Debtor’s prison, sort of

Here’s how it works. Get arrested and booked into jail. Stay one night and you’re billed $117 for that wonderful room and guest service provided by the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department, which provides questionable accommodations to all those folks arrested by OKC’s finest.

As the guests check out, or bond out, they’re told about the $117 charge and warned they must pay or get their driver’s license revoked.

they don’t have the money to pay the room rental at that point, what
makes city fathers think they’re going to pay it later? Here’s the
merry-go-round. Driving with a revoked license, if caught, will earn an
OKC citizen another night or more at the jail and a corresponding $117
fee, which, by the way, is way too high for a single night’s stay (or so
a friend told us).

the ordinance mandating the $117 charge hasn’t been too effective.
During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, 12,743 defendants were billed for
their jail stay, but only 3,165 (25 percent) have paid up.

ordinance mandating the $117 charge was passed in 2007 as a way to
recover some of the costs associated with housing inmates. That sounds
like a business passing on governmentimposed taxes to the consumer. City
officials say the $3.2 million collected in the last six years should
be doubled, hence the recent push to catch those unlawful fee-breakers.

the county jail with people who haven’t paid their “hotel” bill
resembles debtor’s prison. Wasn’t that outlawed by the federal
government in 1833?

Gazette staff

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