Media coverage of the private probation industry has been rife with misinformation portraying service providers as concerned only with profit. As the largest private provider of probation services in Georgia, Sentinel Offender Services has been a leader in working with courts and offenders to ensure optimal outcomes while saving Georgia taxpayers millions of dollars every year.
Opponents have claimed our industry pushes for longer sentences to increase our revenue by collecting monthly probation fees for a longer period of time, but that is not correct. Imposing sentences is strictly at the discretion of the courts; probation service providers have no say in either the length of probation or the amount of fines judges levy against offenders.
Probationers with minor offenses may benefit from concurrent probation sentences, allowing them to pay generally lower fines and move out of the system more quickly. But probationers with more serious offenses may receive consecutive sentences – giving them a longer window to pay larger fines. Longer probation sentences also give the court more time to monitor offenders’ progress in addressing the underlying issues that may have led to their criminal activity.
Despite what our opponents contend, Sentinel supports capping fees so total probation fees do not exceed the total of other court-ordered financial obligations. By doing so, we would collect the same total fee regardless of whether an offender’s sentences are concurrent or consecutive.
In addition to capping fees, we support numerous other industry best practices such as increased reporting to courts about offender status, increased fee transparency and multi-tiered fee scales, among others. Sentinel is committed to ensuring the private probation industry continues to benefit the offenders, courts and communities we serve.
(The writer is chief business development officer of Sentinel Offender Services.)