The judge presiding over civil lawsuits filed against the private probation company Sentinel Offender Services ordered the release of a dozen people from jail Friday.
Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Craig’s order affects people arrested on accusations that they violated the terms of misdemeanor probation sentences.
Anyone named in the order with unrelated criminal charges pending was to be excluded. Two people listed in Craig’s order face additional felony criminal charges.
On Monday, Craig ordered the release of 17 people held in the Columbia County jail based solely on warrants that Sentinel employees obtained.
Friday’s order affects people with Sentinel probation violation warrants issued by Superior Court judges in Richmond County.
Four of those named in Craig’s order were jailed earlier this week, while two have been behind bars for weeks.
According to court records, a woman picked up on a probation violation warrant Sept. 16 was to have been released in November if she could pay $200. She was still in the Richmond County jail Friday afternoon. Her stay has cost taxpayers about $3,000.
In recent weeks, attorney John Long has filed a number of lawsuits against Sentinel, alleging the for-profit company cannot act as a probation service for Superior Courts in Richmond or Columbia counties because it doesn’t have a contract with either.
Some of the plaintiffs were jailed on Sentinel probation violation warrants after their probation had expired, according to the lawsuit and court records.
Sentinel has vigorously disputed the allegations, Craig noted in Friday’s order.
Starting Thursday morning, Sentinel cut all ties with the two Superior Courts because the judges had not signed a contract by Wednesday.
In a second order signed Friday, Craig instructed Sentinel to turn over all of its records for probationers from the two Superior Courts. Sentinel has until 5 p.m. Jan. 3 to comply.
Craig also instructed Sentinel to send a letter to Superior Court probationers telling them that they must continue to observe provisions of their probation sentences and make any necessary payments for fines and restitution to the Superior Court clerks’ offices.
Sentinel does have a contract with the Richmond County State Court. The civil lawsuits do not pertain to people serving probation terms from that court.