OK Policy looks to reduce burden for people who can’t pay court fines (KOCO)

By Bret Buganski

The Oklahoma Policy Institute is calling on the state Legislature to make big changes to save citizens money and keep people who miss court fees out of jail.

“Too often this leads to a cycle of incarceration and poverty,” said Ryan Gentzler, with the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

The call aims to reduce financial burdens for people who are thrown in jail because they can’t pay court fines.

“There has to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” Jami Hood said. “Otherwise, what’s the point of starting if you can’t see the finish?”

The Oklahoma Policy Institute says only 5 percent to 11 percent of court debts are actually collected. Counties often pay $40 to $50 per day to lock up people who can’t pay their fines.

The institute is looking at the following five changes that could save Oklahomans money:

  • Issuing subpoenas before arresting people.
  • Establishing criteria for fines and fees if people can’t pay court fees.
  • Establishing temporary amnesty programs.
  • Adding video conferences at jails to save time.
  • Training judges to urge fair and consistent treatment.

Lawmakers behind this criminal justice reform realize they’re going to have to get more support from the Legislature in order for this to pass. Rep. George Young said he’s confident that will happen.

“I think after the momentum we built after Nov. 8, we have folk who are now looking at it differently,” he said.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.