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HRDC Private prison fact sheet - Probation and Parole 2015

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Human Rights Defense Center

Private Prisons: Parole and Probation
A growing trend in the private prison industry is the encroachment of for-profit companies in the
area of community supervision, including parole and probation.
While no state parole systems have been privatized, a number of parole agencies use electronic
monitoring services provided by private companies. The largest such company, B.I., Inc., which
also provides electronic monitoring for immigrants awaiting hearings under a contract with ICE,
is a subsidiary of GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison firm.
A number of other companies offer full-scale probation services, including Judicial Correction
Services (JCS) and Sentinel Offender Services. JCS provides probation services to more than
100 Alabama courts, as well as court systems in Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. Other private
probation companies include Georgia Probation Services and CSRA Probation Services.
Under their business model, these firms, which primarily operate in the Southern states, provide
supervision for probationers and collect court fees, restitution and other costs, and also impose
their own fees. The costs are typically borne by those on probation, not by the court system or
government agency with which the companies contract.
There have been many reported abuses as a result of this business model, including for-profit
probation companies having people jailed simply because they cannot pay their fees, or seeking
to have their probation extended so they can continue to pay, or in some cases demanding fees
even after people have completed their term of probation.
Private probation companies have an incentive to maximize their revenue through fee collection
rather than help offenders successfully complete their probation and reduce recidivism rates.
“The privatization of misdemeanor probation has placed unprecedented law enforcement
authority in the hands of for-profit companies that act essentially as collection agencies,” the
Southern Center for Human Rights stated in a July 2008 report.
An increasing number of lawsuits have challenged abuses by private probation companies, with
mixed results.

Please reply to Tennessee office:
5331 Mt. View Road #130, Antioch, TN 37013
Phone: 615.495.6568 • Fax: 866.735.7136

On July 11, 2012, Shelby County, Alabama Circuit Court Judge Hub Harrington entered an order
in a lawsuit that essentially took control over a municipal court due to an “institutional, egregious
and undisputed pattern and practice of Constitutional and statutory violations,” which he wrote
“could reasonably be characterized as the operation of a debtors’ prison” and constituted a
“judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” The suit alleged abuses by JCS, which contracted with
the City of Childersburg to provide probation and fee collection services.
On September 16, 2013, a Georgia superior court issued a combined ruling in multiple lawsuits
seeking injunctive relief and damages against Sentinel Offender Services; the suits claimed the
company had “unlawfully collected excessive supervision fees and employed other procedures to
obtain money from probationers.” On appeal, Georgia’s Supreme Court declined to rule on the
constitutionality of private probation services in a November 2014 opinion, but held that people
who were victimized by probation companies could seek recovery of their losses.
Despite the problems with for-profit probation, court systems continue to contract with private
probation companies, partly due to budget constraints which make them appear to be a fiscally
attractive option. For example, Sentinel was recently awarded a contract by the Los Angeles
County Sheriff’s Department, valued at $7 million, to monitor up to 1,000 offenders.