Jail for Unpaid Debt a Reality in Six States (Strategic Default Pushback Watch)

On Friday, I put up a short post alerting readers to a PR campaign apparently just getting off the runway to impress the average American of his moral obligation to honor his debts. The rise of strategic defaults (and perhaps even more important, the increasingly positive coverage it is getting in the media and the blogosphere) is generating heartburn among the banking classes.

One of the tidbits we pointed to was a YouTube snippet of Peterson Institute spokesman David Walker speaking fondly of debtors’ prison and the need to “hold people accountable when they do imprudent things.” A couple of readers complained that I was being unfair, while others said they’d be happy to see the return of debtors’ prison as long at the executives at the TBTF banks were at the head of the queue.

Be careful what you wish for. Reader bill clued us in that people who fall behind on debt payments are being incarcerated in six states. While this is generally short-term, it is nevertheless a troubling development, since these are all involve private contracts and look to be an abuse of the court system. From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:

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.

“The law enforcement system has unwittingly become a tool of the debt collectors,” said Michael Kinkley, an attorney in Spokane, Wash., who has represented arrested debtors. “The debt collectors are abusing the system and intimidating people, and law enforcement is going along with it.”

How often are debtors arrested across the country? No one can say. No national statistics are kept, and the practice is largely unnoticed outside legal circles. “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,” said Robert Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.

Debt collectors defend the practice, saying phone calls, letters and legal actions aren’t always enough to get people to pay…..

Taxpayers foot the bill for arresting and jailing debtors. In many cases, Minnesota judges set bail at the amount owed.

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.

Those jailed for debts may be the least able to pay….

The laws allowing for the arrest of someone for an unpaid debt are not new.

What is new is the rise of well-funded, aggressive and centralized collection firms, in many cases run by attorneys, that buy up unpaid debt and use the courts to collect.

Three debt buyers — Unifund CCR Partners, Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. and Debt Equities LLC — accounted for 15 percent of all debt-related arrest warrants issued in Minnesota since 2005, court data show. The debt buyers also file tens of thousands of other collection actions in the state, seeking court orders to make people pay.

The debts — often five or six years old — are purchased from companies like cellphone providers and credit card issuers, and cost a few cents on the dollar. Using automated dialing equipment and teams of lawyers, the debt-buyer firms try to collect the debt, plus interest and fees. A firm aims to collect at least twice what it paid for the debt to cover costs. Anything beyond that is profit….

Todd Lansky, chief operating officer at Resurgence Financial LLC, a Northbrook, Ill.-based debt buyer, said firms like his operate within the law, which says people who ignore court orders can be arrested for contempt…

Few debtors realize they can land in jail simply for ignoring debt-collection legal matters. Debtors also may not recognize the names of companies seeking to collect old debts. Some people are contacted by three or four firms as delinquent debts are bought and sold multiple times after the original creditor writes off the account….

A year ago, Legal Aid attorneys proposed a change in state law that would have required law enforcement officials to let debtors fill out financial disclosure forms when they are apprehended rather than book them into jail. No legislator introduced the measure…

One afternoon last spring, Deborah Poplawski, 38, of Minneapolis was digging in her purse for coins to feed a downtown parking meter when she saw the flashing lights of a Minneapolis police squad car behind her. Poplawski, a restaurant cook, assumed she had parked illegally. Instead, she was headed to jail over a $250 credit card debt.

Less than a month earlier, she learned by chance from an employment counselor that she had an outstanding warrant. Debt Equities, a Golden Valley debt buyer, had sued her, but she says nobody served her with court documents. Thanks to interest and fees, Poplawski was now on the hook for $1,138….

She spent nearly 25 hours at the Hennepin County jail….

The next day, Poplawski appeared before a Hennepin County district judge. He told her to fill out the form listing her assets and bank account, and released her. Several weeks later, Debt Equities used this information to seize funds from her bank account. The firm didn’t return repeated calls seeking a comment.

“We hear every day about how there’s no money for public services,” Poplawski said. “But it seems like the collectors have found a way to get the police to do their work.”

Yves here. The story has many examples of people who were jailed, and more detail on the debt collectors.

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88 comments

      1. Chris W

        Sadly that won’t happen. BP wont come close to going bankrupt. Even if the clean up costs run into the most pessimistic figures BP will be fine. They make 20 billion in profits per year. That is pure profit not revenue. On top of that they have several 100 bill in assets. They are richer than most nations of the world. This thing could run into tens of billions of dollars and they will still be sitting pretty. This is why people need to stop whining about socialism and give this administration the green-light to kick some corporate butt. If we were really in danger of becoming commies then corporations like BP wouldn’t be operating on our shores and banks wouldn’t still be making record profits.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          “This is why people need to stop whining about socialism and give this administration the green-light to kick some corporate butt.”

          It’s comical (sort of) to picture Obama jumping up and kicking himself in the ass.

  1. dave

    I’ve recently decided not to pay a hospital bill and they called me a few times a month. I can afford to pay but am not doing so on principle. I was told by the hospital that my insurance would cover a few tests I considered of marginal value, then got stuck with the whole bill (around $1,000, I was given no indication what it would cost). I also found the amount they charged ridiculous. $375 to talk to a doctor for 10 min? I’m not paying on principle. I made it clear to them I was willing to pay a reduced rate that could be considered reasonable, but the hospital won’t negotiate. I have to wait until they sell it to a collection agent. Then we will have to see what happens.

    1. attempter

      You should just call it fraud, which is exactly what it is.

      The doctor fee is extortionate, way beyond any acceptable capitalist practice, while if you’re accurately describing the testing that was de jure bait-and-switch all the way.

      So people should say, “They’re criminals, con men, and set me up for these phony bills, as if a street grifter sent you a bill after he fooled you mentally. That’s why we refuse to pay – we’re not paying for con jobs, and we’re not paying when they hire thugs, including uniformed and black-robed thugs, to engage in extortion and creditor terrorism.”

      1. i on the ball patriot

        Second that!!!

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      This is why we need Dickensian debtors’ prisons to keep the serfs from getting too uppity with their feudal lords.

      The same thing happened to us, a surprise $600.00 bill, but persistent, clear written responses (and threats) to both the insurance racketeers and wealthcare pirates eventually quelled it.

    3. Stephen G

      Dave,

      Had the same story here. Doc talked me into signing up to a diabetes education program. One 2-hour session, $800 — the cost which was, of course, discovered only AFTER attending when the bill came in the mail. After bitching to my insurance, they covered half. I used every collection call from the hospital as an opportunity to remind them the importance of informing the patient beforehand of the cost for optional services.

