On Thursday, an Augusta, Ga., judgeissued the latest rebuke against a private probation firm that is holding poor individuals criminally responsible for their failure to pay fees. This time, Sentinel Offender Services had held open an arrest warrant on an individual whose probation term for reckless driving had expired two years earlier. When William Stephen Carter was pulled over for speeding, he was arrested and put in jail for allegedly owing court fines and probation fees. Carter says he already paid all his fees, but he could not get out of jail until he paid the $655 Sentinel said he owed.
The case is one of many challenging this perverse jailing of the poor after they fail to keep up with mounting fees on offenses like rolling through stop signs and public drunkenness. In Georgia, a law passed in part through bribes and corruption that later landed a public official in jail authorizes every county to hire its own private probationers. Georgia is also the only state in which traffic violations are criminal infractions. The result is a dangerous system in which private probation firms are using every means they have to extract funds from low-level offenders, including jail time.
Man Georgia is just awful - and this is coming from someone living in Florida. (we’re pretty bad too.)