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Private prison bill surrenders our rights


April 06, 2014
Though Georgia Republicans earned a victory for gun rights in the Georgia State Legislature, they simultaneously ceded the civil liberties of its citizens over to private prison companies.

House Bill 837 didn’t get a whole lot of attention relative to the fact that Georgians can now bring guns into bars and churches, but the bills that do genuine damage rarely do.

If signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal, private companies will not have to disclose how much probationers pay local governments, nor will the companies have to report how many people are in their control – this despite a system paid for by tax dollars.

Additionally, the bill allows for private companies to extend probation indefinitely and to collect additional fees.

Sarah Geraghty, an attorney representing the South Center for Human Rights, told The Chronicle the bill is “a gift to the private probation industry.” She may not be entirely wrong. The bill was introduced to the floor by Republican Sen. Jesse Stone of Waynesboro, who also happens to be a candidate for a judgeship in Burke County, which contracts many of its needs out to private prison industries.

Coincidentally, The Chronicle also reports the bill was introduced shortly after lawsuits were filed in Richmond and Columbia [counties] to challenge the constitutionality of private companies carrying out judicial processes, as well as a judicial ruling in 2013 that blocked private companies from extending probationary sentences on their own, meaning they had to pay back thousands of dollars to taxpayers – threats the private prison will now consider neutralized in Georgia.

This bill is another aggressive move toward drivers in the state of Georgia – one of the few states which considers traffic violations as misdemeanors, and thus put anyone driving a car at the risk of private probation.

Super speeder laws continue to rake in money for local police departments, while the new police force in Milton seems hired to fine anybody driving slightly over the speed limit. Georgia’s hefty asset forfeiture laws – described as “among the worst in the country and the very worst in the South,” by Joel Aaron Foster of Americans for Prosperity Georgia while a bill to reform the system lay dormant on the House floor – allow police to seize anything suspected of using in a criminal activity, including cars and cash. So much for innocent until proven guilty.

These bills contribute to big profits for the industry, which makes its money purely off those in prison or probation – money which should go back to the taxpayers who fund the system. In the last quarter of 2012, Sentinel Offender Services controlled 254,000 Georgians serving probation on misdemeanor terms, resulting in $1.8 million for the company in one month alone.

It is one thing to pass a law in the name of safety or good economics. It is another thing to pass a bill that has popular support.

But our government should never pass bills that surrender our rights, or our tax money, to private companies – certainly not from the party that supposedly represents strong individual rights.

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Tags: Community & Outreach

  1. report print email
    Milton Police
    April 10, 2014 | 10:23 AM

    Milton police are subject to the same state laws that govern the issuance of speeding tickets as every other municipality in the state.

    Citations are not issued for being slightly over the speed limit unless you are in a school zone.

    In other areas you must be 10 miles over the limit before you can be cited by an officer tracking your speed with a radar/laser device.

    Maybe your just another one of those folks that doesn't like having to follow the limits?

    Travis Allen
    Milton
  2. report print email
    You "must" be 10 over the limit?
    April 12, 2014 | 09:16 PM

    In what areas are you referring to Travis? I know several law enforcement personnel and have even gone one patrol with one of them years ago on traffic patrol duty.

    It's up to the officer to determine who gets pulled over and who does not when the driver is going over the limit. Most will give you between 5-7mph over.

    But when you approach 7-8 and definitely 10 over the limit, no matter WHERE you are, you up your odds significantly of getting not only pulled over, but a ticket. It depends on 1) the mood of the officer (they call it being at their "discretion") and 2) the conditions of the road, not the least of which are weather conditions, visibility, and the road itself (if it has hills, curves, in a neighborhood where kids are, etc.).

    Burt
    Alpharetta
  3. report print email
    Clarification
    April 18, 2014 | 10:50 AM

    In reference to the statement "Super speeder laws continue to rake in money for local police departments..."

    For clarification, local police departments do not receive any revenue from O.C.G.A. 40-6-189 commonly known as the "super speeder" law. In fact, the fine is paid directly to the Georgia Department of Driver Services and is handled after the citation is processed in the local court.

    The fines collected are placed in the state general fund and are to fund Georgia's trauma care hospitals. I believe The Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services is tasked with accounting of these funds. It may be able to assist you with additional information.

    In regards to "slightly" over the speed limit and speeding fines collected by the City of Milton, I would be glad to provide more specific information upon request.

    Thank you.
    Chief D. Harrell


    Chief D. Harrell
    City of Milton
  4. report print email
    Clarification
    April 18, 2014 | 10:51 AM

    In reference to the statement "Super speeder laws continue to rake in money for local police departments..."

    For clarification, local police departments do not receive any revenue from O.C.G.A. 40-6-189 commonly known as the "super speeder" law. In fact, the fine is paid directly to the Georgia Department of Driver Services and is handled after the citation is processed in the local court.

    The fines collected are placed in the state general fund and are to fund Georgia's trauma care hospitals. I believe The Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services is tasked with accounting of these funds. It may be able to assist you with additional information.

    In regards to "slightly" over the speed limit and speeding fines collected by the City of Milton, I would be glad to provide more specific information upon request.

    Thank you.
    Chief D. Harrell


    Chief D. Harrell
    City of Milton
  5. report print email
    RE: Clarification
    April 18, 2014 | 11:10 AM

    Thank you for the clarification. That was sloppy on my part.


    James
    Alpharetta
  6. report print email
    Another Clarification...
    May 12, 2014 | 09:02 PM

    First of all, I agree whole heartedly with the article. Enforcement of the State's police power is a sacred trust, not a for-profit enterprise. It is the rankest form of corruption and invites abuse. The recent history of private probation services in this state is one of dismal failure. Augusta's experience is one telling example.

    The 10mph grace that local police/sheriff must afford the driver prior to issuing a speeding ticket does NOT apply to the Ga. State Patrol or other traffic enforcement with statewide jurisdiction. Also this only applies to speeding tickets based on radar/laser detection devices. Local traffic enforcement have other methods available to them to which the 10mph grace does not apply.

    Phillip
    Johns Creek
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