    4. VenusVictrix

      I bet they have a negotiated rate which is quite a bit less then they want from you now.

      Why don’t you ask them for a schedule of those rates?

      Tell them you want to know how much more you must pay as an individual, than they offer to others for the same services but happen to be members of a “group”.

    1. alex

      from that article: “It looks on the surface like debtors prison,” said William G. Ross, a law professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala. “But it’s really not, because the person isn’t being punished for the debt, but for failing to appear.”

      That’s the excuse they’re using in Minnesota too. But how were they notified that they had to appear? Neither article really says and it’s a key point. Most people aren’t going to be dumb enough to skip out on a court appearance. I get the impression though that they’re being notified by the plaintiff via ordinary mail in a letter that many may reject as a scam or other nonsense.

      At the very least the defendant should be notified of a required appearance by the court (official letterhead and all that) by registered mail with a return receipt. And of course the letter from the court should make clear that they can be arrested for failing to appear. Better yet, have them served with a subpoena.

  2. Bill

    Interesting , shameful . But if a court orders one to pay , jail is a consequence for default . aka Child Support delinquincy .
    PRAA – to the moon !!- Booya Booya !!!!!!!!

  3. killben

    In india, we have something called “Jail Bharo Andholan” (Call to Fill up the Jails) .. Probably it is time to start the same in the U.S.

    Probably it might make sense to start a website where all those who are underwater on their homes register. Get a big enough number and then do a “Jail Bharo” Movement … Let all those who are underwater default at the same time and court placement in a jail. Let us see what the Government does.

    Rules like this call for a movement … missing good leaders acutely .. is America?

  4. debra

    Killben, how about going into more detail on your above comment, describing the practice, please ?
    This is a clear case of.. not seeing the forest for the trees.
    If there is one business that is continuing to expand in the U.S., it is indeed the prison business, right along there with the military-industrial complex.
    When you keep on building those prisons, well, you gotta fill them up.
    And… you’re gonna keep on looking for ways to fill them up.
    And you’re gonna… criminalize more and more behavior to keep filling those prisons up IN THE RAGE TO PUNISH anything and everything that moves.
    And after, “you” will rationalize all this any way you can.
    I have been predicting the “comeback” of prison for debtors for a while now.
    It seems like we are hellbent on destroying the legacy of our Romantic fathers in their attempts to push back against the cheapening and coarsening of our daily lives by the effects of the industrial revolution.
    The U.S. seems to be hell bent on a course of… carting EVERYTHING that moves off to prison at the very end.
    Like in the Jewish rabbi joke (probably) that we still tell in Europe…
    “When they came to cart off the Jews, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t Jewish…
    And when they came to cart off the Catholics, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t Catholic…
    And when they came to cart off the Communists…
    And when they came to cart off the debtors, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t a debtor…
    And when they came to cart ME off… there was nobody left to protest.”
    Good joke. Edifying, I think. Good justification for social cohesion.
    Don’t make the mistake of believing that man is rational.
    He functions under the premise that… more of a good thing is always better..
    And he really does have a hard time.. knowing when to stop.. ANYTHING.

  5. Vinny

    Great reporting, Yves! Thanks.

    This practice needs to work its way up to the Supreme Court really badly. Until that happens, such abuses are likely to continue.

    It would also be interesting to find out whether any of these judges send these people to private prisons. Then it would be interesting to find out whether that judge sits on the board of directors of that private prison. Last year I saw a report on CNN or 60 minutes, can’t remember which, about a judge in a small town who would routinely imprison adolescents for trivial things in the private prison he was associated with. The county would then pick up the bill. Private prisons are big business, their stocks, the most profitable ones around.

    Some interesting statistics: the US imprisons 3 million people (one percent of the country’s population), while about 10 million are on probation or parole. The next country on that list is China, a communist country 4 times more populous than the US, where there are about 1.5 million people in prisons. Also, the US, which represents 5 percent of the world’s population has 25 percent of the world’s inmates. It’s big business, that’s for sure.

    Better make sure I pay that cellphone bill right away.

    Vinny

    1. alex

      “This practice needs to work its way up to the Supreme Court really badly.”

      Why, is there anything in the US Constitution that forbids this? It seems like this is mostly prohibited by state constitutions.

      What this really needs is lots and lots and lots of publicity. Thanks to Yves, reader ‘bill’ and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune for publicizing this. Once again I’m reminded that freedom of speech and of the press are the most important liberties we have.

      1. Vinny

        I don’t trust the supreme court either. But I’m not sure about the corporatist media either.

        IMHO, I think what killben is proposing above may be the best approach to tackle these scumbags. We really need a revolution in this country, my friend.

        Vinny

        1. alex

          “I’m not sure about the corporatist media either.”

          I dunno, is the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune part of the corporatist media? I’m frequently disgusted by the MSM, but give credit where credit is due.

          “We really need a revolution in this country, my friend.”

          That hope and $1 will get you a cup of coffee. We’re not going to have a revolution. I mentioned Shay’s Rebellion elsewhere on this thread, and it’s fun, but there’s a time to be serious too. Reform is more the needed remedy. This is hardly the first period of godawful plutocratic corruption in this country.

          1. i on the ball patriot

            Alex says “I dunno, is the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune part of the corporatist media? I’m frequently disgusted by the MSM, but give credit where credit is due.”

            Credit for what? The article is basic divisive fear mongering propaganda for the banker elite parasitic scum. Its an integral part of the demonize the Strategic Defaulters program. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune is a corporate tool. This is a feeler article to judge response. They will fine tune it and roll iy out. You notice how they said nothing about the debtor’s prison of FICO. The bars the employer uses in assessing your employability in all fifty states (and all over the planet in a variety of forms) to deny you access to income. Talk about a debtor’s prison! They might as well tattoo your fucking forehead! I ask you where are the pro bono “noble lawyers” on this one?

            This is also an integral part of creating the intentional global Perpetual Conflict in the masses, so as to control and thin them out, as it further divides the prudent and not so prudent.

            Parasitic bankers should be made to go out and get real jobs where they have to make payroll for socially beneficial products rather than their socially destructive parasitic outrageously usurious interest rate products and all of their offshoot over leveraged derivative products. Scum fuckers!

            Yves this should be called Strategic Default Pushback DIVISIVE DEMONIZATION Watch.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    2. a

      “This practice needs to work its way up to the Supreme Court really badly.”

