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Lawsuit claims probation company extorts money from indigent

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge has issued a restraining order preventing two Rutherford County men from being arrested because they cannot pay court fines.

The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/1OgHsoF) the men are two of seven plaintiffs accusing Providence Community Corrections of extorting money from probationers by threatening to send them to jail.

The company contracts with Rutherford County to supervise people on probation in misdemeanor and traffic cases. The lawsuit filed Thursday says it is illegal in Tennessee to revoke probation for someone who is unable to pay court costs, but Providence employees routinely threaten to do this. The suit says plaintiffs have lost homes, jobs and cars in order to pay the company.

The company responded with a written statement saying, "We steadfastly comply with the laws governing the probation system."