Georgia’s private probation industry is facing another legal challenge.
Augusta attorney Jack Long filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brunswick challenging probation services contracts between a private probation company and local courts.
The new lawsuit alleges that a contract between Providence Community Corrections and Wayne County State Court is unconstitutional because it limits to 10 percent the number of probationers who can get free or reduced supervision fees because they are indigent. "The number of indigents who are entitled to a reduced fee is limited to 10 percent, despite the fact that far more of the probationers are indigent," the suit says, noting that the poverty rate in Wayne County is more than 22 percent.
The lawsuit also alleges the contract is not valid because the local officials who approved the contract in 2009 are no longer in office.
The lawsuit seeks class action status.
Long is the attorney whose case against Sentinel Offender Services led to a stunning ruling last year by the Georgia Supreme Court, which found that Georgia law did not authorize judges to place misdemeanor probation cases on hold if a probationer stopped reporting. The ruling, along with widespread problems identified in the state's approach to misdemeanor probation, led the General Assembly to pass legislation this year
requiring significant changes in the system.