Tulsa County Court System Eases Burden On Failure-To-Pay Offenders
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - The Tulsa County court system is easing the burden for those who can't pay their fees and fines.
That means people with failure-to-pay warrants can avoid jail time. A judge rolled out the new program Tuesday morning.
He said not only is it the right thing to do, it also saves taxpayers' money.
It can happen to anyone.
Maybe you're not paying attention to the speed limit, get pulled over and get a ticket. Maybe you just lost your job, and can't afford to pay the fine.
That means a warrant gets issued for your arrest, you go to jail, but, you still can't pay, so you go back to jail.
"It's a situation that repeats itself over and over again, and they don't know how to get out of that revolving door," said Rob Nigh, Tulsa County's chief public defender.
Together, Nigh and Judge Doug Drummond are working on a new system - listening to people who can't pay to find out why.
"They may be on social security disability, they may be unemployed, they may be mentally ill," Nigh said.
Drummond can then decide to reduce the fines or work out a payment plan, or, substitute community service hours instead of money.
He might even drop the fines completely.
"I think it's compassionate, but it's also practical,” Drummond said. “You have limited resources, and you got to make some common-sense decisions on who you want in that jail, and who you want to arrest."
It costs taxpayers about $52 a day to keep a person in jail, so county leaders are reconsidering whether failure to pay is a good enough reason.
"I don't think that any of the judges or the officials in Tulsa County want people to be in jail simply because they don't have any money," Nigh said.
If you're interested in the amended failure-to-pay warrant program, contact your attorney to move your case to Judge Drummond's court.
If you do not have a lawyer, contact the Tulsa County public defender's office at 918-596-5530.