February 5, 2014

Profiting from Probation

America’s “Offender-Funded” Probation Industry

Summary
Recommendations
To State Governments where Privatized Misdemeanor Probation is Permitted
To Courts and Local Governments that Use Private Probation Companies
To Probation Companies
Methodology
I. Background: Why Privatize Probation Services?
Probation in Misdemeanor Cases
Financial Pressures on Local Courts and Low-Income Offenders
II. Overview of the Private Probation Industry
The “Offender-Funded” Business Model
Scale and Economics of the Industry
Major Players
Judicial Correction Services
Sentinel Offender Services
III. Probation Fees, Financial Hardship, and the Poor
Supervision Fees
“Pay Only” Probation
Supervision Fees and “Pay Only” Probation: A Tax on Poverty
Pretrial Supervision Fees
The Crushing Costs of Other Probation Company Fees and Services
Electronic Monitoring and Alcohol Monitoring
Drug Testing
“Moral Reconation Therapy” and Other Services
IV. Ignoring Offenders’ Inability to Pay
Conflicts of Interest
V. “I Hope You Have My Money”:  Abusive Collection Tactics
Threats of Incarceration
Jailing Offenders to Induce Payment
Hidden Costs to the Public
VI. Where Responsibility Lies:  Companies, Courts, and Governments
Local Realities: Little Oversight and Unfettered Company Discretion
Inappropriate Delegation of Court Responsibilities
Weak State Government Oversight
Georgia: A Credible Model With Serious Flaws
Other States: Weak or Nonexistent Oversight
VII. Human Rights Norms and  “Offender-Funded” Probation
Acknowledgments