by Max Brantley
Numerous comments from residents, officials and even several local ministers paint a picture of how it profited under the guise of providing a community service.
"We're preying on the least of those living in our community," First Presbyterian Church Pastor Christopher Jones said. "There's no wonder our racial tensions are going through the roof. This is a justice issue, not a Justice Network issue."
Vicki Crego, executive director of the Women's Crisis Center of Northeast Arkansas, told members of the Jonesboro Ministerial Alliance, "Once they get into the system, it's impossible to get out."
They've worked with Craighead County since the early 1990's. Until recently, the fact that there isn't a contract between the county and the company hasn't been an issue, as the state doesn't require a written contract between the two. However now, the subject is being brought to the forefront after the company earned over $310,000 from probationers in Craighead County over the past 5 months alone.So an in-house program was devised and the loss of business prompted a Justice Network lawsuit last week against the judges and county officials. It claims abrogation of their property rights in "contracts" between the Justice Network and defendants to whom the judges have now granted amnesty. The company says it has had to lay off 12 workers from loss of probationers to charge fees.
"It goes to the Justice Network. It's not fed back in part or anything into the county in any way," Justice of the Peace, Ken Stacks explained.
... Justice of the Peace Bob Blankenship's concern is that between the court system and the Justice Network, it's a vicious cycle for those who face fines in the county.
"I talked to one young man and, you know, he did the crime, he got the DUI and he couldn't pay the fines," Blakenship said. "He owed over 4 thousand dollars...because of one DUI. He could not pay it. He could not work out the time because he had a wife and children. It's not fair. It's just not fair," he said.