News - Advocacy
Thursday, October 28, 2021 12:00 AM

Penal Fines Distributed to Public Libraries

October 28, 2021

While it is true that penal fines have never been intended to be a primary source of a library’s budget, some Michigan public libraries rely on penal fines as an important and reliable “piece of the pie.” Linked here is the chart of penal fine distributions for public libraries compiled by Kathy Webb at the Library of Michigan.

In 2007, penal fines were at their highest level -- $31.3 million. By 2021, penal fines have dropped to a little more than $19 million or $3.78/capita. Why the big drop? Turmoil caused by the pandemic, and little control on reversing the slow erosion of income from things such as: 

  • Court reform/consolidation;

  • Legalization of recreational marijuana;

  • Increased speed limits on highways;

  • Adoption of parallel local ordinances that reduce penal fines to civil fines;

  • Weigh stations being bypassed with new technology and not being staffed.  

It is also important to know how this distribution happens and the Act that makes it possible. Here for your reading pleasure is Act 59 of 1964 of Michigan Compiled Laws

The Library of Michigan’s website has background information on penal fines. Check it out here.


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