Probation monitoring costs can vary county by county.
ELIZABETHTOWN -- Getting busted with a small amount of fake marijuana led to a more expensive lesson in criminal justice than Timothy Lee Cook could have imagined.
Cook, 54, agreed to a plea deal in Hardin County District Court last summer that kept him out of jail, but cost him $186 in fines and court fees. He couldn't afford it himself. Bedeviled by mental disorders, he hasn't held a job for more than 20 years. His 74-year-old mother put up the money.
Now Cook is tasting the cost of probation. Every month for two years, he has to pay a $25 monitoring fee to a company that serves as a privatized probation agency. Had he been arrested in one of the many Kentucky counties that monitor misdemeanor offenders themselves, the service wouldn't have cost him a dime. And if Cook's probation company had based its fee on his ability to pay, as district judges are supposed to ensure, his monitoring would be free or discounted.
Cook's was one of 38,780 state misdemeanor cases that ended with probated jail sentences in 2015. How many of those went to private companies is anyone's guess because no one keeps track. The companies operate under no contracts, no legal agreements with the state, counties or the courts they serve. No one in the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts knows how many such companies operate in the state, which counties they serve, how many defendants they monitor or how much they charge. No state agency monitors the monitors....