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Fri Apr 20, 2012, 05:33 PM

Jailed for $280: The return of debtors' prisons

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500395_162-57417654/jailed-for-$280-the-return-of-debtors-prisons/

(MoneyWatch) How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn't pay a medical bill -- one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn't owe. "She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn't have to pay it," The Associated Press reports. "But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs."

Although the U.S. abolished debtors' prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don't pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff's deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.

snip

Yet Illinois isn't the only state where residents get locked up for owing money. A 2010 report by the American Civil Liberties Union that focused on only five states -- Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington -- found that people were being jailed at "increasingly alarming rates" over legal debts. Cases ranged from a woman who was arrested four separate times for failing to pay $251 in fines and court costs related to a fourth-degree misdemeanor conviction, to a mentally ill juvenile jailed by a judge over a previous conviction for stealing school supplies.

more at link.

52 replies, 7460 views

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Arrow 52 replies Author Time Post
Reply Jailed for $280: The return of debtors' prisons (Original post)
myrna minx Apr 2012 OP
Liberal_in_LA Apr 2012 #1
Little Star Apr 2012 #2
dixiegrrrrl Apr 2012 #18
saras Apr 2012 #22
bhikkhu Apr 2012 #31
happyslug Apr 2012 #38
bhikkhu Apr 2012 #48
stevenleser Apr 2012 #36
earth trine Apr 2012 #34
Egalitarian Thug Apr 2012 #3
BlueJazz Apr 2012 #4
myrna minx Apr 2012 #5
closeupready Apr 2012 #8
Justice wanted Apr 2012 #6
cali Apr 2012 #11
happyslug Apr 2012 #39
jehop61 Apr 2012 #14
provis99 Apr 2012 #17
greytdemocrat Apr 2012 #43
McCamy Taylor Apr 2012 #7
truedelphi Apr 2012 #9
xtraxritical Apr 2012 #44
SDjack Apr 2012 #10
bayareaboy Apr 2012 #33
BlueIris Apr 2012 #12
Smilo Apr 2012 #13
starroute Apr 2012 #37
tooeyeten Apr 2012 #15
SemperEadem Apr 2012 #26
tooeyeten Apr 2012 #46
sarcasmo Apr 2012 #16
DaveJ Apr 2012 #19
Jake2413 Apr 2012 #20
midnight Apr 2012 #21
RebelOne Apr 2012 #23
Honeycombe8 Apr 2012 #24
daligirl519 Apr 2012 #25
fasttense Apr 2012 #27
JCMach1 Apr 2012 #50
xchrom Apr 2012 #28
shimonitanegi Apr 2012 #29
madrchsod Apr 2012 #30
davsand Apr 2012 #40
NNN0LHI Apr 2012 #45
davsand Apr 2012 #47
napoleon_in_rags Apr 2012 #32
2QT2BSTR8 Apr 2012 #35
happyslug Apr 2012 #42
truedelphi Apr 2012 #49
upi402 Apr 2012 #51
vaberella Apr 2012 #41
slackmaster Apr 2012 #52

Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 05:37 PM

1. k&r

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 05:39 PM

2. WTH! This is unreal. k&r

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Response to Little Star (Reply #2)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 07:47 PM

18. "Under the law, debtors aren't arrested for nonpayment,..."

but rather for failing to respond to court hearings, pay legal fines, or otherwise showing "contempt of court" in connection with a creditor lawsuit."

So it is NOT owing the money that is the issue
it is ignoring the legal system/courts that causes the problem.
IOW: you CAN be arrested for contempt of court in many situations, and ignoring the court about debts is one of them..

that is what I took away from the article after reading it.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #18)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 08:17 PM

22. As if there's a difference

 

Not paying fines - that IS nonpayment unless you want to play really stupid semantic games.
Going to court costs money - big money - every time, or you lose unless you're REALLY well trained in everything it takes to be your own lawyer. Typically the poor don't get time off work to do this stuff without being fired, no matter what the rules say.

