On September 16, 2013, an Augusta Georgia Area Superior Court Judge in a class action lawsuit against Sentinel Offender Services found that Sentinel Offender Services (hereinafter “Sentinel”) has been illegally providing private probation services in the Augusta area for over ten years.
First, O.C.G.A. 42-8-100(g)(1) provides that the chief judge of any court within the county, with the approval of the governing authority of that county, is…authorized to enter into written contracts with [private] corporations…to provide probation supervision… Neither Sentinel nor the Chief Judge obtained approval from the governing authorities of Columbia or Richmond County Georgia. That made the original contract illegal and the probation supervision by Sentinel in violation of State law. Further, the Contract was never properly renewed as required by the Statute.
Second, a court with a private probation provider can not toll a probation order until the offender is found and brought to court, drug test, supervise mental health screening and counseling, or supervisor electronic monitoring devices. O.C.G.A. 42-8-36 allows courts to toll or suspend a probation sentence by any offender who absconds during the term of his sentence upon submission of an affidavit by the probation officer. O.C.G.A. 42-8-35.7 confers the authority to perform drug and alcohol screens by probation officers. O.C.G.A. 42-8-35.6 provides the authority of probation officers to supervise mental health screening and counseling. O.C.G.A. 42-8-35.6 provides the authority to monitor electronic monitoring devices. However, O.C.G.A. 42-8-30.1 prohibits this from being done in counties with private probation providers.
Third, Sentinel may have to give back the money it has illegally collected from probationers it supervised.