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Probation company agrees to jail releases

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More than a dozen people in the Columbia County jail accused of violating the terms of their misdemeanor probation sentences have received an early Christmas present.



Instead of having a marathon round of hearings in Co­lum­bia County Superior Court, as Judge Daniel J. Craig suggested Friday, Sen­ti­nel Offender Services consented to release those locked up only because of warrants Sentinel obtained. The order does not affect those who have secondary criminal offenses.

Craig is presiding over civil lawsuits accusing the private probation company of illegal arrest and incarceration.

Craig signed the order to release 17 people, and they were released Monday, said Co­lum­bia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris. The legal move headed off a sixth civil suit against Sentinel.

Attorney John Long filed five lawsuits against Sentinel in recent weeks, challenging the legality of the company operating as the probation services provider in Co­lum­bia Coun­ty when it does not have a signed contract with the county government. Long cited state law that says local governments can contract with private probation firms with the chief judge’s approval and a contract with the local governmental body.

On Tuesday, Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet said he couldn’t weigh in on the claims in the lawsuits, but he has asked Sentinel and two other private probation firms to submit proposals for a contract with Columbia County. He said he had assumed Sentinel would have been covered by the contract signed by the company it replaced in 2000.

Overstreet said he will consult with Burke, Rich­mond and Columbia county commissioners about the possibility of them establishing county probation offices. A decision on how to proceed should be made within a month, he said.

Sentinel isn’t conceding to the challenge of its authority to operate in Columbia County.

The lawsuits against Sentinel also contend its employees have obtained arrest warrants that cause probationers to be jailed after the terms of misdemeanor sentences expired.

Craig issued an order last week appointing attorney Randy Shepard – a veteran of the district attorney’s office who recently left for private practice – to review applications for arrest warrants that Sentinel wants for people serving misdemeanor probation terms in Columbia County.

On Monday, the plaintiffs’ attorney complained to Craig that Sentinel employees had presented arrest warrants from two other judges that day without Shepard’s approval.

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dstewartsr
20393
Points
dstewartsr 12/18/12 - 10:25 pm
5
0
And the game goes on...

those honourable jurists whose responsibility it was to sign those warrants after due diligence (sarcasm) and the scumbags running this scheme should be seeing the other side of the bars they use in their extortion scheme.

dstewartsr
20393
Points
dstewartsr 12/18/12 - 10:32 pm
3
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Aren't you so glad

... the"impartial" judge in the case against Sentinal is doing everything to ameliorate further lawsuits against them? Exactly how does that pass the smell test?

Techfan
6462
Points
Techfan 12/19/12 - 07:35 am
3
0
Keep going with private

Keep going with private prisons and private probation companies and eventually there'll be jail time and probation for parking tickets.

concernmom
403
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concernmom 12/19/12 - 08:33 am
0
0
Techfan is spot on!

To quote: "Keep going with private prisons and private probation companies and eventually there'll be jail time and probation for parking tickets." Techfan
Enough said!

Little Lamb
49030
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Little Lamb 12/19/12 - 08:39 am
2
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Debtor's Prison

Wasn't one of the founding principles of the United States that we would not throw people in prison for not paying a debt? You can have your wages garnished, you can have your assets seized, but you should not be imprisoned for not paying a debt — especially a debt which has not been proven in a court of law.

The way Sentinel operates, they merely make a claim to a judge that the person did not pay their fee and the judge hands down an arrest warrant. That's way out of line.

jrbfromga
448
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jrbfromga 12/19/12 - 09:43 am
1
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I'm not for more government
Unpublished

but Sentinel should be given their walking papers. They make criminals out of people who have committed only minor infractions (misdemeanors). I agree with Little Lamb, it is all about the money for them, and they get judges to issue warrants to incarcerate people whose only offense is to not pay their probation fees.

daphne3520
950
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daphne3520 12/19/12 - 11:58 am
1
0
Techfan
6462
Points
Techfan 12/20/12 - 06:57 am
0
1
I think this is the first

I think this is the first time I never got a "thumbs down". The trolls that just hit the downward thumb no matter what I write must have missed the post.

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