Debtor’s prisons return to the United States

Anyone have questions as to where we are headed? Just the start. Just telling others what is going down with this post.

More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can’t or won’t pay to be jailed. Judges have signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties with a total population of 13.6 million people, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of filings in those counties. Nationwide figures aren’t known because many courts don’t keep track of warrants by alleged offense. In interviews, 20 judges across the nation said the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began

More than a third of all states now allow borrowers who don’t pay their bills to be jailed, even when debtor’s prisons have been explicitly banned by state constitutions. A report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that people were imprisoned even when the cost of doing so exceeded the amount of debt they owed.

Federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833. It’s a practice people associate more with the age of Dickens than modern-day America. But as more Americans struggle to pay their bills in the wake of the recession, collection agencies are using harsher methods to get their money, ushering in the return of debtor’s prisons.

NPR reports that it’s becoming increasingly common for people to serve jail time as a result of their debt. Because of “sloppy, incomplete or even false documentation,” many borrowers facing jail time don’t even know they’re being sued by creditors:

Take, for example, what happened to Robin Sanders in Illinois. She was driving home when an officer pulled her over for having a loud muffler. But instead of sending her off with a warning, the officer arrested Sanders, and she was taken right to jail.

“That’s when I found out [that] I had a warrant for failure to appear in Macoupin County. And I didn’t know what it was about.” Sanders owed $730 on a medical bill. She says she didn’t even know a collection agency had filed a lawsuit against her. […]

A company will often sell off its debt to a collection agency, generally called a creditor. That creditor files a lawsuit against the debtor requiring a court appearance. A notice to appear in court is supposed to be given to the debtor. If they fail to show up, a warrant is issued for their arrest.



H/T: Before its news


13 Responses to “Debtor’s prisons return to the United States”

  1. Bill to hold Passports of Americans who owe taxes moving along « BUNKERVILLE | God, Guns and Guts Comrades! Says:

    […]  Debtor Prisons returns to the United States […]


  2. s2kreno Says:

    Where is this mysterious list of states? You’d think that would be more important to most readers than fifteen anecdotes. Beginning to think it doesn’t exist; can’t find it anywhere.


    • bunkerville Says:

      Here is from the ACLU link which was in the post:


  3. Always On Watch Says:

    I wonder what the divorce rate is the past several months as more and more Americans are groaning unde the burden of The Nanny State and drastic increases in insurance premiums.

    In June, Mr. AOW’s monthly premium will climb to $908 per month, and that’s for a policy that is basically catastrophic coverage (high deductible, no prescription coverage, and 70/30 until reaching $5000 out of pocket for the year).

    We won’t be going bankrupt only because Mr. AOW’s Medicare kicks in on March 1.

    I do personally know a few couples who are divorcing because of the drastic increase in health-insurance premiums. These couples have been married between 35 and 50 years, and none of them are in nursing homes, though one member of each couple is laid up at home and in “the worst way.”

    Obama’s promise of controlling health care costs is turning out to be one of the biggest BS scams in American history.


    • bunkerville Says:

      I have been following your plight AOW, and can empathize. Twenty years or so ago I was forced into bankruptcy due to an illness. With no way to pay ten of thousands of dollars, and harassed by collection agencies, I did what I had to do to keep my house. Bankruptcy lets you do that as well as keep your car at that time. Apparently, if I did not pay attention I too could have gone to jail. I am now work in Healthcare, and what lies ahead looks like it will be even more devastating to both sides. The providers, and the recipients.


  4. silverfiddle Says:

    I’m all for this… if they manacle the banker who wrote the loan to the offender and make him go off to jail as well…


    • bunkerville Says:

      And of course, while in jail they will “learn” about getting a “green” job.


  5. bydesign001 Says:

    Excellent post. Reading the comments section of the Huffington post articled, I ran across the following comment:

    “I wonder who will put a debtor with a 15 trillion dollar debt and only 2.3T annual income in prison? “

    Appropriate wouldn’t you say?


    • bunkerville Says:

      Nice….Janet must be so happy that she no doubt will have lots of us to put in her “camps”…maybe she should start with Congress.


  6. rjjrdq Says:

    I wonder how many people even realize this. I know the IRS could come after you, but this is news to me.


    • bunkerville Says:

      Every day our great country de-evolves.


  7. Teresa Rice (@Teresamerica) Says:

    So much for following the Constitution or state constitutions. We need to stop this injustice. These creditors remind me of loan sharks who send goons after those who don’t repay their loans.


    • bunkerville Says:

      What a sad commentary on our society. The courts have gone amok.


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