A recent recommendation from a newly-created state commission aimed at recovering court fees has prosecutors caught between collecting tens of millions of dollars and continuing work on reforming the state’s criminal justice system.
According to reporting from the nonprofit journalism outlet Oklahoma Watch, a private audit firm hired by the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission looked at the funds from 13 of the 27 defense attorney districts across the state. Auditors found $56 million in uncollected fees.
The amount is a staggering total but doesn’t include totals from Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, which were not a part of the commission’s study. This likely means there is more money still being left on the table.
Because of their findings, the firm is recommending prosecutors work more aggressively to collect that money, suggesting they turn to collection agencies to get paid.
Prosecutors, however, are pushing back.
District attorneys and criminal justice reform advocates, normally not closely aligned, are saying aggressively going after people who don't pay fees could run counter to the new push to continue efforts to reform the state’s justice system.
The reforms have been key components of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first weeks in office and were a signature part of the final months of former Gov. Mary Fallin’s administration.
District attorneys, though, may not have choice in whether they can leave that money on the table. Agencies are required to follow the commission's suggestions unless told otherwise by lawmakers.