Jailed for Debt in the U.S. in the 21st Century

Saturday, June 19, 2010

More than a hundred and fifty years ago, Americans were thrown into jail for not paying their debts, until the country did away with so-called debtors’ prisons in 1833. Today, similar punishments have returned for those in over their heads in debts.

While millions of Americans are still struggling to pay off credit cards and loans, many are finding themselves serving time in local jails because of failures to make payments or to appear at court hearings with debt collectors. Consumer attorneys said they’ve witnessed a rise in debt-related arrests in Arkansas, Arizona, Minnesota and Washington.
In Minnesota, arrest warrants for debtors have increased 60% during the past four years. Those arrested often serve 48 hours in local jails. But in some states, judges have ordered individuals to serve jail time until coming up with minimum payments to creditors.
The federal government does not keep figures on these kinds of arrests, and the industry would prefer to keep it that way, says Robert Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center in Boston. “My suspicion is the debt collection industry does not want the world to know these arrests are happening, because the practice would be widely condemned,” Hobbs told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
In Jail for Being in Debt (by Chris Serres and Glenn Howatt, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune)


mark 13 years ago
To Gerald: i hope that you are never out of work. because you have no common sense. either that or you work for one of these companies, next to lawyers and judges that go along with this YOU ARE THE LOWEST LIFEFORM ON THIS EARTH AND ON JUDGEMENT DAY IT WILL COME BACK. To Spike ; you are right this should be on national news but they don't have the guts to do a story like this even though this is what they are there for.
Penny Muckleroy 13 years ago
I read Gerald's comments and was pretty alarmed. I can truly understand, and fully agree, that an individual should always be responsible and never knowingly make a debt they have no intention of paying back. But, people's circumstances change. With as many lost jobs as there are in our society how can anyone not understand that if you made $100,000 a year in your job and now you make -0- (or unemployment, or underemployed so your yearly income is now half what it used to be or less) how can you possibly live up to the obligations you made when you earned $100,000 a year. I've learned that in truth an individual shouldn't even go into debt so they don't have to face this situation. WE SHOULD IN TRUTH BE A CASH ONLY SOCIETY. However, the operative word here is "learned" . We certainly aren't taught anything about true wealth building or money management in our current school system. Nor do the POWERS THAT BE want that OVERSIGHT changed. They want the average worker clueless, after all if Joe public knew better Mr. Banker wouldn't collect 29% interest on the money Joe public borrows. The only way you learn it is to seek out the information yourself. I know of people who believe that as long as they have checks they have money and as long as their credit card works and they pay the MINIMAL payment their good. High school students aren't even taught how to balance a check book in most cases, yet when they go to college they are flooded with offers of CREDIT CARDS with only minimal payments by (according to what Gerald seems to think) these poor trusting unsuspecting LENDERS of credit. Have you looked at the interest rates of some of these CREDITORS?????? That's called USERY AND IS TRUE THEFT!!!!! These same college students by the time they graduate are so far in debt it will take them until retirement age to get out of debt or they have to file bankruptcy. So they are in bondage to creditors their whole lives. Is that anyway to live? MAYBE THIS LINE OF THINKING IS WHY SOME OF OUR POLITICIANS SEEM TO THINK WE CAN SPEND OUR WAY OUT OF DEBT!!!!! If we want our society to change and people to become more responsible for their OWN actions then we had better start educating the individuals in our society about money and how to make it work for us instead of us working for it. WE NEED TO ALSO MAKE SURE THAT THESE LOAN SHARK LENDERS OF CREDIT WHO HAVE GOTTEN FILTHY RICH OFF THE INTEREST THEY CHARGE TO AN UNEDUCATED PUBLIC BE MADE TO WEAR A SIGN SAYING BEWARE!!!!
Gerald 13 years ago
Hallelujah! It's so refreshing to hear there's a place where criminals actually have to pay, literally, for their crime. In my state, California, it's perfectly ok to steal as much as you can get away with from any business of any kind. There will never be the slightest hint of anyone actually doing anything about it here. Most states don't even bother with the ritual hand wringing over civil matters involving theft of services or nonviolent theft of money. I noticed that if I google "debt collection laws," the first hundred or so entries are all from people telling us all how to avoid paying for whatever we stole. That is the word for it, in case any of you didn't know. Stealing is when you take something and fail to put in a fair exchange for it, or any exchange at all. Only when criminality has consequences will the criminals stop their antisocial conduct. "Oh, but she's just a poor (fill in the blank) that got in a little over her head, so we should do the right thing and let her just walk away, right?" Wrong! While criminal behavior isn't always black and white, there's no gray area when it comes to theft. She either stole it or she didn't. She either has to pay or she doesn't. Apparently Minnesota has sided with the victims of crime on this one. Hooray for Minnesota!
The American Taxpayer 13 years ago
Spike 13 years ago
Someone out there please fight to get media attention regarding this matter. I think America should be aware of the way we treat our poor, yet we are allowint 12,000+ illegals to work in this country each day. Shame on you America, you have dropped to an all time low. Please, please try get this on national TV and name the companies with this practice. My daughter with 4 kids are afraid to go home because she owes $250 to a payday loan company. We should close these places down also, they are no different from loan sharking.

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