      You have a lot more confidence in the current Supreme Court than I.

      1. alex

        I have the utmost confidence that the Supreme Court would decide that any change to this abusive system would “chill” the free speech of the alleged creditors.

    3. Nick

      As noted above, this is about people being held in contempt for not showing up for post-judgment hearings–not for failing to pay debts.

      What’s happened in these cases is a bill collection agency bought up some debts, sued them out, got judgments, and then either sent the debtor a Financial Disclosure Form (purchased post-judgment from the court), or a subpoena with post-judgment discovery.

      The story is poorly written and headlined, and is misleading.

      Yves, this is a crap story and I’m sorry to see you linking to it.

  6. killben

    Look at these links … all on “Jail Bharo” andolan.

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/bjp-begins-its-jail-bharo-andolan/410127/

    http://pd.cpim.org/2006/0319/03192006_punjab.htm

    http://php.statetimes.in/news/2010/05/24/refugees-prepare-for-jail-bharo-andolan/

    The basic idea is a clarion call for people to court arrest enmasse!!

    My point is if government is going to suppress your right to default then all the people who are underwater on their homes should default ENMASSE (AFTER CONSULTING A LAWYER!!) for maximum impact and advertise to the world that THAT THEY HAVE DEFAULTED AND LOOKING FOR MORE DEFAULTERS … we need more people power and therefore more people who understand government propoganda for what it is .. to help the TBTF banksters. If you want to take on government, the only way you can do it through the PEOPLE POWER!! Once a lot of people join in it will no longer be easy for government to ignore it

    Thus if government ups the ante for strategic defaults then people with underwater homes to default ENMASSE! The website I spoke about would act as a gathering point for creating the mass.

    1. Gary Anderson

      Exactly Killben. I have been advocating at my websites the peaceful guerrilla default. We can’t fight the New International Order with guns, as that is futile. We can fight them by walking away from credit, and of course Rick Santelli and the Tea Party are disingenuous because they don’t want that. They want everyone to pay their bills so the stock market keeps going up.

      You can’t be a guerrilla if you have a silver spoon in your mouth.

  7. Greg

    I can’t really speak about the other five states mentioned in the article, but at least as far as Illinois is concerned the article’s misleading. You cannot be arrested in Illinois simply because you owe someone money. The creditor is accurately quoted–the arrest comes from ignoring a court order to appear before the judge, and generally only happens after the case is filed, a judgment is entered, the creditor starts a process to discover what assets the debtor has to pay the judgment (if any), and the debtor ignores two separate summonses to appear in court.

    If the debtor gets arrested, they’re generally brought before the court in charge of enforcing the judgment as soon as possible so the debtor can testify about his assets, and after the examination the debtor goes home.

    Granted, no one wants to be arrested for anything, but the article makes it sound like debtors are being arrested simply for owing money and not being released until the debt is paid.

    1. alex

      “and the debtor ignores two separate summonses to appear in court”

      And how are these “summonses” delivered? I find it hard to believe that many people would be dumb enough to ignore two court summonses. But are they aware of them? Are they from the plaintiff by regular mail in a wonderfully unclear and unofficial looking form or are from the court by registered mail?

      The former is an old scam. Starting in the Great Depression and until about twenty years ago (?) in Nassau County, NY people would have their houses taken by private scumbags who bought them for pennies based on unsettled tax liens. Of course those leans were often for $100 or something on houses where people were otherwise faithfully paying thousands in real estate taxes every year. A key part of the scam is that the notices were delivered by the private party scumbags via regular mail in a form that really did look like a scam. People tossed them like junk mail. Only headlines and continuing stories in the local paper got the story changed.

    2. Nick

      Ditto here in Minnesota.

      The surprising thing about this poorly written article is the suggestion that there are 44 states which DON’T jail contemnors who fail to appear following proper service. I would be surprised to learn of any state that doesn’t allow judges to enforce judicial power against persons who are in contempt of court.

      As for those who question the validity of the service of process–that’s a potential issue in any lawsuit. Sometimes valid service is alleged, and then overturned following a hearing on the matter. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best we’ve been able to develop to this point.

      1. Transor Z

        Nonsense. Why should failure to appear at a civil proceeding not related to child support constitute a contempt? A debtor should be defaulted and that’s that.

        This is what asset search companies are for. Then you pay the sheriff to seize property/evict. If they’re employed, you garnish their wages. You don’t need the debtor in court to accomplish that.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Transor,

          I suspect this happens when they have trouble finding bank account and employment info and therefore can’t garnish readily. You need one or the other.

          1. Transor Z

            Yves,

            Full disclosure: I’m a bankruptcy attorney here in Massachusetts, so I have a definite point of view.
            :-)

            We have something called Supplementary Process in which creditors get to interview judgment debtors (and yes, in which being a no-show can result in a contempt) but creditors also have the burden of proving ability to pay or face dismissal. That’s the tricky part…

            Usually unsecured creditors just pay somebody to discover assets/job/observe the creditor, and then hand the sheriff an execution on judgment with a list of stuff to seize.

            People truly without means should be looking for pro bono legal assistance. While I’m empathetic when it comes to people with means hiding their heads in the sand in these situations, I’m actually not very sympathetic.

        2. Nick

          As I noted above at 1:17:

          “As noted above [by another poster], this is about people being held in contempt for not showing up for post-judgment hearings–not for failing to pay debts.

          What’s happened in these cases is a bill collection agency bought up some debts, sued them out, got judgments, and then either sent the debtor a Financial Disclosure Form (purchased post-judgment from the court), or a subpoena with post-judgment discovery.”

          The recipient of a Financial Disclosure Form in Minnesota has (the last I checked) 30 days to complete and return the form. Failure to complete and return the form makes one subject to a possible contempt proceeding–if the collections attorney wants to move a court for that sort of relief.

      2. alex

        Nick: “As for those who question the validity of the service of process–that’s a potential issue in any lawsuit.”

        Ah yes, one of those pesky details to be admitted to but essentially dismissed with the old “nothing’s perfect” line.

        The devil is in the details. Exactly what are the process serving details? The article is remiss in not explaining them, but you’ve done _nothing_ to illuminate the matter. I’ve known people that throw bills and collections notices in the trash, but they’d never do that with a summons for a court appearance (especially if that summons is kind enough to explain that failure to appear will subject them to arrest). I find it hard to believe that many people would be dumb enough to do that. As I noted in my 7:22, there are people who lost their houses because they were sold for a tax lien of $100. It was all based on “notifications” that were designed to be dismissed as scams. Do you think anyone would be dumb enough to loose a house over $100 in back taxes if they were properly notified of what was happening?

