Probation company accused of extortion scheme - WSMV Channel 4

Probation company accused of extortion scheme

Posted: Updated: Oct 19, 2015 06:51 PM
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A lawsuit accuses a Rutherford County company of extorting people on probation in a profitable debt collection scheme.

“They don’t care. All they want is money,” said Yolanda Carney, a client of Providence Community Corrections (PCC).

Carney was placed on probation in early 2014. After a year of making payments on court costs and fees added on by the private probation company, she still owes more than when she started.

“How am I going to pay this stuff when you keep adding all this other money on, too?” Carney said.

Carney has paid more than $1,800 toward her court costs. PCC kept $1,300 of that for itself.

Carney lives on a small disability check. When she was short on payments, her PCC probation officer violated her probation.

“They put me in jail,” she said. “They violated me twice, and I didn’t do anything.”

Carney is one of seven plaintiffs who filed a class action lawsuit against PCC last Thursday. The suit calls it an extortion scheme designed to extract as much money as possible from probationers who cannot afford to pay.

Jonathan Cole is the Tennessee lawyer suing PCC, which operates in several states.

PCC has a contract with Rutherford County. The county keeps the court fines, but PCC collects the fees it heaps on top of that. Those who can’t pay go to jail.

“It seems outrageous,” Cole said. “I can’t believe that a situation like this can still happen in 2015. I mean, you read about it in the history books, that somebody, just because they can’t pay, they’re put in prison.”

Cole said the company benefits by keeping clients on probation as long as possible. He added the clients are never told they have a right to ask a judge to waive the fees they can’t pay.

“It’s not legal at all,” Cole said.

Since her lawyers got involved, Carney has worked out an alternate plan to avoid the threat of going to jail and not seeing her grandchildren.

“I won’t get to see them,” she said. “They came to see me yesterday. I won’t get to see them, to hug them, tell them I love them.”

No one from PCC would speak on camera Monday, but the company issued the following statement:

We steadfastly comply with the laws governing the probation system.

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