More and more municipalities are cutting ties with Judicial Correction Services and other private ‘probation’ companies. Here is the latest.
As of Oct. 20, 2015, 115 municipalities across Alabama have cut ties with private probation companies including Judicial Correction Services (JCS). In June, the SPLC sent a letter urging officials in almost 100 municipalities that were using JCS to end their contracts, warning them that the contracts are illegal and that the tactics used by JCS to collect fines can amount to extortion. The SPLC sent additional letters to towns using companies other than JCS. Some of the Alabama municipalities had already severed ties with the JCS and other private probation companies without the SPLC’s urging.
The SPLC filed a lawsuit against JCS and Clanton in March. The city canceled its contract as part of a settlement agreement announced in June. The lawsuit’s claims against JCS of racketeering, extortion and abuse of process are still pending.
Under a contract first awarded in 2009, the city of Clanton put JCS in charge of collecting payments from people who appear in municipal court but cannot afford to pay their fines. People unable to pay immediately were placed on “pay-only probation,” meaning the sole purpose of probation was the collection of fines, fees and related court costs.
After paying a $10 “set-up” fee, they typically had to pay $140 per month and had to report to JCS offices more frequently – sometimes multiple times per week – if they could not bring the entire amount. Out of each monthly payment, $40 went to JCS for its profits. When people fell behind, JCS continued to collect its own fees, effectively extending people’s probation and guaranteeing JCS more money. When people could not pay, company employees threatened to revoke their probation, which would result in jail time.
For more information about the project, read: "Cities across Alabama cancel contracts with company sued by SPLC."