Probation company to pay damages to three Clanton residents

By STEVEN CALHOUN/Staff Writer

Judicial Correction Services will pay damages to three people in Clanton who were allegedly threatened with jail by the private probation company.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against JCS in March of 2015. The SPLC accused JCS of extorting payments from probationers. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Clanton terminated its contract with JCS in May of 2015, in the midst of the SPLC’s lawsuit against the company. According to the SPLC, the city was accused of formalizing a relationship with JCS through an illegal contract that violated Alabama law prohibiting the charge of probation fees in city court.

“We didn’t settle it with [JSC], we just fired them,” Mayor Billy Joe Driver said. “We’ve pretty well done what we’re supposed to do, which is get rid of them.”

The city had signed a contract with JCS in 2009 to allow the company to collect payments from people who could not afford court fees and fines.

According to SPLC, the probationers were placed on pay-only probation, with the sole purpose of JCS being the collection of their court debts.

Offenders reportedly had to pay a set-up fee of $10 and then appear in the JCS office at least once a month to pay $145.

According to SPLC, $40 out of that monthly payment went to JCS as profit. Then, when people were behind on their payments, JCS continued collecting its fee and made people report more often so the company could demand more money.

Roxanne Reynolds was on probation and making payments to JCS over traffic fines. Reynolds worked at an auto parts assembly line and was unable to work for up to months at a time due to multiple sclerosis.

According to SPLC, the probation company threatened to send her to jail if she could not make her payments. JCS told her that her condition was no excuse for not paying.

Reynolds paid her debt of more than $1,600 and an additional $600 in fees to JCS over the course of 15 months. She often went without groceries and ignored medical bills to pay the company, she told SPLC.

“Anytime I left the JCS building, I would break down and cry,” Reynolds said. “I know I would to go jail if I couldn’t pay them. If I went to jail, I would lose my job and health insurance.”

The case of Roxanne Reynolds, et al. V. Judicial Correction Services, Inc., et al. has reached a settlement, the terms of which are confidential.

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