Private Probation Company Agrees to Stop Drug Testing People Absent Court Order

31st January, 2017
Southern Center for Human Rights

CLEVELAND, GEORGIA – In a preliminary federal court consent order, Sentinel Offender Services, LLC, has agreed to stop requiring people on probation to submit to and pay for drug tests that no court has ordered.

 

The consent order was entered in Luse, et al. v. Sentinel Offender Services, LLC, et al., a federal civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.  The lawsuit was filed by Rita Sanders Luse and Marianne Ligocki on behalf of a class of people sentenced to probation by the White County Probate Court in Cleveland, Georgia.  The defendants are Sentinel Offender Services, LLC, and Sentinel probation officer Stacy McDowell-Black.

 

The plaintiffs allege that Sentinel has a practice of forcing probationers to provide urine samples, submit to drug testing, and pay testing fees, absent any lawful authority.  Many of the people subjected to this practice, including Ms. Luse and Ms. Ligocki, are on probation for traffic tickets that have nothing to do with drugs, alcohol, or substance abuse.  Ms. Luse, a 62-year-old grandmother on a limited income, received a ticket for driving without a license.  She was placed on probation only because she was unable to pay a fine on the day of court.  While on probation, she had to submit to repeated urine tests and pay Sentinel nearly $60 in unauthorized fees.  Ms. Ligocki was also placed on probation for driving without a license and was required to submit to repeated drug screening. 

 

The Honorable Richard W. Story entered the consent order today at the joint request of Ms. Luse, Ms. Ligocki, and Sentinel, to resolve Ms. Luse’s and Ms. Ligocki’s motion for a preliminary injunction.  The order provides that Sentinel “shall not require probationers sentenced by the Probate Court of White County, Georgia, to submit to drug screening unless the screening is specifically authorized by a written order of said Court.”

  

The consent order is temporary and Sentinel continues to deny wrongdoing.  The company has alleged in other court filings that probationers freely agreed to undergo urinalysis, and that the plaintiffs’ claims must be sent to a private arbitrator due to paperwork that the company requires probationers to sign.  The plaintiffs have asked the District Court to enter a permanent injunction after further proceedings.  The case now enters the discovery phase.

 

 “If there is a legitimate government interest in testing probationers’ bodily fluids and charging them for it, an impartial judge, not a private company, should make that determination applying constitutional limitations,” said SCHR attorney, Sarah Geraghty. 

 

To read the Complaint, click here.

To read the Consent Order, click here.

To read the Order of 1/13/17 conditionally approving the settlement, click here

To read the Notice of Class Action, click here.

To read the Response form, click here.

 

Click here for more information.