A private probation company in Tennessee is violating racketeering laws by jailing impoverished people who fail to pay court fines for traffic violations and misdemeanor offenses, and by refusing to waive fees for the indigent, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday. In the lawsuit, seven probationers, many of them sick or disabled and living on as little as $129 a month in food stamps, say they lost housing, jobs and cars, sold their blood plasma and went without food after repeated threats by the company that they would be jailed if they could not pay. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Nashville, alleges that the county and the company, Providence Community Corrections in Rutherford County, southeast of Nashville, are violating racketeering laws by extorting money through “the wrongful use of fear.” … Providence Community Corrections targeted probationers who had some fixed income, like disability payments, and repeatedly threatened them with jail if they did not bring in money, the lawsuit says. On at least two occasions, receipts submitted by two plaintiffs show, their entire payments were applied to their probation fees while their court cost balance remained the same. One plaintiff, Cindy Rodriguez, originally owed the court $578. After a year on probation, though she had paid nearly that much to the company, she still owed $512, she says in the lawsuit.
Private Probation Company Called An Unregulated Tool for Corruption
Source: Liz Potocsnak, Courthouse News Service, Thursday, January 27, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – A class action accuses a private probation company of bilking and extorting probationers who must pay for its services. The class claims that Providence Community Corrections, which operates in 45 states, triples the probation term of its average “client” so it can milk monthly supervision fees from them, charges far more in fees than the courts or service providers do, and does it all without an agency to regulate it, or to whom probationers can complain. And the class notes that there are “obvious and inherent problems associated with judges owning an interest in private probation companies.”