The rebirth of debtor prisons

I haven't decided what to do with this story yet, so I'm just going to post it for now. But I know that eventually its going to be part of a moral outrage rant.

It's not a crime to owe money, and debtors' prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.
Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect.
Whether a debtor is locked up depends largely on where the person lives, because enforcement is inconsistent from state to state, and even county to county.
In Illinois and southwest Indiana, some judges jail debtors for missing court-ordered debt payments. In extreme cases, people stay in jail until they raise a minimum payment. In January, a judge sentenced a Kenney, Ill., man "to indefinite incarceration" until he came up with $300 toward a lumber yard debt.
...
In Minnesota, judges have issued arrest warrants for people who owe as little as $85 -- less than half the cost of housing an inmate overnight. Debtors targeted for arrest owed a median of $3,512 in 2009, up from $2,201 five years ago.

The move towards neofeudalism continues.

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wow

There already is a situation where criminals have to repay a host of services so it becomes a financial black hole. Pay for their parole and so on when earning minimum wage. It's almost a guarantee to turn to crime, as debtor's prison was.

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Whats the Criteria?

The story leads with a woman who did not appear for her court date and thats why she was arrested. She was not arrested for owing money.

These are civil cases so people are being arrested for failure to appear for a court date or failure to meet agreed upon court payments. If someone can't make payments they have an obligation to inform the courts of that. I'll wager Minnesota law has some arrangement for the debtor to inform the court of a change in circumstances.

Its a civil matter so the collection agency should not be able to get a warrant issued just for owing money sans a court hearing. If thats the case someone has to challenge the law.

Failure to have an ability to pay hearing prior to issuing a warrant for failure to pay a debt would be unconstitutional. This case below is about fines but covers debt collection also. Part of the problem is that these people are strapped for money so they don't have lawyers and it would seem no one is challenging these laws which are unconstitutional.


Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983)

I'm surprised the Southern Poverty Law Center is not involved in this. Its right up their alley.

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