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Judge issues restraining order against Sentinel

McGee's lawyers contend Sentinel violated ruling

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A judge placed a temporary restraining order Friday on a private probation company that continues to hound a mentally ill veteran for money his attorneys say he doesn't owe.

McGee  Special
Special
McGee


Sandy Hodson
Database Reporter
E-mail | 706-823-3226

Hills McGee filed a lawsuit in Richmond County Superior Court against Sentinel Offender Services, and Judge Michael N. Annis signed the restraining order.

The temporary restraining order prevents Sentinel from taking any action against McGee and requires the company's representatives to explain to the judge why they should not be held in contempt of court.

McGee was jailed earlier this year for a probation violation, but Annis ordered his immediate release on Jan. 27. The judge voided and ruled unconstitutional the probation violation and underlying no-contest pleas in October 2008 to obstruction of a law officer and public drunkenness that put McGee in jail and forced him to use Sentinel.

There was no way the state could prove that McGee -- who lives on a $243 monthly disability check -- understood what he was doing when he gave up his rights to defense counsel in Richmond County State Court, the judge said.

The probation violation was based on McGee's failure to pay Sentinel $186 in supervision fees. Because Annis voided the convictions, McGee's lawyers contend he no longer owes anything as a condition of probation because he is not on probation.

According to the new lawsuit, however, Sentinel sent McGee letters dated March 8 and April 1 that accuse him of violating his probation by not paying the $186 or reporting to his probation officer.

The letters state that a no-bond warrant for McGee's arrest may be issued if he failed to report to Sentinel this week, according to a copy of one letter attached to the new lawsuit.

McGee's attorneys contend Sentinel should be punished for contempt of court for disobeying Annis' ruling and for attempting to collect a debt that is not owed.

The lawsuit further seeks to have class-action status, a ruling that the state law allowing private probation companies is unconstitutional, a finding that Sentinel has engaged in racketeering and the restriction of future use of non-bondable warrants against people who fail to pay Sentinel. It also seeks to put Sentinel out of business.

Sentinel will have the opportunity to counter each allegation. A hearing for the company has not been scheduled.

Comments (39) Add comment
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gaspringwater
3
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gaspringwater 04/17/10 - 01:09 pm
0
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Sentinel is nothing but

Sentinel is nothing but another shark outfit praying on the unfortunate and in some cases the mentally handicapped.

In the South years ago convicts were leased to private citizens. It was a replacement system for slavery after the Civil War and the state governments saved money. Not only saved money but even realized profits. Of course the convicts deserved what they were getting. But inhuman and abusive treatment was rampant and public outrage abolished the system in the early 1900's.

Not we've going in that direction again. The state wants to save money by using private companies. And the companies can prey on the convicted. And just like always, the convicted have brought it on themselves!

Life Liberty And the Pursuit of Happiness
0
Points
0
0
These private probation

These private probation companies are a scam but the sate of Georgia allows them. They are worse than the title pawn and payday addvance places that have already been oulawed. I had a ticket in Gwinnett County I misplaced so so seven days later they had me arrested. I had no bail because they said I was a risk while rapists and violent prisoners were able to post bail. It cost me my job but the people with no jobs who committed serious crimes were let out of jail everyday.

After 5 days I got my day in court and was prepared to pay my fine. They refused to accept it and said they had a contract with a probation company and I had to be put on probation even though I had my fine in CASH. The "prosecutor" who reviewed my case and made his recommendations to the judge was was actually a salesman from the Probation Company.

I paid one year of probation fees in full the next day so my $150 ticket cost me over $750 because I was 7 days late. Is there something wrong with this picture?

helltopay
0
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helltopay 04/17/10 - 03:53 pm
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Unfortunately, most of these

Unfortunately, most of these posts are from individuals who are misinformed or uninformed. In the 1990s the Georgia Legislature, in a cost cutting move, decided that offenders sentenced for misdemeanors could be supervised by privately owned probation “companies.” Therefore, a bill was passed requiring counties to either contract with private companies to provide such services or requiring the counties to start their own company. Prior to the passing of that law, the supervision of those individuals was handled by state probation officers. It should also be noted that a number of individuals with “connections” to the legislature later founded these private probation companies.

I am not defending Sentential. Indeed, I do not think that private companies should be allowed to supervise probationers. There are certain things that should not be “for profit.” Law enforcement functions, including probation, is an example of a function that should not be profit driven. Nevertheless, Sentential only operates under a contract. If Sentential is not fulfilling its obligations, look to who granted the contract. As someone stated earlier, Sentential does not impose fines. The extent of the profit comes from the collection of the fees. Essentially the offenders are paying the cost of their supervision

helltopay
0
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helltopay 04/17/10 - 03:53 pm
0
0
Please understand that there

Please understand that there is a difference between probation and parole. Parole is when an offender is released to community supervision early on a custodial sentence. For example, a judge sentences someone to five years in prison. He is released after serving two years of said custodial sentence and serves his remaining three years in the community on parole. Probation is imposed (generally) on those individuals who are not sentenced to prison.

