Last week, an important ruling regarding private probation firms mishandling of sentences for those charged with a punishable offense such as a traffic ticket or other minor violation for which they could not afford to pay, came down in Georgia’s Supreme Court. The sentences, including fines, fees and probation for less severe criminal charges such as no proof of insurance, excessive speeding or marijuana possession and other violations, were extended or increased by a private probation firm, Sentinel Offender Services. The trial court found that potentially, thousands of Georgians had their sentences illegally extended and paid inflated fees.
The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the lower courts’ finding that these firms did not have the legal authority to compound punishment by extending probation sentences when individuals can’t pay, a practice known as “tolling.” The goal of the plaintiffs, to invalidate the states authorization of private probation firms which has been loose and heavily criticized by many lawmakers, was not achieved by this ruling. Sentinel Offender Services, the firm rebuked in this particular case