I've HAD debts in collection, and you tell the debtor that you have no money, document it, and stay in touch once a month until such time as you're making enough money to start making payments. When you're making money, you start making payments. If you finish, cool. If not, let them know, and carry on when you have another job. Anything beyond that - being repeatedly called to court, for example - is unreasonable harassment.

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Response to saras (Reply #22)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 01:05 PM

31. That's a good thing to remember - even regular token payments can avoid almost all problems

It costs more than $251 for the hospital (or collection agency) to sue in court for payment, and it costs the court more than $251 to even hear the case, and it costs the sheriff way more than $251 to arrest someone and put them in jail. A whole lot of things had to happen between the $251 debt and the trip to prison.

Most collectors will settle for half, and most will take a few dollars a month, if a debtor will just make payments. "The system" in general will bend over backwards to avoid expenses, but the main problem is being able to rely on a debtor to keep in contact. I suppose the main problem there is that so many people are just flat broke, and its so much easier to throw up your hands, give up and avoid all contact than it is to try to fix things when you have nothing.

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Response to bhikkhu (Reply #31)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 04:05 PM

38. Such small payments extend any stature of limitation

Thus UNLESS a Judgment has been entered, do NOT pay anything.

On the other hand this topic is in regards to actual JUDGMENTS. That is a different ball game, just appear in court and say you have no money. In most states that still retain arrest for debt that is all that is needed. Not only must the debtor appear, so must the Creditor. If the Creditor does NOT appear, ask for dismissal, but you have to obey any Court Orders, but a Judgement is NOT such an Order.

Just pointing out that in PRE-JUDGMENT cases it is in the best interest of the debtor NOT to make any payments, so when the Creditor does file the defense of Statute of Limitation is available. Each payment, no matter how small, extends the four year statute of limitations from the date the payment is made.

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Response to happyslug (Reply #38)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 07:17 PM

48. Good point - I forgot about that

basically, if you're going to repay, then making small payments is fine. If you aren't going to repay, then make it clear that you aren't and can't, and never even suggest that you will - as that can reset the statute of limitations on the time limit for collections.

And also, especially if you aren't going to repay, absolutely pay attention to and respond to any legal action against you, especially if it involves having to appear in court! The courts can often help you, but pretending they aren't there is the one way to parlay a measly debt into jail time.

I went through bankruptcy many years ago when it was easy, and came through fine. I was 22, and the idea of working like a slave for years to pay debts that were primarily not my fault was just not happening for me. Just a couple of years ago when things were really tight again, looking at my options there, I decided to just suck it up and keep paying. It will take awhile, but its mostly my house and student loans now, and that was all my choice to get into.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #18)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 02:28 PM

36. Which is really just an end around the fact that you arent supposed to be thrown in jail for owing

money.

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Response to Little Star (Reply #2)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 01:50 PM

34. Damn straight it's "unreal"

 

It isn't happening. They are not getting thrown in the clink for not paying a bill. It's for not responding to a court summons. Thorough reading: what a concept!

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 05:40 PM

3. It will happen here. In fact, it already has. K&R n/t

 

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 05:40 PM

4. Simple solution. She could just hire an expensive lawyer (like the wealthy do, ....

....and her problems would just "go away"

These poor people don't know how to game the system....tsk..tsk..

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 05:58 PM

5. As someone who personally clawed her way out of debt, I cannot believe this is what we've become

as a nation.

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Response to myrna minx (Reply #5)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 06:48 PM

8. Believe it. This is indeed who we have become.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 06:08 PM

6. I hate this mother fucking hell hole of a country more and more each day! If things get worse I

would rather die than spend another moment in this hell

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Response to Justice wanted (Reply #6)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 06:57 PM

11. not all states treat their citizens this way

Mine doesn't.

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Response to cali (Reply #11)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 04:15 PM

39. Neither does Pennsylvania, we abolished arrest for debt in 1820.

We also abolished attachment of wages in the 1880, except for taxes, Student loans, Board, and the recent addition for rent not paid. Credit Card debt can NOT be recovered in Pennsylvania via wage attachment.

