OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — Should law enforcement agencies get funded based on court convictions?
The governor has said he wants to see a change in how we fund our criminal justice system. Now advocates for reform of that system say one of the first places to begin are with fees that defendants pay only if they are found guilty.
“In public safety it is important to make sure incentives are aligned with the goals of public safety,” explained Michael Davis, a research fellow with the 1889 Institute. The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma City-based “think tank” that recently published a report on simple ways to get on the road to making Oklahoma a “Top Ten” state as the Governor has promised.
Davis discovered that forensic labs in Oklahoma are funded by court fees, but the fees are only collected and given to the labs if there is a conviction.
“You want to take fees and fines that are based on convictions out of the picture,” Davis told FOX 25, “Because we want everyone in our legal system our criminal justice system to be focused on convicting only those who actually did something wrong.”
There is no implication anyone or any lab in Oklahoma is doing anything wrong. In the not-so-distant past, however, Oklahoma has had more than its fair share of negative headlines associated with fraudulent forensics.
Simply cutting the lab fee would be costly. According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the state crime lab receives nearly a million dollars in funding from those court fees. Advocates for system reform argue these labs should have a dedicated and secure funding source so they can focus solely on science.