        “Sometimes valid service is alleged, and then overturned following a hearing on the matter.”

        And how much does that cost in time, court appearances and legal fees? How many people are even aware of the possibility without consulting a good lawyer (whose advice might cost more than the judgment). And as to proving a negative, exactly how does one prove, or disprove, that the defendant has been properly served in such matters in Minnesota?

        “It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best we’ve been able to develop to this point.”

        It seems like a lot of states have been able to develop a much better system than Minnesota (unless you’re a collections company, of course).

        1. Nick

          I can’t speak for other states, but here in Minnesota a pro se litigant who claims that s/he never received service is almost guaranteed to be able to have the case re-opened without prejudice and heard on the merits. That’s due process.

          However, that by itself is of little comfort to people who might be jailed for a couple days because some process server falsely swore that he served a post-trial or post-default contempt motion. In that case, the alleged contemnor will be allowed (I’m sure in any U.S. jurisdiction), to pursue a remedy against the process server for falsely swearing. If the alleged contemnor can carry his burden of proof, then s’he will be well compensated (if he can collect his damages–restart the process with a new debtor!).

          In the cases in the article, people simply didn’t read or understand their mail. Ignorance of the law, etc….

          If anyone has a better system of law, they are welcome to bring it. The Anglo-American legal system is pretty adaptable to changing needs and better ideas. The history of Anglo-American jurisprudence is one of continuing adaptation to changing cultural circumstances. It’s not perfect, but it beats the hell out of anarchy.

          And yes, it still sucks for the wrongfully incarcerated. If you have a better alternative, you too can become a legal big wig; they might even name a law school after you.

          1. alex

            “I can’t speak for other states, but here in Minnesota a pro se litigant who claims that s/he never received service is almost guaranteed to be able to have the case re-opened without prejudice and heard on the merits. That’s due process.”

            So why aren’t these people doing that? Are they even aware that they can do that, and how much would the legal advice to advise them of that cost? Would it be substantially less than the judgment?

            “However, that by itself is of little comfort to people who might be jailed for a couple days because some process server falsely swore that he served a post-trial or post-default contempt motion. In that case, the alleged contemnor will be allowed (I’m sure in any U.S. jurisdiction), to pursue a remedy against the process server for falsely swearing. If the alleged contemnor can carry his burden of proof, then s’he will be well compensated (if he can collect his damages–restart the process with a new debtor!).”

            Cute theory. And how does one prove a negative, that you weren’t served? And how much does it cost in time and legal fees to pursue this?

            “In the cases in the article, people simply didn’t read or understand their mail. Ignorance of the law, etc….”

            What happened to being served a subpoena? You mentioned either being served or mail. Who pays for the server? Do you really think that’s how it’s done in small cases like these? If by mail is at least registered mail? If not, then why not, since failure to respond can result in arrest. I’ve gotten registered mail for some guy up the street who wanted a zoning variance to build a garage 9′ from his house instead of 10′.

            “If anyone has a better system of law, they are welcome to bring it. … It’s not perfect, but it beats the hell out of anarchy.”

            Spare me the sanctimonious bullshit – Clarence Darrow is dead. You act as though it’s either the way this is currently handled in Minnesota or it’s anarchy. Requiring that something be sent via registered mail with return receipt is not exactly sweeping away our entire legal system.

            We’re not talking about grand legal principles here, but about the dirty little details of required and accepted practice in legal proceedings for the collection of small debts. Since the cost of legal representation in these matters is prohibitive, the trick is to make the details confusing or difficult enough to trip people up. The (locally) infamous Nassau County case I mentioned before is a classic example. Save the speeches for when your client is on death row.

            “The Anglo-American legal system is pretty adaptable to changing needs and better ideas. The history of Anglo-American jurisprudence is one of continuing adaptation to changing cultural circumstances.”

            What, are you trying out for the Supreme Court? But at least in America the judges don’t wear wigs – now that’s changing with the times!

          2. alex

            While I’m in the mood, there is one more thing. Six states are mentioned as having abuses like these. Apparently you think that any changes to avoid jailing people for cases involving minor debts would involve revolutionary change to our legal system, if not devolving to utter anarchy. Is that what you think has happened in the other 44 states? Do you think they avoided jailing people and wasting taxpayer provided resources for these sorts of minor cases by completely trashing the Anglo-American legal system? Do they have anarchy? Inquiring minds want to know.

          3. Nick

            First, what’s happening here is these people are being jailed for a day, at most two (over the weekend), pending a hearing on a warrant issued pursuant to a contempt proceeding. They are NOT being jailed simply because they owe a debt; the article’s headline is misleading in that respect.

            Second, depending on the state, post judgment discovery may be done with a variety of process–in some cases registered mail, in others by process server. Neither method is foolproof.

            Third, a motion for a contempt hearing has to be accompanied by an order to show cause issued by a court and served personally on the debtor.

            Fourth, it is the failure to show up to the contempt hearing–as ordered by the court in the order to show cause–which is resulting in a warrant for the arrest of these individuals.

            Fifth, I’m pretty sure that every court–not just the 6 noted in the article–has the authority to enforce its orders through contempt motions. Just more evidence of sloppy research by the article’s writers.

            Sixth, it is at this hearing that the debtors can raise the defense of failure of process. Typically, at least here in Minnesota, a judge dealing with a pro se litigant will ask whether the service was made, perhaps whether the debt may even be valid–usually the court will look out somewhat for the basic interests of unrepresented parties. Otherwise, they can get overturned on appeal. It’s just good judging.

            Seventh, I don’t recall the debt being disputed in any of the cases in the article. So the sole issue is whether they received service. Regardless, what typically happens is the court will order the debtor to purge, or cure, the contempt. That usually means complying with the discovery requested by the creditors. If it’s a mere financial disclosure form, then it’s done inside the courtroom. If it’s a deposition, then it may take a few days to schedule.

            The rub here is that the debtors want to get out of jail right away, and they are willing to post bond to do so. If they were willing to sit in jail a few days pending the opportunity to purge the contempt, they could avoid jeopardizing their bail money.

            Finally, it’s not reasonable to completely remove all of a creditor’s remedies. Here we are merely talking about the right of creditors to acquire financial information about a debtor, post judgment, to see whether the debt can be satisfied. That’s pretty reasonable–and if you ever get screwed on the sale of a car or on a contract for deed, you’ll think so too.

