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People accused of violating misdemeanor probation arrested in roundup

Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 7:02 PM
Last updated Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 5:18 AM
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A squad of Richmond County Sheriff officers spent their workday Thursday arresting people who have pending warrants for allegedly violating the terms of misdemeanor probation sentences.



Richmond County State Court Chief Judge Richard Slaby said the roundup was an attempt to get people to comply with the terms of their probation sentences. All warrants were active, he said.

But warrants issued years earlier are also still “active.”

The warrants were obtained by probation officers who work for the private, for-profit company Sentinel Offender Services. A series of lawsuits is challenging the constitutionality of private companies performing a judicial function, some specifically targeting Sentinel with allegations it has caused the false arrests and jailing of numerous people.

Attorney Jack Long, who filed the civil lawsuits against Sentinel, was furious Thursday. Less than two hours after a client’s court hearing was postponed by Sentinel, the client called him in a panic because officers were at her home to arrest her on a warrant stemming from 2005.

The warrant Thursday wasn’t valid, however, and she wasn’t arrested. The warrant had been withdrawn in April when she was arrested and jailed for four days for owing Sentinel $41.

Slaby said all of the people with warrants had failed to appear for court hearings. On Thursday, Sentinel probation officers were at the jail to meet with the people arrested. If they signed compliance agreements, they were released, Slaby said.

If anyone wanted to contest the probation violation allegations, Slaby said they could do so in court. Meanwhile, they would stay in jail. Slaby said the judges can usually see people within 48 hours of arrest and often by the next day.

Richmond County Sheriff Capt. Steve Strickland of special operations said his team of 16 officers and a few reserve officers were serving the warrants. He estimated there are a couple hundred. It was the same kind of roundup they have done in the past for state probation officers who supervise people convicted of felony offenses, he said.

The team was only assigned to the roundup for one shift Thursday, but the officers now have a list of people that they can use to follow up, Strickland said.

Special ops officers are assigned around the city as needed in particular areas, such as a neighborhood experiencing a rash of burglaries, Strickland said.

Community policing stops crime, Long said, and it is wrong to pull officers off that duty. “I don’t think that taxpayers need to be spending money to help a private company collect their fees, and I don’t think that a private company should be allowed to use the jail facilities to collect their money or that they should be the ones deciding if someone is locked up or jailed,” he said.

Keeping a person in jail for a single day costs taxpayers about $50.

Although Strickland and Slaby said there were only a couple hundred warrants being served, according to evidence presented in the lawsuits against Sentinel, there are about 5,000 such warrants on the books.

On Thursday, the jail records indicted as least 12 people were jailed on those warrants. Two of the warrants were issued because the accused failed to appear for a court date. The rest were based on Sentinel probation officers’ allegations that probationers were in violation of some conditions imposed by the state court judges. Most could be released if they paid money, according to jail records.

Ricky Scott, 60, was picked up on a bench warrant Thursday, but according to court records, Scott’s probation was terminated Jan. 2. Scott was sentenced to a year on probation in March 2005 for driving without a license. According to jail records, Scott could be released if he pays $212. He was released later Thursday.

the back story

Legal challenge to private probation

BACKGROUND: A series of lawsuits filed in Richmond and Columbia County have challenged the constitutionality of private, for-profit companies providing probation services for the judiciary. A number of the lawsuits against Sentinel Offender Services specifically targets that company with accusations of causing the false arrest and incarceration of people sentenced to probation terms for misdemeanor offenses.

DEVELOPMENTS:

In September, Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Craig ruled that once a misdemeanor probation sentence has expired, it cannot be extended, a practice called tolling. He also ruled private probation companies have no authority to perform electronic monitoring. He did not find the use of private probation companies to be unconstitutional, however.

Sentinel is challenging Craig’s ruling. The cases are on appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Although Craig’s order had prevented the arrest of people whose probation terms have expired and the use of electronic monitoring, the Supreme Court granted Sentinel’s request to set that order aside.

