Molly Aspan, Dwight L. Smith
March 13, 2019
READ THE FULL STORY HERE
Tags: Access to Justice, Criminal Justice
Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma
Imagine living at or below the poverty line of $850 or less a month; now add involvement with the criminal justice system that adds fees or fines of over $2,000 that must be paid within 18 months. Failure to pay could prevent an expungement at the successful completion of a deferred sentence, result in jail time for failure to pay, and perhaps lead to an eviction or job loss due to a criminal conviction. Now, imagine navigating fines/fees and eviction court on your own.
For those facing cases like these without representation, it’s like climbing a mountain, blindfolded, with their hands tied behind their backs.
We are leaders of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, a statewide nonprofit organization that provides civil legal assistance to low-income Oklahomans. We believe an element critical to successful criminal justice reform has been omitted from the debate on that subject in Oklahoma: the vital importance of civil legal services. Changes to criminal laws, sentencing, problem-solving courts, support to public defenders and cultural shifts within prosecutors’ offices are only part of reform. True criminal justice reform cannot happen without the component of civil legal assistance.