Jail time for overdue library books?

For the most part, libraries are a free service that many local residents enjoy, yet sometimes, overdue library books can result in fines, warrants or even jail time! People usually return a book before it’s overdue to prevent increasing fines. Sometimes, however, certain events in life can get in the way of returning a library item on time.

In Copperas Cove, Texas, a man named Jory Enck was recently jailed for failing to return an overdue GED study guide from three years ago! Since 2002, the city library has had a strict rule when it comes to overdue books. After 20 days, a warrant is made to the person borrowing the overdue book and they are fined $200 every twenty days that it is not returned. His fine went all the way up to $10,800! His reason for not returning the book? He was arrested for robbery and spent three years in jail preventing him from going home and returning the book himself. Eventually, he was released on $200 bail, requested time served and returned the book.

More States Employing Stricter Policies

Since this incident, there have been many comments online about Texas extending its tough-on-crime policies to books. Although many people are thinking these incidences are ridiculous and unheard of, many cities are raising the cost of overdue fines to compensate for shrinking budgets. After a certain amount of days, an overdue book can be considered stolen and you could be fined not only the usual overdue fees, but for theft as well. Some states have arrested or jailed individuals for the same reason.

Other known cases of this include two women in Baytown, Texas who were arrested in 2006 and 2010 when they were stopped for traffic violation related reasons. When the police offer saw that these women had a warrant for outstanding library fines, he had no choice but to arrest them. In Charlton, MA, police visited the home of a 5 year old to collect his overdue books. In Freeport, PA, police called the parents of a 4 year old who racked up more than $80 in overdue fines for just four books!

In 2011, a man in Newtown, Iowa served a little over a week in jail for failing to return 6 CDs and 11 library books, resulting in over $770 in overdue fines. Even though these cases are not as common as other crimes, they are starting to increase in prevalence due to the shrinking budgets libraries are trying to compensate for.

Many people are questioning whether these policies are actually helping library funds. A survey was recently conducted involving 150 Texas libraries. They counted about 966,000 library items that were overdue long enough to be considered lost or stolen. In Texas alone, it costs libraries approximately $18 million to send out the warrants, fines and recover the books, or to buy new ones.

As you can see, many of our libraries are struggling to make ends meet and are creating strict and expensive policies to make up for the lack in monetary funds. Make sure you return your books on time to prevent these consequences. Also, why not donate to your local library every now and then? All libraries accept donations with open arms and gratitude.