A pricey Las Vegas drug and alcohol rehab that is being sued for wrongful death and is owned by a company asked to testify this summer before a Congressional subcommittee about its marketing practices is getting business from an unlikely source — the State of Nevada.
The Nevada Division of Parole and Probation frequently refers offenders to public or non-profit facilities for addiction or mental health treatment, but the state’s partner in the “offender management” field, Sentinel Offender Services, is rocking the boat. It’s also reaping the rewards of a decade-long contract to do the government’s work.
A story last week in The Nevada Independent about new approaches to helping parolees succeed noted that a Department of Parole and Probation employee, Gianna Griffin, found a private drug and alcohol treatment facility for offender Rachel Palmer, a client at the state’s Day Reporting Center.
“So Griffin went on the hunt for help for Palmer, and eventually came up with Solutions Recovery. The program would cost $12,000 — something that seemed prohibitively expensive, until Palmer’s mom agreed to pay for it,” the Independent reported.
When contacted by the Current, Griffin said it was the program’s manager, Justin Lind, an employee of Sentinel Offender Services, who found Solutions Recovery for Palmer. Sentinel Offender Services is contracted by the state to run the Day Reporting Centers in Las Vegas and Reno.
Lind says he was not authorized to discuss the matter and promised a call back from his superior. That call never came, and calls to Sentinel Offender Services were not returned.
Solutions Recovery is owned by American Addiction Centers, one of the nation’s largest drug and alcohol rehab providers. The company’s CEO Michael Cartwright testified last month before a congressional subcommittee investigating the practices of rehab call centers, including AAC’s. Cartwright admitted under oath that until July 1 of this year, AAC’s intake personnel were paid on commission, a practice that’s riddled with conflict, according to experts. AAC is the only company in California history to be charged with homicide, a charge that was later dropped.
“The Parole and Probation Division and the DRC (Day Reporting Center) does not refer offenders to private programs/facilities,” a spokeswoman for the division said via email. “Resources and information to other programs are made available to participants and the information to these resources are also publicly available. The decision to participate in other programs and select a particular facility or program that best suits their needs is the decision of the participant.”
The Division declined to say if Solutions was vetted and what, if any, other private companies were vetted and presented as options to offenders.
Sentinel Offender Services is paid $51,240 a month to provide day services for 200 offenders in Las Vegas and $12,810 a month in Reno to service 50 offenders. At less than $13 a day per offender, the centers are a bargain compared to prison, which runs approximately $50 a day.
Sentinel Offender Services is among the nation’s largest providers of offender-funded parole programs, including in Nevada, where it has a ten-year contract with the state to operate an offender-funded parole and probation system.
In Georgia, the company signed a consent order to stop charging offenders for drug and alcohol testing the offenders were not court-ordered to undergo.
Every day in Nevada, defendants plead guilty to crimes at the behest of defense lawyers, some not realizing they’ll be handcuffed by the fees attached to the plea long after they’ve left the courthouse.
Critics contend offender-funded probation sets up poor offenders for failure.
In 2014, Human Rights Watch wrote that offender-paid probation is “an extremely muscular form of debt collection masquerading as probation supervision…”
“Offenders on pay-only probation could wash their hands of the criminal justice system on the day of their court appearance if only they had the money on hand to pay their fines and court costs immediately and in full. Because they can’t, they are put on probation for periods of up to several years while they gradually pay down their debts to the court. Each month, they are charged an additional ‘supervision fee’ by their probation company, whose only task is to collect their money and monitor whether they are keeping up with scheduled payments.”
Nevada charges all offenders on parole or probation a monthly supervision fee of $30, which generates a little more than $3 million annually, acording to the division’s executive budget for 2018-19.
As of December 2016, Nevada had more than 19,591 parolees, probationers, and offenders on conditional release.
Sentinel Offender Services’ contract with the state says participation in electronic monitoring, which allows offenders to work, is confined to participants who “are prepared to pay their enrollment fee into the program and their first two weeks monitoring fees in advance, that the participant has the ability to pay for the ongoing participation in the program…”
The enrollment fee is $15 and the daily monitoring fee is determined by Sentinel and based on the offender’s hourly wage.
“Participants unable or unwilling to provide financial information will be assessed at the program’s Base Hourly rate of $9,” the company’s contract says.
In addition, Sentinel charges offenders for radio frequency -one times the hourly wage per day for landlines and one and a half times the hourly wage for cell phones.
A list of fees provided by the state indicates that “GPS Case Mgmt plus Breath Alcohol via Cell” can set back an offender $18.50 a day.
Alcohol breath testing and electronic monitoring is $5 a day via a landline phone and $6.50 for a cell phone.
The division says offenders who are unable to pay are eligible for state funding, in which case the state picks up the tab and pays Sentinel.
“Nonpaying participants shall be terminated from the program,” the contract says.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the circumstances under which AAC provided testimony to a congressional subcommittee.