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Flaws revealed in Georgia's for-profit probation system

Georgia's governor, Nathan Deal, took a look at the state's for-profit probation system. After a recent audit, the problems in the current system were highlighted. Instead of attempting to clean up the alleged corruption, the 2014 General Assembly passed a bill that allowed the industry to keep its problems away from public scrutiny. However, Governor Deal has vetoed HB 837.

The big problem with the current system is its negative effect on the poor. The private probation providers often set monthly or weekly payments that are deemed higher than necessary. When probationers cannot meet their financial obligations the fines are increased, jail time may be administered and some have had their probation terms improperly extended. One probationer was unable to pay his probation provider an $80 startup fee, he was placed in jail for almost three months. Before the debt was paid, he owed more than $1,000 in fines to the probation provider.

In addition to the inequity, the audit revealed potential conflicts of interest. The companies that are chosen as probation providers also perform drug and alcohol treatment evaluations that the probationer must pay for. These tests may result in the mandatory attendance in drug and alcohol treatment programs. Oftentimes the clients have no reasonable means of protesting the use of the company. The audit concluded by affirming Georgia's right to outsource elements of the government. However, the report cautions that the state cannot outsource monitoring the services to ensure that they are provided properly.

For anyone who is charged with a crime, it is imperative to build a strong criminal defense strategy that would result in the charges either being reduced or dropped. This can level the playing field in the midst of a flawed probation system.

Source: www.ajc.com, "Ga.'s for-profit probation system a real mess," Jay Bookman, May 2, 2014

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