MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

Massive class-action lawsuit takes aim at Sheriffs' Association

A federal lawsuit filed Nov. 2 challenges the debt-collection system that jails poor Oklahomans for their inability to pay court fines and fees. (KTUL)

A federal lawsuit filed Nov. 2 challenges the debt-collection system that jails poor Oklahomans for their inability to pay court fines and fees. Lawyers claim that when the plaintiffs were unable to pay, warrants were issued for their arrest and/or they were incarcerated for failure to pay the criminal court fines and costs.

Linda Meachum's story begins in a bad place.

"I was incarcerated for a misdemeanor," said Meachum. She spent a month in jail and was ordered to pay a fine and court costs of $200.

It was money Meachum didn't have, so she set up a payment plan.

"My payment plan was $40 a month," said Meachum.

Which brings us to a massive class-action lawsuit against the Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association, and a collection agency named Aberdeen Enterprizes II, Inc.

Meachum said she lost her job and was unable to pay the $40 a month. The lawsuit alleges her case was sent to Aberdeen, who then increased the minimum payment.

"Aberdeen's minimum was $75," said Meachum.

When she couldn't pay, the suit claims the courts issued a warrant, and Meachum was sent back to jail.

Now that $200 fine has grown to more than $800.

"And if you didn't come up with that, you going to jail," said Meachum.

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Department and dozens of other sheriff departments are named as defendants in the lawsuit, but the list of plaintiffs is even longer. Thousands of people who claim to have similar stories to Meachum.

Jill Webb, with Smolen, Smolen and Roytman Law Firm is one of the attorneys in the case.

"They're putting people in jail, all the time, every day for not being able to pay," said Webb. "In America, we don't put people in prison for being poor."

Webb said the Sheriffs' Association is making millions of dollars working with Aberdeen.

"Everything that Aberdeen collects, the Sheriffs' Association gets a kickback," said Webb.

Webb knows they're making waves, but says they're ready for a fight.

We reached out to the Sheriffs' Association and Aberdeen, but have not heard back.

.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off

Trending