All Oklahoma sheriffs named in debt-collection lawsuit

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TULSA, Okla. – A lawsuit is challenging Oklahoma’s debt-collection system that routinely sends poor people to jail for failing to pay court fines and fees.

The Tulsa World reports that the federal lawsuit filed Thursday names the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association, every county sheriff in the state and Aberdeen Enterprizes, a private collections company.

The lawsuit alleges constitutional violations in the collection of unpaid court fines and costs imposed by Aberdeen Enterprizes and the Sheriffs’ Association on indigent defendants in criminal cases. It accuses the collections company of conspiring to gather court debts in criminal cases by extorting money from poor individuals.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ira Lee Wilkins, who’s currently in state prison for failing to pay court costs.

Spokesmen from Aberdeen Enterprizes and the Sheriffs’ Association couldn’t be reached for comment by the newspaper.

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