News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Augusta's 15-year relationship with Sentinel Probation just got longer.
Commissioners approved a year contract extension with the company that monitors those sentenced to probation by the courts.
Some are not pleased with that decision, especially with multiple pending lawsuits. Almost as soon as the gavel lands, the fines, fees and court costs start for those given probation.
"I'm trying to get a little bit of work here and there, but the fees down here are just crazy," said Probationer Dale Sweeney.
Sweeney comes to Augusta weekly from Burke County. Sweeney says he was charged with writing bad checks and placed on probation. His total fines with the monthly $25 probation fee come to more than $700.
"Sometimes I ask myself if there's a way out," said Sweeney.
"It seems like the more they get us into the system, The more money they get," said Sweeney.
"I'm very much concerned about the way probationers are treated," said Commissioner Donnie Smith.
Commissioners Smith and Alvin Mason took State Court Judge Richard Slaby to task asking over several lawsuits against the company. It was also mentioned that the company was throwing people in jail for non-payment of probation service.
Judge Slaby denies that claim. Commissioner Mason upset Judge Slaby when he asked whether any of the judges will reap a profit from the company.
"For anybody to suggest that any of the judges have a financial interest in this company is totally unfounded. I'm not going to stand for that kind of an allegation," said Judge Slaby.
Sweeney says he'll continue to pay his dues and hopefully get back on track.