Book ’em, Danno!

December 27, 2013 | 4

Don’t forget to return your library books in Texas. This year an Austin man was arrested for failing to return a GED study guide that was three years overdue. Fines and arrest warrants are the new way to break even in towns with shrinking budgets. Other states, such as Iowa, Vermont, and Maine, are joining in.

is an associate editor for The Millions and an editor in Atlanta. She tweets at @temalone.


  1. I find this a very creepy scenario.

    Recipe: a.) Increasingly powerful, well-funded lobbies for the corporate prison industry; b.) “criminalization” of the poor (which you already see in some of the tactics used by debt collectors and their use of warrants; c.) underfunded local and state government entities hungry for cash and collections. Result: a Perfect Storm situation for creating a huge new prison population and/or a way to squeeze money out of the families of these people to pay the costs to get them out of the pokey! Already, there are situations where people are billed for the cost of their jailing (after “failing to show” for court hearings, some of which they were never properly informed of). A neo-Debtor’s Prison system, when the rising cost of their bill keeps them imprisoned.

    Even now, the criminal justice system is NOT one you want to get swept up in if you are even middle class, or, God forbid, broke. I REALLY

  2. (broke comment)

    I REALLY don’t like the idea of criminalizing this type of misbehavior.

  3. And prisons cost taxpayers a fortune. It’s been famously estimated it would be cheaper to incarcerate prisoners in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. And when poor prisoners can’t pay for their imprisonment they will get locked up again, at everyone’s expense.

    Imprisonment should not be used for non-violent crimes except in rare and serious cases.

  4. Hello, it is now April 2014, four months after last comment, but I have been researching the pre-Reformation system of “paid” indulgences in the Catholic Church (something Martin Luther) railed against for a book project.

    Apparently, the Catholic bishops would “strong arm” family members of the deceased to pay for indulgences for the “departed loved ones” and regale the terrified families of the torments that the old mother was suffering in Purgatory. Their Purgatory “jail term could, then, of course, could be shortened by their purchase of indulgences.

    Wow, I am even more scared now about this article!

    Moe Murphy
    Nuns In Grammar School Sold Us Penny Candy, Said Each Piece Would Remove One Venial Sin

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