OKLAHOMA CITY – When riots erupted two years ago in Ferguson, Missouri, some of the tension in the black community was blamed on the use of court fines and fees that burdened many low-income people with debts they could not pay.
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Since then, some states have reduced fines for traffic tickets and offered amnesty to indigent offenders with large debts.
But Oklahoma lawmakers went the other direction. They increased dozens of fees covering all criminal and traffic offenses, hoping to more than double the share of state revenue harvested from the same source five years ago.
Behind the move is Oklahoma's miserable financial condition. The state budget has been hit by the energy industry's slump and tax cuts. Wringing more money from offenders also makes for good politics in a conservative law-and-order state.