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Cost warrants no longer mean a jail stay in Oklahoma County

Clothing worn by inmates at the Oklahoma City/County Jail on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.  [File photo by Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]
Clothing worn by inmates at the Oklahoma City/County Jail on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. [File photo by Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman]

Individuals who only have cost warrants no longer have to spend any time in a cell at the Oklahoma County jail after a new policy was put in place.

On Dec. 12, Oklahoma County Judge Tom Prince signed an order stating any person being held only on cost, traffic or wildlife warrants will be immediately released from the jail after the booking process and has 10 days to come back to set up a payment plan.

“The idea is that there is no reason to keep someone overnight only on a cost warrant,” Prince said. “We’ve made our point by having them arrested and brought to the county jail.”

With the old system, people were booked into the jail and held till Judge April Collins, who handles cost warrants, could see them the next day. If it was over a holiday or a weekend, though, the wait was longer.

Cost warrants are assigned to people who have not paid their fines and fees and have not communicated with the courthouse.

“If somebody has another serious charge pending against them and a cost warrant, they will still be kept,” Prince said. “But if someone is picked up on traffic or trespassing or any other charge that would have an immediate (release), then the cost warrant would not hold them any longer.”

Collins, who advocated for the change, started piloting the program in July when she was out on vacation. It was used over Labor Day weekend and also Thanksgiving before being made permanent.

“I was just trying to make sure that people weren’t sitting there and getting left,” Collins said. “What I really like is that there are a lot of people who maybe are going to work on Friday and then they get picked up. And then they don’t get to go to work over the weekend, and by Monday, they’ve lost their job and maybe then they get evicted.

“So if we can stop that one bad thing happening to them and get them back to work beforehand, then it really helps them.”

The cost per inmate at the jail per day is $42.5, Prince said. And costs are front loaded if someone has to be taken to a cell and receive medical screenings. So the program should save money and manpower, as well.

If someone does not come back to Collins after 10 days, then their name is sent to the public defender’s office for a follow-up call. If they still don’t come, then a warrant is issued for a failure to appear.

“Hopefully this helps people not be afraid to come and see us,” Collins said. “You won’t be thrown in jail. Your payment plan can just be telling me you don’t have any money right now and we can defer it. You can still come and do that. They just need to stay in contact with me.”

Collins said if someone thinks they have costs that need to be paid, they can call her office at 405-713-1181.

For those that believe they will not be able to afford any costs in the foreseeable future, they should request a formal Rule 8 hearing, she added.

“It’s all about communication,” Collins said.

Kayla Branch

Kayla Branch covers county government and poverty for The Oklahoman. Branch is a native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma. She joined The Oklahoman staff in April 2019. Read more ›