Rep’s. call for investigation on supervision fee shines light on appropriations, fines & fees (Capitol Update)

Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, who wears the mantle of criminal justice watchdog well, is at it again. His latest foray into reform is a letter to Attorney General Gentner Drummond asking the AG to investigate the $40 per month “supervision” fee the state’s district attorneys collect from offenders who are on probation. Rep. Humphrey says his own investigation revealed the money is not being used for supervision services as required by the statute, but instead for the operations of the district attorneys’ offices.

The statute requires “the offender shall be required to pay to the district attorney a supervision fee of Forty Dollars ($40.00) per month as a fee to compensate the district attorney for the actual act of supervising the offender during the applicable period of supervision.” The practices in each of the 27 district attorney offices likely vary, but it would be difficult to argue that most of them provide meaningful supervision for people on probation.

This is not the first time Rep. Humphrey and others have raised this issue. In 2019, Humphrey filed legislation seeking to ensure the fees are being used by the district attorneys for actual supervision services. His bill died, but a different bill passed that required the fees to be deposited into the General Revenue Fund of the State Treasury rather than kept directly by the district attorney offices. From there, the funds are then appropriated back to the district attorneys. 

The new process was to cure a perceived conflict of interest that funds to operate district attorney offices are being generated by their prosecutorial decisions. Whether this circuitous method of getting the money from the offenders to the district attorney offices really cured the problem is questionable. 

At any rate, the language requiring the fees to be used for the actual act of supervising the offender during the applicable period of supervision was not changed and remains in the statute. Rep. Humphrey argues that supervision is still not being provided and the money collected for supervision is still being misused by the district attorneys for the purpose of operating their offices.

The two problems Rep. Humphrey correctly identifies are first, that district attorneys should be funded by appropriations, not by money they generate through the prosecutions they initiate. And second, supervision should be provided by the department of corrections, or an agency equipped to provide those services, not by district attorneys who simply are not resourced to do it.

These problems are a result of years of piling fees onto offenders rather than funding the criminal justice system. It’s easy to do because no one has much sympathy for offenders, but it’s counterproductive. It adds to the problems of people who already have problems. It’s inefficient because it doesn’t provide the benefits of supervision either to the offender or to the public. And it calls the integrity of the system into question, as Rep. Humphrey points out. Hopefully, others in the legislature will join his efforts.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.