Forget Prison For Petty Offenses - Debtor's Prison in the USA!

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Forget Prison For Petty Offenses - Debtor's Prison in the USA! Empty Forget Prison For Petty Offenses - Debtor's Prison in the USA!

Post by Pied Piper on Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:32 pm

Breast cancer survivor handcuffed and thrown in jail over a mistaken $280 medical bill as 'debtor's prisons' return to the U.S

Germany in the late 1930's was never this bad!




Article - AP
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.

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. That loophole
has lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives concerned enough
to pass a bill in March that would make it illegal to send residents of
the state to jail if they can't pay a debt. The measure awaits action
in the senate.

"Creditors have been manipulating the court system
to extract money from the unemployed, veterans, even seniors who rely
solely on their benefits to get by each month," Illinois Attorney
General Lisa Madigan said last month in a statement voicing support for
the legislation. "Too many people have been thrown in jail simply
because they're too poor to pay their debts. We cannot allow these
illegal abuses to continue."

Debt collectors typically avoid
filing suit against debtors, a representative with the Illinois
Collectors Association tells the AP. "A consumer that has been arrested
or jailed can't pay a debt. We want to work with consumers to resolve
issues," he said.

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.

According to the ACLU: "The sad truth is that debtors' prisons are flourishing today,
more than two decades after the Supreme Court prohibited imprisoning
those who are too poor to pay their legal debts. In this era of
shrinking budgets, state and local governments have turned aggressively
to using the threat and reality of imprisonment to squeeze revenue out
of the poorest defendants who appear in their courts."

Some states also apply "poverty penalties," including late fees, payment plan
fees, and interest when people are unable to pay all their debts at
once, according to a report by the New York University's Brennan Center
for Justice. Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, for instance,
while Florida allows private debt collectors to add a 40 percent
surcharge on the original debt. Some Florida counties also use so-called
collection courts, where debtors can be jailed but have no right to a
public defender.

"Many states are imposing new and often onerous
'user fees' on individuals with criminal convictions," the authors of
the Brennan Center report wrote. "Yet far from being easy money, these
fees impose severe -- and often hidden -- costs on communities,
taxpayers, and indigent people convicted of crimes. They create new
paths to prison for those unable to pay their debts and make it harder
to find employment and housing as well to meet child-support
obligations."

Such practices, heightened in recent years by the
effects of the recession, amount to criminalizing poverty, say critics
in urging federal authorities to intervene. "More people are unemployed,
more people are struggling financially, and more creditors are trying
to get their debt paid," Madigan told the AP.

Currently only five states have debtor's prison, Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Minnesota, and Washington.  Those are the ONLY six as of 2011.

Illinois was among the states but has limited abuse with a new law enacted in 2012:
http://www.insidearm.com/daily/debt-collection-news/debt-collection/illinois-debtors-prison-bill-signed-into-law/

MINNEAPOLIS — As a sheriff’s deputy dumped the contents of Joy
Uhlmeyer’s purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had been
arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her
elderly mother.

No one had an answer. Uhlmeyer spent a sleepless night in a frigid Anoka
County holding cell, her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth.
Then, handcuffed in a squad car, she was taken to downtown Minneapolis
for booking. Finally, after 16 hours in limbo, jail officials
fingerprinted Uhlmeyer and explained her offense — missing a court
hearing over an unpaid debt. Jailed without the charges being explained,
and no quick arraignment? This is turning into Communist Russia! What happened
to our rights?


“They have no right to do this to me,” said the 57-year-old patient care
advocate, her voice as soft as a whisper. “Not for a stupid credit
card.”

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.

If you owe money in the RED states chances are they will "extract" it from you - one way or another!

Forget Prison For Petty Offenses - Debtor's Prison in the USA! Debtorfriendly
Pied Piper
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