PSI-Probation Services is husband-wife partnership
By Sparta Live | June 20, 2006 12:00 am
Kim Swindell Wood
When someone envisions a family business, the thoughts of monitoring individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes is seldom considered at the top of the list.
However, for Jay D. Colten and his family, PSI-Probation Services LLC is a family affair. He and wife are the owners of PSI and two sons are probation officers, as well as managers of designated counties where PSI is located.
PSI serves 11 counties in Tennessee including White, Putnam, Cumberland, Overton, Van Buren, Warren, DeKalb, Jackon, Clay, Pickett and Sevier.
Colten, who resides in Cumberland County, is no stranger to the criminal justice system.
“I worked for the state for 15 years,” said Colten, “and that’s one of the reasons I went into privatization is that I saw where the state eventually did not want to deal with misdemeanor cases, because misdemeanor cases receive sentences of 1l months 29 days or less, so if they go to jail, they don’t go to your state prisons, they go back to your county jail.
“In most counties, they don’t have the money to set up probation, so they and the legislature, I think, saw a lot of this, so they passed a statute allowing private companies to operate and set up some guidelines.
“To me, it’s a win-win situation because, number one, the county don’t spend any money. It’s strictly offender-funded. The person that commits the crime is paying for it. The taxpayers aren’t having to pay for it.”
According to Colten, state probation officers only handle felony cases.
“The offenders that are now being placed on probation used to go unsupervised,” said Colten. “For the most part, out of [general] sessions court, most of those folks were unsupervised prior to private probation.
“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had two sons that have helped me. They’re probation officers, and they had to meet the same state qualifications.”
Joel Colten serves as manager for White, Van Buren and Warren counties. Jay Leon Colten manages Cumberland and Sevier counties. Michael Wright serves as a third manager. Jay D. said he has approximately 37 employees.
Jay D.’s wife oversees the training to ensure all PSI’s probation officers are meeting their requirements.
“I had about 15 years as a police officer before I moved into probation,” said Jay D.
He served as a police officer in his hometown in South Dakota. When he moved to Tennessee, he worked as a police officer in Oak Ridge and Crossville.
“The courts deal with a lot of misdemeanor cases,” said Jay D., “so judges are forced, because of their large dockets – and they only have so many beds at the jails. They’ve got two choices. Put them on probation on some kind of supervised release or [put them on] unsupervised release. I think judges are showing wisdom by putting them on some kind of supervision to follow up on.
“In the course of that, people tend to think judges have some kind of interest in these companies. It’s so easy to prove or disprove. There’s a probation council that oversees what we do. We’re governed by statute. We have to send in reports to our court clerks telling what we’re doing [and] when we’re doing it.
“Another thing that people don’t realize is when the budget isn’t met at the state level, taxpayers supplement that. We were stuck at probation fees of $35 for almost 16 years. We were stuck by statute. I think about four years ago they went to $45, which gave me a little bit of reprieve.”
Jay D. said PSI feels the economical crunch just like any other type of business.
“It’s true, collectively, that I do alright with this many counties,” said Jay D. “There’s no way that White County could survive on just what probation fees are out here. If I didn’t have other ones helping supplement – help with administrative costs and run everything else – nor do most counties want to spend the kind of money it takes to run a real quality program.”
Jay D. said PSI has spent almost $200,000 in the last 10 years on computer technology.
“We can get on the Internet right now and go to a site that I give to my judges and my district attorneys and sheriff departments that will tell you anybody that is currently on probation anywhere in my organization,” said Jay D. “They will tell whether they’re actively on probation or have been in the past. We know a lot of this meth and drug trafficking that’s going on – they’re traveling from county to county.
“If my company does not perform ethically or professionally, all a court has to do is quit referring cases to my company. There are not contracts between the courts and the company, thus making it easier to remove a company that does not do its job. Since its inception, PSI-Probation has not been removed from any courts it has served, which I believe says a lot about our dedication and professionalism to the courts and the citizens we serve.”
PSI-Probations Services LLC is at 313 Simmerell Street, directly behind White County Justice Center.