Victoria, TX — When Sarrah Pitts checked out the anime series “One Piece” from her local public library for her children, the last thing going through her mind was that this could land her in jail. However, that is exactly what is happening to her thanks to the state’s ability to escalate force.
“I’ve always heard of people going to jail for library fines, and I never knew anyone till now,” Pitts, who is 35 and a mother of four, said.
Pitts checked out the books back in September of 2013. However, she failed to bring them back after she moved from Chillicothe to Victoria. During the move, the books were lost and fell out of her memory.
Because she moved, the library notices were not getting to her. So, a lost item fee of $21.75 continued to progress. Eventually, the library, in following their protocol, turned matters over to law enforcement who quickly and unnecessarily escalated the situation.
As all those involved attempted to get a piece of the ‘bounty’ for the book, the $21.75 late fee snowballed into a massive $784.98 warrant — for failure to return a library book.
While this was all going on, Pitts was oblivious as the stressful move had long since wiped the memory of the book from her mind.
According to the Victoria Advocate:
A week before Christmas, the mother of four decided to apply for a loan.
During the application, she was told she needed an updated driver license.
At the Department of Motor Vehicles, Pitts was told she had a failure to appear in court for Victoria County.
Pitts’ had been driving with a suspended license since 2013.
In the moment she found out about the money she owed, she could not believe it.
“I cried. I can’t afford this,” she said. “I’ve done what I’m supposed to do, and I’m trying my best to raise my kids.”
Pitts is unable to pay the fine and is naturally worried as the failure of payment will result in jail — for a library book.
“I work 40 hours a week at a convenience store; I can’t afford a lawyer,” she said. “I have four kids, my husband’s disabled with heart problems.”
According to the library, these excessive fines are not common, but they can happen.
“Circulation gives a copy when people sign up, so they know exactly what they are signing up for,” Victoria Public Library director, Dayna Williams-Capone said.
However, the idea of going to jail is hardly at the front of people’s minds when checking out a book. But, that is exactly what happens.
Because she moved, Pitts did not receive the warnings that were mailed to her old residence notifying her of the $0.10 per day late charge. So, the municipal court was then brought in.
“When people move, they don’t think of the library,” Williams-Capone said. “Please keep an updated address with the library.”
Once the court receives the notice from the library they begin levying extortion fee after extortion fee until they amount to so much money that police action is warranted.
The Pitts family is now finding this out the hard way.
Nothing illustrates the brutal nature of the state quite like the possibility of jail for a library book. However, this should come as no surprise as the entire system is ultimately enforced through the barrel of a gun.