Lawsuit alleges county in Oklahoma running debtor’s prison

Justice Scales and books and wooden gavel

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (AP) – Three indigent criminal defendants in a northeast Oklahoma county are suing three judges there alleging poor people are being unconstitutionally imprisoned because they can’t afford to pay court-ordered fees and fines.

Also named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed Thursday in Washington County is the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.

The suit alleges that the state agency incentivizes its attorneys to close cases quickly, even if it means forfeiting the rights of their clients.

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan says it would be inappropriate to comment since he hadn’t reviewed the lawsuit.

A telephone message left Thursday with Special Judge Jared Sigler wasn’t immediately returned.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three criminal defendants by the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

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