Samantha Bee has come up with a new kind of March Madness this week, for those of you who can’t stand to watch any more basketball because your brackets have been wrecked. But be warned: The late-night host’s version is also difficult to stomach.
On her show, Full Frontal, on Monday night, Bee awarded an MVP of private probation corporations—companies that earn huge profits by contracting with court systems to monitor probationers. These probationers, Bee explains, are often low-income people charged with minor offenses like traffic violations, and when they can’t afford to pay the fines imposed by the for-profit probation companies, they’re jailed.
“Which firm managed to distinguish itself from the shit pile of other predatory companies,” she asked, to earn the MVPPC, or the Most Valuable Private Probation Corporation? It was Georgia-based Sentinel Offender Services, which, according to Bee, set up its own “March Madness” bonus program, in which its employees earn cash prizes if they meet or exceed their office’s monthly revenue forecast. “As if levying fines and surcharges on people too poor to pay tickets isn’t its own reward,” Bee said. And how do they bring in more money? Sometimes they lobby judges to release probationers they helped put in jail, Bee learned, or they allegedly force probationers to pay fees for drug tests that were never ordered by courts.
“Any March Madness fan knows that offense is key, and when it comes to how they treat the people of Georgia, nobody is more offensive than Sentinel,” Bee said. “Their ethics are offensive, their policies are offensive, their whole company is offensive. Unfortunately, they lack defense: Seriously, there’s no defense for incentivizing probation collection, and that could really hurt them on the court—I’m sorry, in the court—because, oh yeah, Sentinel is currently in court being sued for illegally forcing middle-aged ladies to squeeze out urine and $15 dollars for the privilege.”
Watch the full clip above, and check out Mother Jones‘ investigation into “the wild, shadowy, and highly lucrative bail industry” while you’re at it.