everyone of them thinks they are above the law and do not even bother going to see their probation officers. They deserve to be in jail until they respect the system that is in place for the good of the people that obey the law.

justus4
113
Points
justus4 11/15/09 - 03:11 pm
0
0
Where is ol' Woody and how
Unpublished

Where is ol' Woody and how has he escaped this wonderful system of justice? What a comple joke!

mooseye
276
Points
mooseye 11/15/09 - 08:08 pm
0
0
The very very bottom line is

The very very bottom line is that if you do not want to be on probation for the rest of your life, do not break the law. Its that simple."
I forgot, I think what the paper was getting at is the cost of incarcerating someone is sometimes more than the fines and fees. But then it is not about finance, it is about upholding the law!

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 11/16/09 - 12:59 am
0
0
I do not feel sorry for none

I do not feel sorry for none of these people. Instead I am sickened that to save some taxpayer money, we do notpunish criminals as they should be. I'd rather my tax dollars go to housing criminals where they should be rather than keep feeding millions into a welfare system that rewards lazy baby factories!!!

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 11/16/09 - 01:32 pm
0
0
Contrary to justus4 opinion,

Contrary to justus4 opinion, I know a white person that was twisting in the wind for three years waiting for a misdemeanor disorderly conduct accusation to be dismissed by the solicitor's office when the person was refused a jury trial. There was recorded proof that the person was innocent, but no one would allow it to be presented. It is hard to get an interview for certain jobs that person was trained and qualified for when you have a case pending. THREE years!

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 11/17/09 - 01:53 pm
0
0
so how many truly innocent

so how many truly innocent people are in this prediciment??? each story has an underlying common thread..each individual was committing a crime...a suggestion how about not committing a crime in the first place!!!!

corgimom
38696
Points
corgimom 11/17/09 - 05:50 pm
0
0
When someone is on parole or

When someone is on parole or probation, the court system is doing them a huge favor. If they don't fulfill their court order, they go to jail. That's the way the justice system works. And I'm wondering how someone could be refused a jury trial- I've been to court, and the judge instructs everyone that they have a right to a trial by jury. You wouldn't believe some of the charges that people request a jury trial for. If you want a jury trial, it's going to take a long, long time, and that's not the court's fault.

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