Bainbridge ends contract with Red Hills Community Probation

Published 5:41 pm Friday, May 22, 2015

Municipal Court of Bainbridge Judge Joshua Bell notified Red Hills Community Probation, LLC that the court was terminating its contract with the probation company.

In a May 11 letter addressed to Red Hills CEO Margaret Crutchfield, Bell stated that the termination will be effective 30 days from that date.

Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said that Bell had various reasons for the sudden termination of services, but did not detail those reasons.

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“It was nothing specifically Bainbridge-related as he’s cutting the ties with [Red Hills] in all of his courts,” Hobby said. “We gave him that authority to choose the probation company he works with. He said he would begin interviewing companies and have someone in place within the 30 days.”

Bell did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

According to the service agreement between Red Hills and the court, Bainbridge has used Red Hills’ services since 2008, just over a year after Bell became Bainbridge’s municipal court judge in April of 2007.

The termination of services comes one month after a federal, class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Albany against the private probation company by Atlanta non-profit Southern Center of Human Rights.

The suit alleges that employees of the Cairo-based Red Hills wrongfully detained and jailed indigent probationers in Bainbridge and Pelham. According to the suit, Red Hills officers demanded a payment from the plaintiffs before they were allowed to leave the courthouse on the days they were sentenced to probation, threatening to jail them if they did not pay. The suit claims that this was made possible through the involvement of city police officers. The suit also alleges Red Hills demanded continued payment from probationers after their probation periods ended.

Crutchfield, two Red Hills probation officers, the cities of Bainbridge and Pelham, former Bainbridge Public Safety Director Eric Miller, Pelham Chief of Police Nealie McCormick and six Bainbridge and Pelham police officers are defendants in the suit.