SPLC sues private probation company, Alabama city over racketeering scheme
By Sarah Ford on March 17, 2015
When Roxanne Reynolds couldn’t pay the fines from traffic tickets in Clanton, Alabama, the city court put her on “pay-only” probation – a form of probation with the sole purpose of collecting fines, fees and related court costs.
Her probation meant she had to leave her job to visit the office of Judicial Correction Services (JCS) once a month to pay $145. But the money wasn’t all going toward her fines. JCS, a private, for-profit company, pocketed $40 each time – prolonging her ordeal and deepening her financial struggle.
Reynolds earned very little on an assembly line making automobile parts. Plus, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had to miss three months of work. When she fell behind on her payments, a JCS employee threatened her with jail. She did everything she could to pay. She ignored her mounting medical and utility bills. Once, she barely ate for a week. She was terrified about what would happen to her health in jail.
Last year, Reynolds was finally able to pay off her debt – after 15 months and a four-day stint in jail. But many others are facing a similar situation.