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ACLU of Kentucky

New ACLU-KY Report: Private Probation in Kentucky

After investigations, report recommends courts abandon private probation or adopt major reforms to ensure adequate oversight

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky issued a report on the status of private probation companies in Kentucky. The report comes after the organization conducted two, months’ long investigations into private probation in 2015 and 2017.

In summarizing the need for the report, ACLU of Kentucky Executive Director Michael Aldridge stated, “This report is the most comprehensive summary of Kentucky’s private probation industry that has ever been created.” He added, “Even with the modest record keeping requirements that currently exist, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has not, to date, been able to identify the private probation companies that operate in the Commonwealth, where they are located, how many cases they handle, or whether they are doing at least as well as other alternatives.”

ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director William Sharp stated, “Private probation companies have thus far been a largely opaque and unaccountable component of our criminal justice system. With this report, we hope to shine the light on their operations and force the Court of Justice to exercise meaningful oversight of them.”

In addition to problems related to transparency and oversight, Kentucky’s use of private probation companies also creates disparities in justice administration because probationers in districts that use private probation services will necessarily be required to pay for services that are not imposed upon probationers in other districts.

The ACLU of Kentucky recommends a number of commonsense solutions to address the obvious shortcomings in the current regulatory framework for utilizing and overseeing these companies including: designating a specific office within AOC to be responsible for oversight of private probation companies, requiring district court judges to report the status of private probation companies to AOC, and routine audits of private probation companies operating in the Commonwealth.

Read the full report here.