A decision on the merits of appeal isn’t expected for several months.

Comments (23) Add comment
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fishman960
1504
Points
fishman960 01/23/14 - 07:15 pm
12
0
The lesson to be learned

Is that if you are going to court in Augusta, sell or mortgage anything you can to be able to pay your fines.
Getting on the Sentinel service is the worst thing you can do.
After all, they are a for profit....

specsta
7181
Points
specsta 01/23/14 - 09:19 pm
12
3
Time For A Reboot

With the corruption going on at Sentinel Offender Services, NO ONE accused of a probation violation by this for-profit company should be arrested. If even one innocent person is jailed, that is one too many.

The record on this company must be cleared before anything they affirm against a probationer is believed.

Shame on the Augusta court system for allowing this mess to exist.

corgimom
38720
Points
corgimom 01/23/14 - 09:28 pm
3
17
Or maybe the best thing to do

Or maybe the best thing to do is just not get into trouble in the first place.

griff6035
4292
Points
griff6035 01/23/14 - 09:34 pm
2
5
Probation officers

Yesterday, I stopped to get lunch at a Restaurant in a neighboring county, and there were to women one black and one white there buying lunch. The black woman was conversing in a loud tone of voice with a male Restaurant employee about a burglary at the Probation office. The male said it must have been an employee of the Probation office, but the black woman said no, we do not leave any thing laying around and no money is left in the building. When I left, I observed that there vehicle had a Richmond county tag. Kind of odd don't you think.

Graymare
3809
Points
Graymare 01/23/14 - 10:06 pm
8
0
"The warrants were obtained

"The warrants were obtained by probation officers who work for the private, for-profit company Sentinel Offender Services." Were the validity of the warrants checked first? No. Fine if they are valid. But, if not, let the lawsuits begin.

Navy Gary
1615
Points
Navy Gary 01/23/14 - 10:46 pm
6
7
How About...

How about we do away with probation completely. If people need supervision, keep them in jail. They can supervise them there.

nocnoc
49620
Points
nocnoc 01/24/14 - 06:00 am
13
1
Does anyone else see something wrong here

4 days in jail for owing Sentinel $41.
- The Crime was a Debt = Debtor's Prison.
Because to person was not arrested for a Civil CRIME, but a Debt owed.

If these Yahoos took 4 days of my life away or even the "usual" 48 hours waiting to see the judge,more like 3-5 days,over not getting a few $$.

I would expect more than 1 person to go to jail for False Imprisonment plus the County.

Major Lawsuit headed for ARC Taxpayers.
ARC, by its continued use of this company, along with its serious documented screw ups, is clearly demonstrating a Failure of Due Diligence to act. The company is acting as their Agent as such they act in the name of ARC and the Courts.

LillyfromtheMills
14342
Points
LillyfromtheMills 01/24/14 - 07:43 am
10
2
Oh, NO

Judge Craig knows Sentinels files are wrong. Lives that have been straightened out will be ruined - they will sit in jail because they don't have the bail money until the mistake is realized - their jobs will have been given to someone else. It's a damn racket!!! It also costs the taxpayer to house them. This is just wrong. I have never even gotten a parking ticket CMom if you want to say something else smart @@@

JRC2024
10536
Points
JRC2024 01/24/14 - 08:41 am
3
9
While I do not agree with

While I do not agree with some of the actions of Sentinel, people know what is right and what is wrong. They just make the wrong decision. Make the right decision and you will not have to deal with the court system. That seems simple to me. Lily, what was smart about Corgi's comment? It is the truth and nothing but the truth!

galaxygrl
1350
Points
galaxygrl 01/24/14 - 09:16 am
9
1
Working Poor

While it is wrong to commit a crime, some of these people probably simply had traffic violations they couldn't pay at court date and were then turned over to Sentinel. Then, not only do you pay the fine off you pay a service fee every month until you finish paying it. If they have some financial difficulty and can not pay the fine installment and the probation fee, they are subject to be picked up. This can cause them to lose their jobs, not be able to support families and end up in jail until they can come up with the money. How is that right? The State would work with them, Sentinel is a for profit operation. A profit shouldn't be made off of this type of usury. It is a punishment, not worthy of jail time. It reminds me of Old England, apparently we have forgotten why we left there.

