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How much does Oklahoma rely on court collections to fund government?

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In this Tuesday, April 16, 2019 file photo, former Republican House Speaker Kris Steele, right, addresses a group of criminal justice reform advocates at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Supporters of changes in Oklahoma's criminal justice system say court fines and fees are levied on people unable to pay them in order to support government functions. [AP photo]
In this Tuesday, April 16, 2019 file photo, former Republican House Speaker Kris Steele, right, addresses a group of criminal justice reform advocates at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Supporters of changes in Oklahoma's criminal justice system say court fines and fees are levied on people unable to pay them in order to support government functions. [AP photo]

Onerous court debts can create a vicious cycle, especially for impoverished people trying to orchestrate positive and productive lives. Inability to pay either puts them behind bars or they return to crime to pay the bills.

"For a person who may be justice-involved and on the lower socioeconomic scale, the punitive consequences for the inability to pay these fees and fines lends itself to additional involvement in the criminal justice system," said Kris Steele, executive director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. "And we reach a point where we begin to criminalize poverty. And that should be unconscionable for any Oklahoman."

The judicial branch itself may be tottering toward a financial crater as criminal justice reforms take root, given the state's dependence upon court collections to help prop up government.

Read the full story from the Tulsa World.

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