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Instead of issuing fines, the Butte court is now accepting food donations



Butte, Montana – “John Emeigh you’ve been charged with being a ham on TV. How do you wish to plead today?” said City Judge Jerome McCarthy.

“Guilty, your honor,” said Emeigh.

“And you will be ordered to 30 cans of SPAM in Lieu of a $185 fine,” said the judge.

People who have outstanding fines in Justice or City Court during the holiday season have the option of paying those fines with non-perishable food items instead, which will then be given to a local food bank.

“We’ve had great success in helping out the food bank and bring in quite a bit of product to help those in need around the holiday season,” said McCarthy.

Approximately four years ago, the City and Justice courts in Butte began implementing this program. It is based on a law in Montana that allows charitable contributions to be made in lieu of monetary payments for misdemeanor offenses.

During that time period, the courts gathered tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of food donations.

According to the judges, many of the defendants participate in the program.

“It gives them an opportunity to give back to their community and when they come in with smiles on their faces saying their contributing, it means something to them,” said Butte Justice of the Peace Ben Pezdark.

In most cases, individuals will give more food than is requested.

“When we say 30 cans for food, sometimes we see 50, 60, even 90 cans of food, so it’s a good thing,” said Butte Justice of the Peace Jimm Kilmer.

The program runs from the 7th until the 21st of December, during which time a $150 fine for the months of December and January can be satisfied by donating 30 cans of food.

“It’s a great thing this time of year to help families and kids, the elderly having difficulty at this time be able to provide them and offset their food costs,” said McCarthy.