In Small-Town Georgia, A Broken Taillight Can Lead to Spiraling Debt


80 percent of individuals on misdemeanor probation in Georgia are supervised by a private company.

Georgia is one of the few states that criminalize traffic fines and allow localities to outsource misdemeanor probation supervision to private companies that are permitted to charge fees. This article details this practice and how it can exacerbate financial hardships through the personal stories of individuals who lacked the ability to pay their traffic fines and then were arrested and sentenced to probation. Lynn Davis experienced this first hand. Davis owed about $2,000 in traffic fines from over ten years, was incarcerated for almost two weeks for failure to appear, and was issued five consecutive 12-month sentences of probation. Over these five years, she will have to pay $2,640 in probation supervision fees, placing her further behind on her bills. In 2015, Georgia passed HB310, which imposed a three-month cap on supervision fees for pay-only probation cases, but Judges continue to find loopholes.  

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Nick Barber
In These Times