Government SPLOST 7 | | | Editor

Sentinel contract tops commission's agenda

Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 3:58 PM
Last updated Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015 1:03 AM
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Long before Augusta commissioners debated the merits of privatizing city services such as public transit and golf course management, the city was relying on private industry to manage another aspect of government — managing and monitoring criminal offenders.

The city’s 15-year-old relationship with Sentinel Offender Services LLC will be put to the test Tuesday, however, when Chief Richmond County State Court Judge Richard Slaby asks the commission to approve renewing Sentinel’s contract for another year.

While they’ve agreed in previous years to extend the relationship, some commissioners have questioned whether the private, for-profit probation firm works in the city’s best interest.

“There are 10 pending lawsuits involving Sentinel,” said Commissioner Donnie Smith, a lieutenant with the Georgia State Patrol. “I don’t have any confidence in the Sentinel leadership. I am for sending (the probation contract) out for bids.”

The suits allege Sentinel unlawfully had probationers jailed – some for extended periods – for nonpayment of fees they can’t afford, such as an $80 startup monitoring fee, $6 daily monitoring fee or $12 daily fee for alcohol monitoring. The firm operated for several years in Augusta Superior Court without a contract as required by state law, and last year withdrew from servicing probationers sentenced in superior court in Richmond and Columbia counties.

Commissioner Joe Jackson, who initially expressed skepticism about Sentinel continuing in Richmond County State Court, said Friday the matter was forcing him to choose which judges to believe.

“Who do I trust – do I trust state court or superior court?” Jackson said.

Slaby said all four state court judges want to retain Sentinel. State court has close ties with the firm. Longtime Sentinel Augusta-area manager, Crystal Page, has worked for the city as coordinator over state court’s drug, alcohol and mental health accountability court since 2012.

Other action going before the commission Tuesday:

l A $2.5 million “bridge loan” requested by Augusta Housing and Community Development to continue consultant-assisted revitalization of the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods until the city is eligible in 2015 to issue more bonds backed by the project’s $750,000 annual stream of hotel bed fees.

l An ordinance moving the time of commission meetings from 5 p.m. to 2 p.m.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 09/02/13 - 10:58 pm

Vote NO! on the Sentinel contract.

Vote NO! on the bridge loan.

Thank you

just an opinion
just an opinion 09/02/13 - 11:05 pm
2.5 million for more consultants?

No! Stop the madness. If the staff can't handle the work, get a new staff.

specialist 09/02/13 - 11:11 pm

The outlandish fees charged to the offenders merely drives those with practically nothing to having nothing, and the possibility of being jailed and further into debt. THE PERFECT PONZI SCHEME with Sentinel being the reaper of everything. Vote no contract for ANY private firm.

rebellious 09/02/13 - 11:22 pm
I have a young friend

which these people (company) hounded and harassed while he did everything he could to earn money to pay them. In most business concerns, you talk to the customers for feedback. And I think it is safe to say, Judges could give a hoot about the difficulties of a probationer. They neither manage nor foot the bill for returns to the penal institutions. Make no mistake, I am no bleeding heart, and surely recognize that many ex-cons would lie like a rug on the company, but I have heard way to much for the shylock practices of Sentinel to be a myth. Surely there are more professional organizations out there which perform this service in a "fair and balanced" method with more than profit in mind.
And here is a novel idea, set goals for recidivism which reward the contractor for fewer returned Probationed ex-cons. Pay a little more over here and a lot less over there. Oh and by the way, talk about an incestuous relationship.....sounds like this Crystal Page is an insider. Don't know her, but she obviously has the ear of the judges.

A worthy read on the subject, this link to the NY Times even quotes an Augusta lawyer.

Truth Matters
Truth Matters 09/03/13 - 04:59 am
@rebellious Thanks for the

Thanks for the link. It's a great read.

Bodhisattva 09/03/13 - 05:08 am
Are the judges,

Are the judges, commissioners, and anyone else involved required to disclose if they, or any of their family, have any monetary involvement with the company or any of the company's affiliates, or any of the company's officers other businesses?

seenitB4 09/03/13 - 06:56 am
Great post rebel

As usual♥

GnipGnop 09/03/13 - 08:46 am
Wow you mean...

Someone with ties to ARC government won a contract with the city? How did this happen with our excellent bidding and procurement department? Augusta politics as surprise to me or anyone with a ounce of common sense...

llewallen 09/03/13 - 09:22 am
Vote No

One majot concern from the article:

"State court has close ties with the firm." What exactly does this mean, and, are there any improper relationships?

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