            For that right to work, courts need to be able to enforce discovery orders. What does this require of a debtor, what horrific burden is placed on her or him? To open their mail and comply with any court orders.

            And if they can’t or won’t do that? Then they can spend a few days in jail. I’ve spent a week in jail for refusing to pay a traffic ticket that I thought was bullshit. It’s really not that bad, once you get past the bologna and American cheese sandwiches.

          4. alex

            Nick: “They are NOT being jailed simply because they owe a debt; the article’s headline is misleading in that respect.”

            The headline is about the forest and the article explains the trees. Actual practice in some states leads too often to people being jailed as a result of litigation involving minor debts, which has a wonderfully intimidating effect on most defendants who will then just pay up without asking questions.

            Concentrating on the legalistic details and ignoring the actual policy effects is exactly the sort of thing that causes so many people to loose respect for the legal profession.

            “depending on the state, post judgment discovery may be done with a variety of process–in some cases registered mail, in others by process server.”

            What happened to your Minnesota legal expertise? Is registered mail required in Minnesota or not? Do you still believe that many people will ignore something delivered by registered mail, let alone process server, if it clearly states that failing to do so will subject them to arrest?

            “I’m pretty sure that every court–not just the 6 noted in the article–has the authority to enforce its orders through contempt motions. Just more evidence of sloppy research by the article’s writers.”

            I’m sure they do. And speaking of sloppy, nowhere did the article or I state that only courts in those six states had the authority to enforce its orders through contempt motions. The question is why it’s so frequently used in these minor debt cases in those six states.

            “Otherwise, they can get overturned on appeal.”

            Appeal? On a lousy $500 debt? After a night in jail most people will just shut up and pay. Handcuffs and bars have a wonderful effect on these sorts of hardened criminals.

            “Finally, it’s not reasonable to completely remove all of a creditor’s remedies.”

            And you don’t think there are sufficient remedies in the other 44 states? Funny how commerce seems to continue even in those bastions of anarchy.

  8. koshembos

    In a democratic country one would expect protests by the citizenry when sold and then tried to collect debts by jailing is even attempted. Protest may include marching, assemblies in city parks and even burning of banks and other offenders edifices.

    We, however, live in an official oligarchy with an outlawed court system.

    1. alex

      “In a democratic country one would expect protests by the citizenry …”

      At times in this country’s history that would have been considered a mild approach. I can’t help but think of Shay’s Rebellion. A little refresher from wikipedia:

      Shays’ Rebellion was an armed uprising in central and western Massachusetts (mainly Springfield) from 1786 to 1787. … Most of Shays’ compatriots were poor farmers angered by crushing debt and taxes. Failure to repay such debts often resulted in imprisonment in debtor’s prisons or the claiming of property by the government.

      Thomas Jefferson, who was serving as an ambassador to France at the time, refused to be alarmed by Shays’ Rebellion. In a letter to a friend, he wrote that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

      1. DownSouth

        Later in his life Jefferson was to recant these earlier exhortations to violence. Hannah Arendt explains:

        Jefferson, therefore, when he had learned his lesson from the catastrophes of the French Revolution, where the violence of liberation had frustrated all attempts at founding a secure space for freedom, shifted from his earlier identification of action with rebellion and tearing down to an identification with founding anew and building up. He thus proposed to provide in the Constitution itself ‘for its revision at stated periods’ which would roughly correspond to the periods of the coming and going of generations. His justification, that each new generation has ‘a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness’, sounds too fantastic to be taken seriously…. What was uppermost in his mind was no real change of form of government, not even a constitutional provision to hand on the Constitution ‘with periodic repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time’; it was rather the somewhat awkward attempt at securing for each generation the ‘right to depute representatives to a convention’, to find ways and means for the opinions of the whole people to be ‘fairly, fully, and peaceably expressed, discussed, and decided by the common reason of the society’.
        –Hannah Arendt, On Revolution

        But as Arendt goes on to explain, the reason Jefferson, throughout his long life, was carried away by such impracticabilities—-first periodic revolution and then periodic rewriting of the Constitution—-“was that he knew, however dimly, that the Revolution, while it had given freedom to the people, had failed to provide a space where this freedom could be exercised”:

        Only the representatives of the people, not the people themselves, had an opportunity to engage in those activities of ‘expressing, discussing, and deciding’ which in a positive sense are the activities of freedom. And since the state and federal governments, the proudest results of revolution, through sheer weight of their proper business were bound to overshadow in political importance the townships and their meeting halls—-until what Emerson still considered to be ‘the unit of the Republic’ and ‘the school of the people’ in political matters had withered away—-one might even come to the conclusion that there was less opportunity for the exercise of public freedom and the enjoyment of public happiness in the republic of the United States than there had existed in the colonies of British America. Lewis Mumford recently pointed out how the political importance of the township was never grasped by the founders, and that the failure to incorporate it into either the federal or the state constitutions was ‘one of the tragic oversights of post-revolutionary political development’. Only Jefferson among the founders had a clear premonition of this tragedy, for his greatest fear was indeed les ‘the abstract political system of democracy lacked concrete organs.’

  9. i on the ball patriot

    Its Too Big To Fail that’s putting you in jail!!!!!

    Let’s not forget who the real crooks are and who pays for their Orwellian propaganda …

    Jaime Dimon, scum bag terrorist banker, still walks free while his victims now go to prison!

    Can we all say in unison; SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT!!! SCAM RULE OF LAW!!!

    The TBTF acronym is just another perfect example of gangster favoring Orwellian doublespeak bullshit!

    TBTF should be called by its real name; TBPK — Terrorism By Ponzi and Kidnapping!

    Yes! The big banks are running a Ponzi scam and there are hostages, threats, and ransom involved!

    By running a corrupt Ponzi scam that intentionally creates massive credit bubbles by irresponsible and criminal lending, and, issuing bogus over leveraged financial derivative products, the big terrorist banks in reality have taken the whole country, both complicit customer and non complicit citizens, hostage.

    The ransom paid is the money given to sustain the gambling terrorist scammer banks — the big corrupt banks — and their machinations.

    The threat is the death of the system and a disruption of everyone’s daily life. If the big bank terrorist kidnapper’s demands are not met, the death of the hostages financial system and civil unrest are threatened as the penalty.

    Its a basic Ponzi scam with added hostage insurance! It is in reality kidnapping. And the terrorist threat is DIRECTED AT the United States Government.

    This is pure and simple terrorism! J. P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, etc., they are all terrorist organizations that need to be prosecuted under The Patriot Act.

