by Derek Gilna
In July 2016, Pathways community Corrections, a private probation company, announced that it had voluntarily ceased operations in Tennessee following a series of complaints, a federal lawsuit and an investigation by state officials that uncovered evidence the company had unfairly extracted money from poor probationers. According to Kevin Walter, communications director for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, which filed a complaint against Pathways in 2015, “They no longer provide any private probationary services in Tennessee.”
Things started going bad for Pathways – formerly known as Providence Community Corrections – after a federal lawsuit exposed a scheme in which probationers were held in jail for lack of funds to post bail while wealthier offenders were allowed to bond out. A federal class-action filed by affected probationers in Rutherford County, Tennessee resulted in an injunction that prevented the company from issuing arrest warrants with a bond requirement when people couldn’t afford to pay. [See: PLN, Nov. 2016, p.42].
According to the lawsuit, Pathways engaged in a conspiracy “to funnel misdemeanor probation cases in which court debts are owed to a private company, which then extorts money out of individuals who have no ability to pay court costs, let alone private fees.” Rutherford County had hired the company to assist in collecting fees from people convicted of misdemeanors in General Sessions court.
Although Pathways contended it complied “steadfastly” with laws in every jurisdiction in which it operated, the attorneys in the class-action suit alleged that probationers had lost their homes and employment, and gone without food and clothing, to pay excessive “supervision fees,” and spent years trapped “in a culture of fear and panic” due to the company’s practices.
Faced with a deadline to settle the case or go to trial, Pathways voluntarily surrendered its license to operate in the state of Tennessee. The lawsuit remains pending, with settlement discussions ongoing. See: Rodriguez v. Pathways Community Corrections, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 3:15-cv-01048.
Pathways’ parent company was recently acquired by Molina Healthcare, Inc., which indicated that it “decided to stop providing private probation services in Tennessee and other states” according to a voluntary surrender submission to Tennessee’s Private Probation Services Council. “Molina determined after the acquisitions that it would wind down [Pathways] operations and cease probation services,” an attorney representing the company said in July 2016.
While the private probation industry continues to operate in a number of states – particularly in the South – at least one company will no longer be involved in providing for-profit probation services.
Sources: www.dnj.com, www.murfreesboropost.com
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Related legal case
Rodriguez v. Pathways Community Corrections
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 3:15-cv-01048|