Inmate Files Federal Lawsuit Against OK Sheriff's Offices Over Court Fines

Friday, November 3rd 2017, 7:50 pm
By: News 9

Every county sheriff in Oklahoma is being named in a federal lawsuit over court fines. The suit was filed on behalf of an inmate who’s currently in state prison.

The inmate's name is Ira Lee Wilkins and he is currently in prison for failing to pay court costs after being arrested and going to jail in Tulsa.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday against sheriff's offices, as well as the Sheriff's Association.

Wilkins wants class-action status on behalf of all criminal defendants who cannot afford to pay court fines and fees, and as a result stay in the cycle of incarceration.

The lawsuit also targets Aberdeen Enterprizes, a private collections company that partners with sheriffs to collect fees.

One of the attorneys who initiated the lawsuit told the Tulsa World this, "In the United States -- you can't put people in jail because they're too poor -- and that's what's happening here."

The lawsuit also claims that courts are failing to hold hearings to determine whether a person can afford to pay the fines.

Local sheriffs say they haven't been served with the lawsuit yet, but a representative from Oklahoma County says they do not arrest anyone based on their inability to pay court fees.