    Under the Patriot Act it is illegal to take hostages to effect government policy!

    “Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Pub. L. No. 107-52) expanded the definition of terrorism to cover “”domestic,”” as opposed to international, terrorism. A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act “”dangerous to human life”” that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. Additionally, the acts have to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and if they do not, may be regarded as international terrorism.”

    http://www.aclu.org/national-security/how-usa-patriot-act-redefines-domestic-terrorism

    Terrorists belong in prison.

    They are not too big to fail
    They are terrorists that belong in jail!

    Jaime Dimon, scum bag terrorist banker, still walks free while his victims now go to prison!

    Can we all say in unison; SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT!!! SCAM RULE OF LAW!!!

    Speak out now! Demand equal enforcement!

    No balls! No Brains!No Freedom!

    Deception is the strongest political force on the pl

    1. Gary Anderson

      I agree with you that Jamie Dimon is one of many who have abused their powers massively. But this is a multinational cartel.

      That is why we cannot fight this war against the NWO with guns. It must be a peaceful boycott of the bankster’s products and includes walking away from them..

  10. Eric

    Lot’s of outrage here, but I observe that in many cases the debtor finds the money. This reminds me of the controversy over the bankruptcy reforms earlier this century. The cry was that you would be squeezing blood from stones, but I always felt a big problem that many groups had with the reform is that it would possibly prove effective at getting more money out of debtors. There are an awful lot unsecured debt in the hands of people with the resources to pay up, but to flush them out you generally have to pressure the collective debtor populations. Nothing personal, but your bad debts are currency, so either extinguish them or get bankruptcy protection against them. The ability to communicate with collections people that you have a detailed understanding of what is not permitted in collection actions has proven to be quite powerful in keeping things civilized. There are pleny of books and articles that have this information and many groups are willing to provide them and explain what they mean.

    1. alex

      “Lot’s of outrage here, but I observe that in many cases the debtor finds the money.”

      And I observe that:

      a. people are being being in jail to collect a private debt, and

      b. an awful lot of taxpayer resources are being used to enforce private debt collection.

    2. alex

      “This reminds me of the controversy over the bankruptcy reforms earlier this century. … your bad debts are currency, so either extinguish them or get bankruptcy protection against them.”

      The whole controversy over the bankruptcy reforms was that deserving people couldn’t get decent bankruptcy protection.

      Sure, I’ve known people who declared bankruptcy because they were grossly irresponsible and bought lots of toys they couldn’t afford. I say garnish their salaries until it’s paid off. Fine. But what about people who, for example, go broke due to long term illness? Oops, your insurance company found a way to rescind you and, in addition to exorbitant medical bills, you can’t work. Those are the sorts of people that the bankruptcy “reform” went after.

      What really gave the lie to any notion of “reform” though is that they shot down the amendment to give some consideration for reserve and nation guard members who took income cuts because they were activated. Our “support the troops” congress determined that being ordered to take a pay cut so you could put your ass on the line in some hell hole halfway around the world was no excuse for being delinquent on a credit card bill. Gotta keep our priorities straight!

      P.S. Thanks to VP Biden, then better known as the senator from MBNA, for helping to push bankruptcy “reform” through the senate. Small wonder Obama chose somebody like him. As Obama said to him at the time “I know what you mean Joe, I never met a bank whose ass I didn’t want to kiss”.

      1. DownSouth

        alex,

        The issue you raise about bankruptcy and medical issues is not a trivial one:

        Medical bills underlie 60 percent of U.S. bankrupts: study
        http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5530Y020090604

        And here’s the kicker:

        More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine.

        1. Gary Anderson

          The price of medical care is becoming criminal. A bubble imposed by a cartel that must be stoppd. But Larry Summers and the little troll, Timmy Geithner are advisors in charge of keeping bubbles going.

          Housing bubble
          Wall Street bubble
          Gold bubble
          bond bubble
          stock bubble
          gasoline bubble
          medical bubble

    3. Goldman-employee

      I agree completely. It is ok to jail people, because they do not understand the law properly and cannot create a legally-correct response to creditors. The government tries as much as possible to write simplified laws that even a kid can read over the weekend. Why not you?

      1. DownSouth

        This article from the New Jersey State Bar Association gives some insight into just how complex the bankruptcy laws are and how difficult they are for “the less fortunate in society” to navigate:

        Navigating the Bankruptcy Maze

        Todaro first got involved with the Newark-based Volunteer Lawyers for Justice in 2005, when he took part in a seminar on special education issues and agreed to handle a case.

        A year later Todaro, managing counsel in Merck & Co.’s intellectual property group, took on a bankruptcy matter in an effort to help the tide of people who sought assistance following changes to the bankruptcy law in 2005, which made it more complicated to get help through the courts.

        “Pro bono consumer bankruptcy work provides a window onto the difficult economic circumstances encountered by the less fortunate in society. This is something I rarely see in my corporate practice,” said Todaro.

        For the next few years, he continued to handle a few bankruptcy matters, but quickly realized a larger effort was needed. He mobilized a group of his co-workers, and in July 2009 held a clinic where poor residents could get free assistance with the preparation and filing of Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions.

        Since that initial event, a troop of Merck attorneys and professionals has staffed a regular clinic that has led 10 people through the bankruptcy process.

        Todaro is a “tireless and continuous” volunteer, said Jordyn Baumgarten, a director of pro bono services for the volunteer lawyers group.

        “By helping these individuals begin a new financial future, the VLJ/Merck bankruptcy clinic, which was largely born out of John’s commitment to serving those underserved, has helped stabilize not just individuals, but their families and the community as a whole.”

        To the Merck attorney, the recognition by his peers is humbling and inspiring.

        “Pro bono legal work gives me a chance to use my legal skills and experience to help … (It) has exposed me to people and legal issues that I will remember years from now. It is also fulfilling to work with lawyers and staff working for the various legal aid groups and organizations in New Jersey,” he said.
        http://www.njsba.com/probono/index.cfm?fuseaction=award

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Thank you, DS. This is a uplifting antidote. It’s hopeful to read about noble lawyers for a change.

          1. i on the ball patriot

            “noble lawyers” — would be the perfect oxymoron except that someone might say noble bankers.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet

  11. alex

    To all those pounding the table and saying “people should pay their debts” I say, try turning the tables sometime. Try collecting a debt from a company when they don’t feel like paying.

