The shape we’re in

“I just spent sixty days in the jailhouse / For the crime of having no dough.” ~ The Band, “The Shape I’m In” (1970).

How theoretical is this? Not very:

A debt-collection system in Oklahoma that routinely throws indigent people in jail for failing to pay state court fines and costs is illegal and amounts to an extortion scheme, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tulsa by two Tulsa-based law firms, seeks class-action status on behalf of indigent criminal defendants who “are victims of an extortion scheme in which the defendants have conspired to extract as much money as possible … through a pattern of illegal and shocking behavior.”

The lawsuit names the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association, every Oklahoma county sheriff and Aberdeen Enterprizes II Inc., a private collections company.

As you might expect, one particular case prompted this lawsuit:

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ira Lee Wilkins, who is described as an indigent Tulsa man who was represented by the public defender’s office when he pleaded guilty to an unnamed charge in 2015.

A bench warrant was issued about a year later for Wilkins’ arrest after he failed to pay court costs. He is now in a state prison, according to the complaint.

Aberdeen reportedly collects 30 percent of the take, and the state complicates matters by suspending the indigents’ driver’s licenses. Nice little racket, it would seem.

(Via Fark.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    7 November 2017 · 7:14 am

    Reminds me of Dickens. Next up: Jailing people for “implying” a marriage proposal but not really meaning it.

  2. McGehee »

    7 November 2017 · 7:44 am

    It’s on the tip of my tongue — something about root vegetables and blood…

  3. Holly Hunter »

    7 November 2017 · 9:25 am

    I heard on NPR yesterday, that Oklahoma leads the WORLD in its rate of incarcerated women. Jeez Louise!!

    Interesting article with the details:

    Excerpt: “Unique among the states is that Oklahoma has over double the national rate of incarcerated women. In 2015, 151 out of every 100,000 women were incarcerated in Oklahoma, compared to the national average of 63 per 100,000. According to the Department of Corrections, the number of female incarcerated rose by 9.5 percent during fiscal year 2016. ”

    So things are apparently NOT improving.

  4. McGehee »

    7 November 2017 · 10:21 am

    There are people who think the racial proportion of incarcerated persons should more closely reflect their proportion of the population at large.

    <troll> What’s the proportion of women among the population at large? </troll>

  5. CGHill »

    7 November 2017 · 10:55 am

    Our stalwart Drug Warriors are out there, protecting us from those wicked women who don’t actually bother anyone, but have been known to partake of Contraband Substances.

  6. Holly Hunter »

    8 November 2017 · 9:06 am

    I agree, the problem is that we pursue the Drug War with far too much vigor, regardless of the damage to the families involved.

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