Fighting Abusive Private Probation Practices

Equal Justice Under Law and the law firm Baker Donelson filed a landmark RICO and constitutional class action lawsuit in federal court in Nashville challenging the pervasive extortion and debtors’ prison conspiracy that has devastated thousands of the most impoverished people in Rutherford County, Tennessee.

Our six-month investigation — initially led with a team of Harvard Law School Students on Spring Break — exposed rampant corruption, racketeering, and constitutional violations pervading the Rutherford County probation system, which the County has handed over in a monopoly no-bid contract to a company called PCC, Inc.  The County pays the company nothing, and the company must earn its millions of dollars in annual profits by extorting money from the impoverished people that it is supposed to be supervising.

Every day, PCC, Inc. illegally threatens indigent and disabled people that the company will have them arrested and that they will be jailed if they do not pay the company enough money.  Every day, people are arrested, revoked, assessed more fees, and trapped in a cycle of debt, endless probation extensions, and jail.

Equal Justice Under Law and its partners first won an emergency order from the federal court in Nashville blocking the County and the company from arresting and jailing two of our clients. On December 17, 2015, the court issued a landmark preliminary injunction ruling protecting thousands of additional misdemeanor probationers, ordering the release of those illegally jailed and preventing the company and the County from illegally keeping impoverished misdemeanor probationers in jail solely because of their inability to pay. We will continue to fight against the abusive practices of PCC, Inc.

You can watch videos and read some of the coverage of our work on the case here: