The class-action suit against Sentinel Offender Services was filed by Jacob Martin Glover for himself and all others convicted of misdemeanor offenses who were sentenced to probation in Columbia County.
According to the clerk of the Columbia County Commission, the commission has not approved any contract with Sentinel to provide probation services for people convicted of misdemeanor crimes in Columbia County Superior Court.
If there is no contract, Glover’s lawsuit alleges, Sentinel cannot legally take money from him or anyone else.
Attorney John Long cites the Georgia statutes that lay out how local governments and courts can create their own probation departments or hire private firms to provide probationary services.
The state government provides such service only for people convicted of felony crimes.
The law says a private probation company is hired with the authorization of the chief judge of the court and by a contract approved by the local governing body.
The lawsuit seeks to recover all the money Glover paid in probation fees to Sentinel, $39 a month, and the money paid by all other members of the class, in addition to 7 percent interest and attorney fees.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 20, specifically excludes misdemeanor probationers who were jailed based on allegations by Sentinel employees that they violated the terms of their probation.
The second lawsuit against Sentinel, filed Monday, alleges that Sentinel employees caused the illegal arrest and imprisonment of Willie James Gilyard.
Gilyard was convicted in October 2001 and sentenced to probation, which concluded Oct. 16, 2008.
Although Gilyard’s probation had ended, a Sentinel officer signed an affidavit alleging that Gilyard violated his probation because he did not report to the Sentinel office in December 2009. Based on the sworn statement, Judge Michael N. Annis signed a warrant for Gilyard’s arrest.
Gilyard was arrested and jailed July 28, 2010. The next day, he had a medical emergency and was taken to a hospital, according to the lawsuit.
Gilyard was arrested a second time, on Sept. 15, based on another Sentinel petition. He was jailed for 40 days. Because of the second incarceration, Gilyard lost his job, according to the lawsuit.