    I’ve worked as a consultant (electronics) and collecting what you’re owed can be half the job. Not all companies work that way (smarter ones don’t) but enough to make life difficult. If you’re lucky an uncontested net 30 bill for services gets paid net 90. Sometimes you’ll never see it. The only practical approach is to never let the bills stack up too much (i.e. don’t do more work until you’re paid) and try to avoid dealing with scumbag companies. Of course even those approaches are tough in this economy.

    Meanwhile credit card companies not only want to be paid, but they tack on anything else they like. If they feel like charging an interest rate that Louie the Loan Shark would consider unethical, no problem! (anybody remember usury laws?). Monthly fees that make the interest rates look mild, no problem! Hey, big company XYZ says you owe it, so you must.

    1. jedwards

      Any type of “finance” has now turned into a game, where the participants must follow the rules of the game to the letter. If you as a participant start adding unnecessary rules, such as “moral rules”, you are handcuffing yourself in a battle against an entity that won’t follow those rules.

      As you point out, companies will drag out payments until the last possible second. They will do everything in their power up to the legal limit of their contract.

      We as regular citizens MUST have the same rights, otherwise we will never get treated FAIRLY. I’m not even saying we need to have an upper hand but we need to be an EQUAL PARTICIPANT with EQUAL RIGHTS. If we don’t exert those rights, we will get our lunch eaten every single day by these amoral corporate entities.

  12. bluffraise

    IN the days of yore when in debtors prison you were quite often allowed to leave the grounds during the day to visit the market for food, you had to be back before dusk. Family and friends were allowed to visit. So in that respect today’s debtor prisons are much worse. If you mess with people with nothing to loose, they might indeed give you good reason to put them in jail one day.

  13. ella

    David Walker yet another republican who believes that on “the little people” have personal responsibility. Something that never crosses the path of the Ubers. Why should creditor be responsible for making loans to people who can not repay the loan?

    In order for society and the economy to properly function each person or entity must be responsible for their actions. As it stands now, the law favors one over the other and corruption abounds.

    Ubers / elites, must never be responsible, must never pay their fair share of tax, must always be able to use their power and moneys to lord over the rest of us.

    When we can no longer consume their products, they will just move onto the next victim nation. What is next Mars?

    1. Francois T

      You forgot to mention when ubers/elites commit criminal acts like ordering torture, assassination without due process, indefinite detention and kidnapping, it is time to “Look Forward, Not Backward”.

      Looking backward is like taxes (and debtor’s prison) : only for the little people!

      This country is getting so screwed up, it’s not even funny.

  14. ep3

    Yves, what about corporations who declare bankruptcy? Aren’t they ignoring debt? Would corporations have to “go to jail” under debtor prison laws?
    I have developed a habit of considering the consequences of political actions from the perspective of how it would affect corporations. They are now above the rule of law (due to globalism) and we protect them from any harm.

  15. bookit

    Libertarians often argue that a major difference between private corporations and governments is the fact that governments institutionalize the “legitimate” use of violence. Jailing people for private debts represents a blurring of that distinction, and it’s another way in which large corporations are becoming more government-like. I suppose someone could argue that these creditors are only “borrowing” the state’s control of violence, but that would remind me of the medieval church’s practice of turning heretics over to the state for prosecution in order to keep its hands “clean.”

  16. jedwards

    To all you sheep that think that people doing strategic defaults is somehow morally wrong:

    It’s part of the contract. If people didn’t want foreclosure or strategic defaults to be allowed, they shouldn’t have put it in the contract. This is basic contract law.

    Corporations do this all the time, ie. strategically default. Morgan Stanley did this in January 2010, walked away from 5 office buildings. Why should Main Street not be allowed to do the same thing as Wall Street?

    It’s infuriating that some sheep still are tethered to 20th century thinking when it’s obvious that we have moved past that.

  17. Jerry

    I knew a family who did not have hospital insurance….when the husband was in an auto accident, his wife was unable to pay. She found a job but made so little she was hardly able to feed her two children. So she paid the hospital $5 per month. They could not say she was not paying…..

  18. Jojo

    A thought occurred to me that all of this is happening WITH government regulation.

    Imagine what might be happening if there were no government regulation, as some fringe members of society are advocating these days? The debt collector might come packing a gun and execute you right then and there if you didn’t pay up, just like the old days in the wild west!

    1. DownSouth

      Sometimes I wish some of these libertarians could get a taste of living in one of these libertarian paradises like I do (Mexico) or like commenter jest described yesterday:

      I just came from a trip to Ghana, which has implemented a majority of the “Propertarian” ideals (flat tax, no property taxes, limited gov’t regulation, etc.)

      The country is the embodiment of “free-markets” run amok. On a busy street, one can’t even breathe the air b/c of no emission standards for cars; I can only imagine what lung cancer deaths are going to be like in a few years.

      People build houses where ever they want, sometimes in the middle of roads. But because *everything* is for sale, all it takes is a market-clearing bribe to change the property line or road. Many roads are unusable, so people drive on the sidewalk (you think I’m joking?). The traffic system is non-existent, leading to an inordinate number of horrific traffic accidents. People will straight refuse to drive to parts of the capital city, simply because traffic is a disaster, & isn’t coordinated at a higher level. Traffic cops will literally come up to your car asking for a bribe to let your lane pass.

      If you want to see Propertarianism in action, go live in a developing nation (not the tourist areas), and see how you like it.

      The problem with a system they propose is that *everything* ends up for sale. And I mean “everything” in *every* sense of the word.

      And in a world where everything is for sale, precious little has value.

      Maybe regulation is like air in that you don’t realize how much you need it until you try living without it.

      Banking here in Mexico is like a stroll back to the Wild Wild West. This article describes some, but certainly not all, of the abusive banking practices:

      http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15356

      1. Skippy

        But DownSouth that’s the idea, to create a system under which they can explore their Rasputin/Jungian transformation, with out fear.

  19. dfb

    These people should contact legal aid societies. This practice is likely a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, from the description, it appears to violated 14th Amendment Due Process. As a result, these debt companies may be liable for abuse of legal process and my be on the hook to these folks for more than they owe. This is outrageous!

