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Time to reform excessive fines and fees in Oklahoma’s justice system

All Oklahomans should be treated equally in the justice system, no matter what’s in their bank account. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works today. Tens of thousands of Oklahomans enter the justice system each year and come out with thousands of dollars in debt. For poor Oklahomans, this debt can swallow up most of their family’s income, and it often leads to a cycle of incarceration and poverty.

The system does nothing to improve public safety but does bring high costs to law enforcement, jails, and the courts. A new report from Oklahoma Policy Institute, titled “The Cost Trap: How Excessive Fees Lock Oklahomans into the Criminal Justice System without Boosting Revenue,” shows why lawmakers need to reduce the financial burdens of the criminal justice system for poor defendants, and how they can do that without jeopardizing critical sources of revenue for state agencies.

Ryan Gentzler is a policy analyst with Oklahoma Policy Institute. Read the rest of this article and more at okpolicy.org.