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Sentinel Offender Services company can appeal but judge's earlier rulings remain intact

Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 9:11 PM
Last updated Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 2:26 AM
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Sentinel Offender Services and the Richmond County State Court judges were unable Thursday to persuade Judge Daniel J. Craig to back down from a Sept. 16 ruling on the treatment of misdemeanor probationers.



Craig granted them a stay of his ruling until they could appeal it to the Georgia Supreme Court, but the restrictions he imposed remain in effect until a decision is rendered.

In his Sept. 16 order, Craig found state law specifically restricts the imposition of electronic monitoring for misdemeanor probationers. He also found that the law prohibits the suspension of a misdemeanor sentence to extend past the original sentence’s expiration date.

Sentinel and the State Court judges insisted Craig’s ruling would bring justice to a halt because the only options the judges would have is to send every person to jail or set each free without any punishment.

Craig asked the attorneys for Sentinel and the judges to explain why Richmond County State Court is the only court in Georgia to consider his ruling an impediment to its operation.

It was duplicity, Craig said. What should be at the forefront of the court’s consideration are the 5,000 arrest warrants and lack of concern that 5,000 people could be jailed without the most basic concept in American courts: due process.

It’s not a criticism of the sheriff’s office that Sentinel probation violation warrants aren’t served until the accused happens to cross the path of a law enforcement officer who runs a check for warrants, Craig said.

The law that allows counties to contract with private companies for misdemeanor probation services also required the establishment of a regulatory board, but there isn’t a single regulation addressing due process, Craig said.

He made it clear he would not accept the possibility of constitutional violations during the months it may take to get an appellate decision.

He also suggested to the attorneys representing the State Court judges that they fact-check assertions before committing them to court documents accessible to the public.

The contention that they will be unable to ensure misdemeanor probationers pay all court-ordered fines, fees and restitution was false, he maintained.

“There are all kinds of ways to collect judgments in Georgia,” said Craig, who helped draft that legislation in 2007. The court can collect money like anyone collects a judgment, Craig said.


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