Ending Wealth-Based Detention in Tulsa, OK
On June 6, 2018, Civil Rights Corps filed a lawsuit in Tulsa, Oklahoma, challenging Tulsa County’s unconstitutional wealth-based pretrial detention system. Tulsa County uses a secured money bail schedule to determine conditions of release for almost every person arrested in Tulsa County. The process is as straightforward as it is unjust: upon arrest, a person is given a money bail amount that corresponds to the charges she is booked on; if she can pay the amount, she is released. If she cannot pay the amount, she is jailed. There is no inquiry into or consideration of her ability to pay the money-bail amount. And if she cannot pay, she is jailed for at least a week, before she is able to see a judge.
The results are devastating. More than 62 percent of—over 1,500—people incarcerated in the Tulsa County Jail on an average day are awaiting trial—they have not been convicted of a crime and are presumptively innocent. Tulsa County’s pretrial detention rate is 83 percent higher than the national average. Low-income individuals, including women and people of color who are more likely to be poor, bear the brunt of Tulsa County’s unconstitutional pretrial detention system.
We bring this case alongside Still She Rises, a Tulsa-based holistic defense project that represents mothers in the criminal and child welfare systems.
Our four clients are people arrested for misdemeanor and felonies. Each of them struggle financially and were jailed because they could not afford to pay a cash deposit to secure their release from jail:
- Michael Parga works at a hotel and barely makes enough money to support himself and his unemployed wife. He feared that his jailing would cause him to lose his job and home. His bail was automatically set at $2,000 after arrest.
- Richard Feltz is currently unemployed. He was formerly a travel agent, where he developed a love for travel. His bail was automatically set at $50,000 after arrest.
- Tara O’Donley is currently experiencing homelessness. She in unemployed and has no income. Her bail was automatically set at $500 after arrest.
- Christopher Wood works occasionally as a handyman, but does not have stable income. His bail was automatically set at $1,000 after arrest.