Someone earlier stated that there should be no probation, either someone is sent to prison or they pay a fine. That sounds like a simple solution but the real world is much more complex. Everyone cannot be placed in prison. There are nearly 200,000 individual on felony state probation in Georgia at any given time. That does not include those who are under misdemeanor supervision or federal supervised release. There used to be an Augusta Police officer who would occasionally bemoan probation and claim that there was no need for probation officers. He would state that all you need is someone to collect fines, verify residences, and handle violations when those individuals are arrested. I have often wanted to ask that person, “Just what do you think probation officers do?” With misdemeanor caseloads well over 1,000 and felony caseloads which exceed 500 at times, that is all that can be accomplished by some officers.

There are also other officers who provide addition services. They check on more serious offenders at all times of the day or night. They check for alcohol and drug usage. They refer offenders to employment and mental health services. They go into neighborhoods alone that deputies will not enter without backup. On any given night a probation officer may have contact with 20-30 convicted felons. Deputies and state troopers may go days without having contact with a felon. But I digress.

In summary, Georgia has private probation companies because of the state legislature. Richmond County has Sentential because they chose Sentential. One last word of caution, offenders are offenders because they are criminals. Please be mindful of such when considering the voracity of their claims. No I do not work for Sentential and in fact, I am not even in Augusta.

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 04/17/10 - 09:12 pm
0
0
Sentinel sux and something

Sentinel sux and something should be done about it. Why is it again that we can't have county or city employees doing this job rather than a private company ripping people off and immorally trying to collect absurd and erroneous fees? If a private company can do it, why can't the city or county instead of paying someone else to do it for them? What next sub out collecting traffic fines to a private company for no reason.

whyme
2191
Points
whyme 04/17/10 - 10:21 pm
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Businesses like these take

Businesses like these take advantage of our local mentally ill/borderline intellectual citizens. They go to these offices to get a loan-and yes, sometimes for the wrong reasons-but then their little monthly check ends up going right to the business and it's almost impossible to get it back. I've argued with one before on behalf of one such person and managed to get the person's money back but it was rough.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 04/18/10 - 09:25 am
0
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Be good, do right and you

Be good, do right and you will not have to deal with Sentinal. In 61 years I have never been arrested and it was not hard to do.

shop
0
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shop 04/19/10 - 12:22 pm
0
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Failing to report to my

Failing to report to my scheduled meeting and also arrears of $300 forced me to lose money because I had to take off work to walk to the Sentinel to explain that I am on unsupervised probation with no report date & that I have receipts of my payments for the past 6 months. I too am being extorted.

emergencyfan
0
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emergencyfan 04/21/10 - 01:55 pm
0
0
"I really believe that except

"I really believe that except for capitol crimes, a persons record should be cleared period."

Diss, Did you mean "felony" crimes rather than "capital" crimes? I think child molestation, rape, DUIs, and violent crimes should stay on that person's record permanently, otherwise, they'll just keep getting away with it over and over again because there will be no way to prove they are serial offenders. Plus, with no record to follow them, those people will be able to get jobs at schools, hospitals, etc. As for a capital crime, well, they've been sentenced to death so there will really be no reason for a record once their sentence is carried out, right?

AccountabilityMatters
0
Points
AccountabilityMatters 04/22/10 - 01:46 pm
0
0
There are laws in place and

There are laws in place and governing bodies that watch over private probation companies. These bodies should be the one's to decide when Sentinel does wrong. You are trying to allow a career criminal the opportunity to appear as a victim. The court did a disservice to the residents of Richmond County by not prosecuting this guy properly. Sentinel does not give out tickets, make arrests, place anyone on probation. House Bill 1607, Article 6 allows for a private probation company to supervise misdemeanor probationers for a contracted fee. These private probation companies are offender funded. They save the tax paying citizens the jail and other law enforcement costs. Most posts make this person out to be a victim, you can go and look at his criminal record, which are public records, and call the people he has victimized to see if he should be considered the victim.

AccountabilityMatters
0
Points
AccountabilityMatters 04/22/10 - 02:06 pm
0
0
There are between 7,000 -

There are between 7,000 - 10,000 people on probation in Richmond County on any given day. You are telling me that every person on probation is a poor, indigent, minority, who is being taken advantage of by this giant probation company. I am not getting the point of not making the person that breaks the law accountable for their actions. These posts don't usually mention anything about choices. The choice to use drugs, break the law, and not pay is on the probationer. I am sure if you ask them if they can afford their new outfit, vehicle, pack of cigarettes, drugs or/and alcohol, they can come up with the money. These are not "NEEDS", they are "WANTS", and our society often gets them confused.

darkdayprogram
0
Points
darkdayprogram 04/22/10 - 02:35 pm
0
0
The employees of the private

The employees of the private company are just doing their job, the same job they would be doing if they worked for the state. But since they are employed at a private company they are "crooks" or "outlaws" or "thugs". What I've gathered from most of these posts is this: the anti-Sentinel ones are more than likely disgruntled from having been on probation before and the posts defending Sentinel are those individuals with enough sense not to get arrested.
I have driven by the office and seen the "victims" in line out there. I wouldn't pay most of them to cut my grass, let alone sit inside my house and have dinner.

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