By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) — Georgia cities collected the fourth most fines and fees of any state, according to a new analysis.
According to the analysis from the Reason Foundation, Peach State cities took in more than $376.6 million in fines and fees in 2020. The amount equals $35.16 per resident, according to the analysis; the national average was $27 per resident.
New York topped the list, collecting $69.60 per resident, followed by Illinois and Texas. Connecticut ranked at the bottom, collecting $2 per resident, edging out Nebraska and Kentucky.
The analysis found that “a sizable minority of jurisdictions in the United States appear to be highly dependent on criminal justice and court-related fines and fees.”
“Fines and fees have turned many courts into revenue centers for state and local governments,” the Reason Foundation said in its report. “While most governments do not derive a significant portion of their general revenues from fines and fees, some are almost entirely dependent on them. Nonetheless, fines and fees are not a reliable source of revenue.”
The analysis revealed that a small city like Varnell, a city of roughly 2,200 residents in Northwest Georgia, took in $256,000 in fines and fees — or $143 per person — representing 83.1% of the city’s revenue.
The Reason Foundation used the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances data for its analysis.
The organization made several recommendations, including eliminating all fines and fees in juvenile cases, ending driver’s license suspensions for failure to pay and collecting and publishing data on court debt and collection practices.