OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – For the past year, jails and prisons across the country have been struggling to protect inmates and staffers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials with the Criminal Justice Advisory Council of Oklahoma County say that a program that helps people pay off their debts is playing a key role in the fight against the virus.
In the summer of 2019, the Oklahoma City Penalty Reduction Program was launched. The program targets court debts that are three years or older.
Participants in the program can save up to 65% on their accrued debts and avoid jail time.
Officials say the program launched in time to help reduce jail populations just as COVID-19 became a threat to jails and prisons.
Due to its effectiveness, the Oklahoma City Council extended the program through the summer of 2021.
“Overdue tickets this old prevent people from reinstating their driving privileges, and there’s also an active warrant. This makes sure an old speeding ticket isn’t the reason someone has trouble getting to work or to school. People can close the case and it won’t be hanging over their head anymore.” said OKC Municipal Court Administrator and CJAC Member LaShawn Thompson.
So far 2,323 cases have been closed through the program.