Privatized Probation Services a Problem Too

Jails and prisons are not the only parts of our criminal justice being turned over to private companies with terrible consequences for justice. Some states also have turned over their parole and probation services to private companies, one of the largest of which has been found guilty of illegally extending sentences to keep the money flowing in.

Last week, a Georgia county judge ruled that Sentinel Offender Service had illegally extended the sentence of Mantooth and potentially thousands of others who were required to pay the firm monthly probation fees, and was illegally ordering electronic monitoring for misdemeanor offenders — prohibited by state law — while charging probationers for their own monitoring.

Other named plaintiffs in the pair of cases were hauled off to jail and/or subjected to electronic monitoring for alleged probation violations six years after their probation had ended for minor offenses like possession of marijuana and no proof of insurance.

Sentinel Offender Services has become notorious for using every means available to extract funds from low-level offenders, motivated by profit rather than the public interest in supervising and rehabilitating these low-level offenders. Those in Columbia or Richmond counties who cannot pay fines associated with minor offenses like speeding or public intoxication are placed on private probation, which carries monthly fees of $34 to $44. They are also charged additional “start-up” fees, photo fees, and electronic monitoring fees. When they cannot afford to keep up with these fees, they end up in jail,unfamiliar with a state law that prohibits incarceration for inability to pay.

Not only have some places brought back debtors’ prisons, they’ve privatized them as well. This should be absolutely illegal and the DOJ should be cracking down on it.

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  • NitricAcid

    And of course, we here in Canada keep hearing our politicians mutter about privatizing prisons here, because that saves so much money for the governments in the USA! Certain politicians won’t even talk about saving money- they’ll just say that the Americans have done it, and therefore we should too. If you remind them that just because one country does something doesn’t make it a good idea, they’ll blink stupidly and repeat that these are *Americans* who have done this….and therefore, we have to do it, too…

  • sbuh

    I’ve tried in vain to explain to so many of my libertarian acquaintances that prison service is not and cannot be a market. Who is the customer? Certainly not the person partaking of the service. Where’s the competition? None to speak of outside of bidding for the initial contract, and bids are a terrible proxy for actual markets. Imagine if instead of buying stuff down at the store you accepted a bid from a grocer who then delivered your groceries and said “Whoops, we went over budget, but you signed a contract saying you’d pay us so…”

    Prisons and related services are necessarily a local monopoly. No principle in economics says that government monopolies perform any worse than government-sponsored private monopolies (and in practice the opposite is quite clearly the case). It’s just rabid anti-government sentiment and nothing else.

  • Are we in a period of history where we are discovering what the limits of corporations and human empathy/decency are? This honestly looks like one of the biggest defining features of this time. Is it something in the psychological nature of being a company with shareholders and primary driving forces of business? Or is there something to the number of levels of authority and the social isolation of the top and bottom from one another?

    I’m training to get into a new career (pharmacy technician) because I’m not suited for my old one and now I discover that there are these similar pressures to increase profits at any cost legal and illegal (as long as it can be hidden). Especially with CVS. You hit old numbers and benchmarks and there is no such thing as being good enough or efficient enough. Meeting goals and quotas is looked at like they need to apply more pressure no matter what everyone went through to meet the last ones all so they can squeeze just a bit more money out.

    I want to see some new constitutional principals come out of this age and they would be of the sort that would make most Libertarians I talk to go into a frothing rage.

  • colnago80

    Of course,it was MH’s hero Ronnie the rat who zealously pushed privatization of Government functions via the A76 statute.

  • trucreep

    This is the problem with privatizing social services, just like education. The ultimate goal of a private organization is PROFIT (as it should be), but that has no place in education or corrections. That is because the number one cannot and should not be profit.

  • Johnny Vector

    Hey colnago, can you please shut your hole about Heath until after he says something? I don’t know what that stick is up your peegoo, or how it got there, but it’s no longer amusing watching you flatulate about this particular strawman.


  • colnago80

    Re Johnny Vector @ #6

    I think it is fair comment as MH has made it perfectly clear so that there be no misunderstanding on numerous comments on this blog that Ronnie the rat is his hero. In fact, he did it as recently as today. See attached link.

    Trebuchet writes:

    Reagan, of course, also illegally provided weapons to Iran.

    A red herring to get the tribe to avoid dealing with the president so many zealous liberals are incapable of conceding enjoyed some big success.

    What’s particularly lame about this one is how trivial this issue was relative to the importance of the Cold War.

  • dogmeat

    If you remind them that just because one country does something doesn’t make it a good idea, they’ll blink stupidly and repeat that these are *Americans* who have done this….and therefore, we have to do it, too…

    Ironically, we have the opposite argument from our conservatives who don’t want to do anything other countries have done despite it working because, well, we’re “MUIKKKA!!!!!”

    Perfect example, is of course, healthcare reform.

  • See? Government can’t work. It can’t even privatize properly.

  • Which raises the question of how much anti-government activity corrupts government that would actually work well if it were not for the massive bias against government held by many politicians on the political right. It’s hard to get a fix on what efficiency issues really exist in government when you have some politicians undermining government and then going “see?”.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I trust that the Canadians who admire the USA so much will also adopt the Electoral College and an independent Executive Branch.

  • Unfortunately, state run prisons and probation services are often just as bad, with the states seeing them as “businesses” that must be self-fund, if not profitable.

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  • Lyle

    Brony @3:

    Especially with CVS. You hit old numbers and benchmarks and there is no such thing as being good enough or efficient enough.

    This is the nature of the retail industry. The goal is to drive up profit margin even while revenue shrinks. That keeps shareholders (read: board members, high-level executives, and other rich people that can afford large numbers of shares) making money for doing little to no actual work for the company.