Criminal justice reform advocates argue that increased application of court fines and fees has led to a two-tiered justice system — one where those who can afford to pay go free while those who can’t afford to pay often get stuck in a cycle of increasing debt as they struggle to pay down what can amount to tens of thousands of dollars of legal debts.
In May, the Tulsa World examinedhow this system has grown in Oklahoma because of a greater reliance on court fines and fees to pay for various government agencies.
Since August, the Tulsa World has investigated this issue. Below is our multi-part series as we look at the people who are affected by this system and the toll it takes on them as they try to get their lives back on track.
Day 1: How one woman's story depicts Oklahoma’s struggle with fines, fees and costs in the justice system
Day 1: Young mother, now out of jail and sober, is trying to rebuild her life but still has jail fees to worry about
Day 2: Outstanding court debt blocks many Oklahomans from getting convictions expunged
Day 3: Reform advocates want Oklahoma to halt driver's license suspension as an incentive to pay tickets, court debt
Day 3: Feed the kids or pay court fines and fees? One Tulsa woman hopes for a day she doesn't face that decision
Day 4: Unpaid court fees disproportionately impacts north Tulsa leaving residents 'entrapped' in debt, analysis shows
A Tulsa County group advocating to reform the entire court collection process believes treating court debt as a civil rather than criminal matter would do more than anything else to prevent Oklahoma from being what many believe is some level of a debtors’ prison system.
The young mother feared an unintentional probation violation, not knowing much about paying fines, fees and court costs. If unexpectedly taken to jail, she didn’t want those heirlooms to potentially be lost in the shuffle.
12&12 has dubbed Dec. 12 to be "12&12 Day" as a way to raise funds and awareness to combat the chronic brain disease of addiction and its stigma. The center is asking for donations of $12 or $12 a month for 12 months.