LillyfromtheMills
14342
Points
LillyfromtheMills 01/24/14 - 09:24 am
2
1
Y'all are making me laugh again

hahahaha - yeh what GG said

pja5529
2726
Points
pja5529 01/24/14 - 10:33 am
5
0
Yeah

Most of these are probably for minor traffic violations yet they are being treated like hardened criminals.

raul
5778
Points
raul 01/24/14 - 10:56 am
2
0
How did this process work

How did this process work before there were businesses like Sentinel?

With thousands of outstanding warrants dating back years, how does Sentinel get special treatment?

itsanotherday1
48415
Points
itsanotherday1 01/24/14 - 10:46 am
3
0
I do think people need a good

I do think people need a good slap upside the head to remind them there are consequences for ignoring court ordered actions; but 2 days in jail for owing the probation supervisor $41 is ridiculous.

allhans
24964
Points
allhans 01/24/14 - 12:41 pm
1
0
Is there a way to get a list

Is there a way to get a list of outstanding warrants?

LillyfromtheMills
14342
Points
LillyfromtheMills 01/24/14 - 04:35 pm
0
1
They will

slap you in jail - 401 aint fun - and ask questions later

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 01/24/14 - 04:54 pm
1
0
Debtor’s prison.

I thought we fought the Revolutionary War so that debtor's would not have to go to jail for a debt.

You know if you owe $41 to the local nail salon and you don't pay, they won't put you in jail.

The sheriff should be ashamed for putting these debtors in jail.

LillyfromtheMills
14342
Points
LillyfromtheMills 01/24/14 - 06:10 pm
1
0
I agree

They should double, triple check - the told the DA this was happening years ago. It's a travesty!

allhans
24964
Points
allhans 01/24/14 - 06:13 pm
1
0
One would assume that missing

One would assume that missing a payment levied by a judge would not be classified as an ordinary debt.

KSL
144598
Points
KSL 01/24/14 - 07:18 pm
0
1
No profit should be made on

No profit should be made on fines. But people who have incurred fines need to be able to pay them in a timely fashion. Just to refuse to pay after breaking the law and deemed guilty is totally unacceptable.

KSL
144598
Points
KSL 01/24/14 - 07:21 pm
0
1
Why does the government

Why does the government ofAugusta-Richmond Co have to farm out so much to private businesses?

jjohnson
20
Points
jjohnson 02/05/14 - 11:09 am
0
0
Inability versus willful act.

Inability versus willful act. A person that chooses to spend all their income on everything, but their court ordered money should have a consequence. The court is to decide who is indigent and not the probation officer. Indigence is defined by the court. A person can not just say they can't afford to pay, they must prove they can pay.
Who here knows the situation of anyone complaining? Do you really know that Sentinel is doing any of these things? Do you believe everything you read in the one-side newspaper? WE SHOULD BLAME THE PERSON THAT BROKE THE LAW. BUT INSTEAD this is what happens: Who is to blame for the arrest? The police officers. Why did they commit the crime? Society. Who is to blame for the large fines? The laws of GA and legislatures Who is to blame for imposing the fines? The Judges. Probation must then be the scapegoat for everything involved in the system. Sentinel does not ask for these clients. You don't hear the stories about how probation helped individuals. There can be no way that any person could believe this information.

jjohnson
20
Points
jjohnson 02/05/14 - 11:23 am
0
0
Any citizen can do an open

Any citizen can do an open records request for the warrant, petition, etc. You can review for yourself the allegation brought against any person that complains about mistreatment. Failure to report to see the Judge is a bench warrant. Failure to meet with the probation officer is a warrant signed by a Judge. The Judge issues warrants. A warrant is the "ticket for a free ride" to speak with the Judge.

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