The down side is Pennsylvania permits execution sale of property for such debts and exclude only $300 in assets from such a sale. This limit was passed in 1837 and has never been changed. $300 was almost a years earnings in 1837 but does not even cover the monthly rent of low cost housing in the low cost areas of the State.

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Response to Justice wanted (Reply #6)


Response to jehop61 (Reply #14)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 07:25 PM

17. those freedoms are gone forever bub. Get used to it.

 

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Response to Justice wanted (Reply #6)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 04:40 PM

43. Feel free to leave anytime.

And take your hate with you.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 06:39 PM

7. Just plain mean. And stupid.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 06:52 PM

9. State legislatures in the nineteen thirties had the actual cajones

To stop foreclosures. They did this in over 35 states!

Now state legislators are as bought and paid for as every one else. This sad story of imprisoning those who are behind on their bills is yet another result of the absolute, over riding tyranny of the corrupt system that our Talking Heads still refer to as a "democracy."

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Response to truedelphi (Reply #9)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 04:51 PM

44. We're all being pissed on by kochs. It's trickle down.

 

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 06:53 PM

10. Their crimes: They didn't steal a billion dollars for themselves and

wreck the world's economy. Welcome to the neo-fascist America.

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Response to SDjack (Reply #10)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 01:49 PM

33. remember ... ...


Socialism for the rich, works really well for the rich.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 06:57 PM

12. I could see this coming back in 2005.

It's disturbing.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 06:58 PM

13. If she had stolen $280 Million.............

........ she would be on the board of ALEC and invited to all the kochroach parties.

What a sad state of affairs.

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Response to Smilo (Reply #13)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 03:53 PM

37. Or as Thoreau said in "Civil Disobedience"

If a man who has no property refuses but once to earn nine shillings for the State, he is put in prison for a period unlimited by any law that I know, and determined only by the discretion of those who put him there; but if he should steal ninety times nine shillings from the State, he is soon permitted to go at large again.

If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth--certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 07:23 PM

15. Who passed the laws? Who wrote the laws? n/t

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Response to tooeyeten (Reply #15)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 08:29 PM

26. the ALEC brainwashed passed them; ALEC wrote them

and they did it while all those companies who are bailing on them now had no problem funding them.

I have more respect for a company that chose never to throw in with them than those who are now pulling out because their nuts are in a social media vice.

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Response to SemperEadem (Reply #26)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 06:08 PM

46. they're the

fistula on the rectum of business.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 07:24 PM

16. USA! USA! USA!

#1 at putting people in prison. This will be the norm as the elites will want to draw from the cheap labor source, prisons.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 07:48 PM

19. I guess some debt collector called in the police

Some jobs exist that only scumbags would want. Whoever called it in will probably be promoted to top scum executive someday.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 07:51 PM

20. This is what happens when corporations take over...

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 07:54 PM

21. This injustice has an Alec Private Prison response all over it.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 08:21 PM

23. I live in Georgia and owed thousands in credit card bills.

But no one put me in jail. The creditors put judgments on me and another one garnished my pay. I finally declared bankruptcy, which did not wipe out the debts because I was collecting social security along with my pay. I had to make payments through the court for 2 years until all the debts were paid.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 08:27 PM

24. That is unbelievable! nt

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Fri Apr 20, 2012, 08:28 PM

25. I don't know the particulars of this case. . .

But I know how it happens from personal experience. If a debtor who has obtained a judgment against you (right or wrong) pursues you and you receive warrants to appear in court and fail to do so, they can legally arrest you. I nearly had this happen to me. It is totally fucked up, especially if the warrant is based on a mistake. I'm not saying it is right, but I know the process. It has always been legal. I was unemployed for almost 2 years and had people sueing me from left and right. Companies that did not do it in the past are resorting to it now, especially credit card companies. I think it's called a "body attachment." It's just evil.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 07:22 AM

27. But for debtor's prison to be truly effective like in Dubai,

you have to have inherited debt. That is if your parents die in debt, the debt goes to their children or next living relative. That way when you put someone in prison for not paying $280, and you keep them from earning $280 (despite the fact they are working in Tyson's chicken plant for 50 cents a day while in prison), their children or other relatives will pay the $280 to keep from inheriting the debt.

