In 2018, Matthew Piers, Chirag Badlani and Kate Schwartz of HSPRD, together with co-counsel in Washington, D.C. and Nashville, TN, filed a Class Action Complaint against Giles County, Tennessee and two private for-profit probation companies, challenging their user-funded model of probation. Plaintiffs later amended their Complaint to include an Equal Protection and Due Process claim relating to the County’s practice of jailing indigent probationers arrested on violation-of-probation warrants, solely because they cannot afford a monetary payment.
Yesterday, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction on that claim, finding that the system of setting secured bail in Giles County is constitutionally deficient. The Giles County Sheriff is now enjoined from detaining misdemeanor probationers based on a secured financial condition of release (i.e. “money bail”) on violation of probation warrants, unless the warrant is accompanied by a record showing the money bail amount was imposed after notice to the arrestee, an opportunity for the arrestee to be heard, and findings regarding the arrestee’s ability to pay and the court’s consideration of alternatives to money bail and whether detention is necessary to meet a compelling government interest.
“Jailing people solely because they cannot afford to pay for their release has devastating consequences for individuals struggling with poverty and for their surrounding communities,” said Kate Schwartz, one of HSPRD’s newest partners, who helped litigate the motion. “The injunction is a critical step toward righting that unconstitutional practice in Giles County, which, for far too long, has obstructed equal access to justice for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. “
HSPRD admires the dedication of its team members Kate, Chirag, and Matthew, and their co-counsel from the Civil Rights Corps, in Washington D.C., and Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, and attorney Kyle Mothershead, in Nashville, Tennessee, who continue to work diligently on challenging the unconstitutional practices of private probation supervision in Giles County.
If you have any questions, please contact Kate Schwartz.