The debtors’ prison is an old, decrepit institution that many thought was abolished in the 19th century, something little more than a relic of the past. This is a problematic view for two reasons. One, debtors’ prisons are rarely explored in the classroom or the larger society. And two, these prisons are making a serious comeback in the United States, which is deeply problematic for the poor and working class.
More and more people around the country are getting sent to debtors’ prisons, but exactly how does it happen? According to National Public Radio, companies that people owe money usually sell off the debt to a collection agency, which in turn “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.” In some cases, judges “don't even know debtors' rights, which could result in the debtor being intimidated into a pay agreement,” making an already bad situation worse. News coverage about the rise of debtors’ prisons has been picking up steam, especially in regards to judges imprisoning people for their debts. [This is way it is vitally important to know and understand your rights.]
The reinstatement of debtors’ prisons has a serious impact on the poor and unemployed who can even be sent to prison for nonpayment of regular bills, due to the fact that “a creditor can petition a court to issue a summons for nonpayment of a bill. If you fail to appear, for one reason or another – and life gets pretty disorganized when you lose your job and possibly your home – then you're in contempt of court. Next stop, jail.” It’s rather ridiculous that this is legal if you considers the fact that half of Americans are poor or near poor, and 48 million Americanslive in poverty. More than a third of U.S. states allow debtors to be jailed. In conjunction with debtors’ prisons, there's also been a rise in collection firms using the courts to force people to pay up on their debts. This has quickly become a problem in some cases where “the debt collection agencies have used threats and lies to get consumers to pay back their debts,” and the collectors have “allegedly pressured consumers who didn't owe anything at all.” In sum, people who are already having a difficult time paying bills are now being subject to harassment and intimidation from collectors.
The Shackles Return: Why Debtors’ Prisons Are Making An American Comeback | Occupy.com
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