February 23rd, 2017
Legislators have the opportunity this session to help ensure that Oklahomans convicted of crimes have a fair shot at rebuilding their lives. They need to hear that you support these efforts.
People convicted of crimes face enormous fines and fees that they often can’t pay, trapping them in a cycle of debt and incarceration. SB 689 would require that judges set monthly payments on that debt according to a defendant’s income, so that their families don’t have to choose between paying their court debt or buying groceries. It also waives court fines and fees for those who seek to better themselves through higher education or workforce training.
What You Can Do
All of SB 689’s provisions dealing with fines and fees – including income-based payment plans, pilot programs, and education incentives – were removed in the House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections committee, but they can be put back in either on the House floor or in conference committee. Please call House Speaker Charles McCall (firstname.lastname@example.org; (405) 557-7412), as well as your representative (Find your legislator), and urge them to restore the bills to their original form and ensure that Oklahoma takes bold steps on criminal justice reform this year.
- People convicted of crimes often face thousands of dollars in debt to the court and have trouble finding work because of their record: The costs of a single case have risen enormously over the last 20 years, and people often can’t afford their payment plans with low-wage jobs.
- Police, courts, and jails spend more to arrest and incarcerate than they collect from people who can’t pay: Jails alone spend $40 to $50 per day, often attempting to collect about $50 per month.
- This won’t affect revenue for key agencies because courts can’t squeeze any more money out of low-income defendants: Collections from criminal cases for the courts haven’t increased since at least 2003, despite rising caseloads during that time.
- Oklahomans support rehabilitation of offenders: The passage of SQ 780 and SQ 781 shows that the state is ready for a new approach to criminal justice.
In contacting legislators, you can use the above talking points, or develop your own, especially if you have personal experiences with the effect of fees and fines. Or you can just call and say “Please support SB 689”. Here are some tipsheets from Together Oklahoma on how to communicate effectively with legislators.