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Washington County lawsuit filed over 'unconstitutional jailing' of needy individuals

Posted at 1:02 PM, Mar 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-21 14:02:07-04

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Okla. — A lawsuit was filed Thursday in Washington County over the "unlawful and unconstitutional jailing" of inmates who can't afford to pay court-imposed fines.

The lawsuit seeks relief for indigent individuals who are jailed for nonpayment of fines and fees.

“The poorest people in Washington County, Oklahoma are routinely subjected to court-imposed fines and fees that they are simply unable to pay, keeping them unlawfully entangled in the criminal justice system,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The lawsuit alleges that Judge Jared Sigler and former Judge Curtis DeLapp violated the Fourteenth Amendment and Oklahoma law when they incarcerated people over the non-payment of fines and fees without considerations of their ability to pay.

“The manner in which Oklahoma operates its criminal justice system is unconstitutional. It disproportionately affects the most vulnerable members of communities and prevents them from achieving meaningful rehabilitation or reentry into society,” said Michael Lacovara of Latham & Watkins LLP. “We are proud to join the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in the fight to help our Plaintiffs obtain redress.”

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