I'm sure ALEC will be passing out legislation just like this to our Senators and Representatives soon.

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Response to fasttense (Reply #27)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 03:45 AM

50. Meanwhile, Dubai changed its laws when the government and associated entities defaulted on its own

debt...

Talk about unreal...

FYI, a good portion of the loans came from WESTERN INVESTMENT...

That deserves a serious

Maybe you would like to send that letter off to folks like CITI asking them why they were investing in such scams while America spiralled down from lack of investment.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 07:37 AM

28. Du rec. Nt

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 07:48 AM

29. And no subprime swindlers were punished.

blame the poor, praise the rich.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 12:49 PM

30. contempt of court..

i know that system all to well...

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Response to madrchsod (Reply #30)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 04:33 PM

40. We have a WINNER!!! You got it exactly right!

The arrest is based on a "Contempt of Court" citation for either missing a court date OR for failure to make court ordered payments. This is not about skipping a payment on your hospital bill or your check to the doctor bounced. This happens when a debtor has been found liable for payment on a debt, the court sets up a payment arrangement, and that arrangement is ignored or the agreement is violated in some way.

Now, before anybody gets all het up, understand, I am NOT saying it is right, I'm just saying that "body attachments" are used more commonly than you might think.

What a lot of people don't realize about medical collections is that a lot of hospitals will turn you over to collections within a very short time of you getting out of the hospital if you don't have insurance. If you have insurance, then you got some time because they are haggling with your insurance company at that point. Once your insurance company pays as much as they are willing, THEN you get sent to collections. The collection agency immediately calls you up and starts to lean on you because they don't make any money until they collect it. They can make money off suing you because a lot of times they can get a percentage of the court costs. They have zero incentive to work with you on that debt, and in fact, have a real interest in getting you into the court system as fast as possible.

They sue you and you go to court. If you are like a lot of folks you are gonna walk in there alone--pro se. You are gonna be standing in front of a judge by yourself, against a lawyer that has most likely been in front of that same judge all day doing this same type of hearing over and over. A lot of folks will end up pressured into payment plans in that situation, and (THIS is the important part!) BECAUSE it is a part of the court order, if you miss a payment you can get hauled into jail. Remember how the collection agency can get a percentage of court costs? Well, miss payment and it becomes another opportunity for them to have another payday...

Illinois collection laws are not pretty at all, but from what I understand this is a fairly common practice across the US.



Laura

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Response to davsand (Reply #40)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 05:10 PM

45. Hi Laura

You seem to know quite a bit about hospital billing practices and I was wondering about something.

Back during the 80's our insurance ran out during one of my many layoffs and our daughter had to be admitted. I didn't have the money to pay for it. The bill was was in the thousands. So I went into the billing office and offered to pay $5 per month(All I could afford), until I was recalled to my job and got back on my feet again, and the hospital agreed to that. I paid that $5 bucks every month like clockwork for about a year and when I got back to work paid the entire bill off ASAP. They didn't send me to a collection agency or even charge me any interest.

Do you know if hospitals still provide or offer any deferred low payment program like I just described?

And that was kind of normal back then as I recall. Nothing unique about it.

Don

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Response to NNN0LHI (Reply #45)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 06:18 PM

47. That was a lot more common in the early to mid 80's.

By the late 80's our local Catholic hospital had become a lot more mercenary--to the point they were offering lines of credit with preferred lenders. They were encouraging patients still in the hospital to apply for a line of credit with a lender that you'd then have to repay with interest over time. The big change that came about was the corporatization of hospitals and the move away from locally owned hospitals. The bean counters got involved and suddenly hospitals were terribly interested in the bottom line. You'd see payment plans a lot more often in the smaller community hospitals and in the teaching or religious hospitals, but not so much in the larger "chain" hospitals.

If you stop to think about it, there was a time when families had "major medical" coverage and medical bills were something you paid when you went to the Dr's office. Hospitalization was just about the only thing covered, and even then there were deductibles that could be kinda steep. Medical costs were a lot lower then, so it took something pretty drastic to pile up a bill that big. Now, one trip to the ER can leave most folks in serious financial straights even with insurance. Prior to the times of "major medical" it was an even larger difference. Hospitals were where poor people went to die, and hospital billing was a lot more compassionate because hospitals really were institutions of public charity. Those days are long gone, and the public policy of exempting hospitals from taxation because of their charitable activities is, now, finally under scrutiny.



Laura

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 01:25 PM

32. This is why working class people need to be looking at solutions for legal insurance.

Services that allow you to pay a monthly fee to have some legal coverage. Basically legal insurance, so when you need an attorney you have one.

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 02:18 PM

35. So say a person goes to jail over a debt...

They are still going to be broke when they get out, if not even more so. This whole scenario is just plain stupid. You can't get blood from a turnip.

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Response to 2QT2BSTR8 (Reply #35)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 04:37 PM

42. I do support actions, and you be surprise how much money comes up after an arrest

Yes, the person in Jail can NOT earn any money, but you be surprise how much money such a person can come up with once he or she is in jail. The same with fines and other debts collected by the Courts.

Some of this money comes from other relatives, some from employers who want the employee back on the job, but most from the employee who has been hiding the money from the Courts.

Now, I live in a state that prohibits arrest for debts, but does permit arrest for failing to obey Court Orders including Support Court Orders. Thus the Courts are used to collect such funds from such "debtors" even in a state like Pennsylvania that abolished Arrest for Debt in 1820. The Article mentions two types of debt, one owned to creditors, the other to the courts.

Both types of debts lead to problems, but two different sets of problems. The First is arrest for debt, i.e. arrest for owning money to someone OTHER then the State or a Court. In those states that permit arrest for debt it is a problem and appears to be the problem for the woman with cancer mentioned in the Article. The solution for that is simple, require the creditor to pay the Jail to Keep the debtor, no payment, the debtor is released. Cash up front. And in most states this can be done WITHOUT a change in the law, for that was the rule when you did have Debtor's prison. Someone had to pay for the prisoner being in jail and it was NOT a cost carried by the Jailer. The creditor can add the amount to the debt, but in most cases such debt can be abolished in Bankruptcy so NOT a problem. The above rule would kill arrest for debt in almost all cases. Creditors do NOT want to put up money, they want paid, thus rare for creditors to pay to jail someone and would remain rare if the Courts and Jail would demand payment up front before even arresting a debtor (From what I have read, it was to avoid Jailers being stuck with a food bill that Arrest for Debt was abolished in Pennsylvania as oppose to any desire to help debtors).

The Second type of debt, is NOT paying a fine or other Court Order. If the fine or other Court Order payment (Most often child support) the court has Jail is considered long over due by that time. Can this be abused? yes, but it is a power needed, I have seen to many parents avoid paying their child support and then coming up with the money once they are jailed to say it does not work. To much power to give to normal creditors, but in regards to criminal fines and Support, the best way to collect the money due.

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Response to 2QT2BSTR8 (Reply #35)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 12:16 AM

49. Ah but the prison industry is very eager to expand.

All they need are warm bodies. That's it. For every warm body, they receive 33 to 40 thousand dollars a year here in California.

And the Big Banks are now part owners of these enterprises.

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Response to truedelphi (Reply #49)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 04:38 AM

51. And prison labor saves on shipping. n/t

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 04:36 PM

41. Dickins' is rolling in his grave right now. n/t

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Response to myrna minx (Original post)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 04:42 AM

52. Contempt of court is not the same thing as failure to pay a bill

 

This topic is lame.

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