  20. small business owner

    I am an owner of a small flooring business in Massachusetts and do work for General Contractors most are LLC’s who hire you for work on public/private project. My average contracts are appx. $15,000.00. Ok here’s how it works I have 30 days to pay my material vendors and try to get a deposit of 33% (Mass Law) most don’t want to give out deposits fine sign contract need work, I hire sub-contractors who work for me and pay them when the work is completed, pay my vendors in 30 days, have to or cut off from product, bill contractor, bill contractor again get check $8,000.00 sometime maybe $4,000.00 chase contractor 3 months no payment check in mail must be pony express. File in court to collect balance, company bankrupt, file paperwork with bankruptcy court, on list now, lawyers assigned as trustee, accountants hired by trustees, banks who are on top of food chain get there money, lawyers get there money, accountants hand out money bill for services get there money. Nothing left for me and other sub-contractors. Start over new LLC same General Contractor different name, same people running new company at top of food chain but they have the work. Will not work for them but someone else will here we go again, hope I get paid this time.

    1. Transor Z

      Ever look into getting a mechanic’s lien on the property itself? Not offering legal advice, just curious.

      1. Skippy

        Ditto/agree, familiarize your self with process…have paperwork at the ready if doubtful. Speed is the name of the game, you have to start/prime court process.

        It’s gratifying to see the change in negotiating demeanor when you advance the ideal of selling X for -$ on open market for an invoice of -% asset value with the courts backing.

        Skippy…better to stay home and go broke, than working to do it.

      2. KFritz

        Caveat re mechanics lien laws. The payout doesn’t arrive until the property in question is sold. If the encumbrances are greater than the value of the property, then payment is apportioned just as in any other sort of debt settlement in which liabilities exceed assets.

        If subcontractors placing liens communicate with the property owners, they can be a great tool to attack unscrupulous general contractors.

  21. ECONOMISTA NON GRATA

    The Chairman and The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not like this…..

    The Chairman and The Joint Chiefs of Staff have had just about enough of these IDIOTS.

    The Chairman and The Joint Chiefs of Staff are aware of what the miserable yuppies are doing to our country and the Chairman and The Joint Chiefs of Staff are cognizant of the oath that they have conveyed to the Constitution of the United States of America.

    The Chairman and The Joint Chiefs of Staff are really PISSED OFF….!

  22. KFritz

    Hello Boys and Girls. Today’s phrase is ‘Regression Towards Medievalism.’ How do you spell M-E-D-I-E-V-A-L-I-S-M?

  23. Nick

    When it’s BP’s turn as debtor, we’ll all be glad that their officers will be jailed if they don’t disclose financial data to allow payment to those damaged by the spill.

    If creditors are not allowed to find and seize assets of debtors, the cost of doing business will skyrocket. Nobody will agree to be the first producing party on a contract without some sort of collateral in hand. And that would be the death of business.

    1. alex

      Good comparison between a major multinational corporation who’s negligence resulted in eleven deaths and billions in damages and some shnook who allegedly owes $500 on an old credit card bill. Do you think BP will be able to afford a good lawyer?

  24. killben

    Why not a “Strategic Default” Day!!!
    That way posterity is assured!!

    Also it will teach the future generation what to do should banksters and government team up in the future to screw up the masses!!

  25. Eureka Springs

    Great post. Add in folks who spend time in jail for inability to buy liability auto insurance (but have to drive to work, grocery store, shuttling family around etc.) and I would imagine it’s far more states and far far more people than this post suggests.

  26. Krist

    Jail should never be an option because someone did not pay a bill. It should only be for thoses who physically harm others. It is too costly and the crime is not serious enough. The creditor should check who he loans money to. If he makes a bad decision it is the cost of doing business like every one else. That is why we had the big bailout. They gave loans to people who could not pay them.

  27. Cleo

    This is a sickening practice…but very real. Back in 2008, my fiance was rushed to the emergency room twice in one day by a volunteer fire and rescue company in Pennsvylvania to the tune of $2500. He was unable to pay the bill. He was later charged with FELONY Theft of Services. I’m not sure how one can “thieve” emergency ambulance transportation, but that’s how they classified it, and because of the amount, Pennsvylvania law considers that a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in state prison if convicted. While he was not “arrested” in the traditional sense, he was fingerprinted and had to appear in criminal court. Retaining a criminal defense attorney cost him an additional $700, and the judge made him pay $150 in court costs. According to his attorney, the ambulance company “just wanted their money”. True – he paid them in court and they went away…but now he has a felony charge on his record for nothing more than AN UNPAID BILL!!!!!!

  28. mark Brownlee

    Just plain horrifying. If anyone on this blog had ever studied the practices of debtors prisons and the inhumane violations of the poor and unfortunates rights and lives they would vomit and retract all calls to supposedly collect money this way. The violations of people were nothing short of inhumane. You owed fifty dollars for a grocery bill and ended up murdered or starved in prison. The list is unending of like horrors. Your wife or children hauled off and killed at the hands of murders and rapists in prison over a few dollars? Has this country gone completely insane? Are you so trusting of this sham government and their inability to even operate a welfare system to help, you would trust them to fairly modulate prison for debtors and protect your life there? YOU’RE INSANE!!! I have an idea, lets give more to illegal aliens and jail the taxpayers who try to live legally here, struggling everyday to make it in the worst economy since the depression. I have seen prisons in law enforcement, trust me, “you are just completely insane!!!” The attorneys are the problem not the hard working taxpayers, pressed to the limit to survive by high taxes and government’s overbearing tax by fee shams. Figure out the actual tax you pay through fuel, sales, property, income and all the rest. Do you know it is 70+ percent of your income? Debtors prison? INSANITY!!!

  29. Johnie Willegal

    Credit card debt settlement appears to be becoming as a potential strategic option for consumers suffering with credit card debt. For serveral years I have been oberserving the debt market quite closely and it is very difficult to to define what you are getting for the money. It is obvious that there are quite a few service providers in the market that serve up great service and the debt cusotmers really receive great benefit, but I’m also aware there are lots of debt consolidation companies available today that are focused on collecting fees and bringing in new members. This is obviosly why we see brand new govt regulation managing the debt settlement industry. My uncle worked with a debt operation and is actually very very very satisfied with the overall results.

  30. Virginia

    I believe, as a nation, we still have some rights (even though they are no longer taught in schools). In the 60s we were great protestors but our generation is quickly aging, now it is up to the new generation to make a stand for what is right and posting comments on-line or sending e-mails is not going to do the job. It is going to take some hard protesting and petition signing to get the message to the legislature and this cannot be done from the comfort of your air conditioned living room. If you really want to make a difference you will have to get out there in masses and fight for what is right. Call your congressmen, representatives, sign petitions to get things in front of the politicians, flood the white house with real physical paper mail (yes, this would entail using pen and paper, purchasing a stamp, and making a trip to the post office). Let the officials in charge know exactly how you feel about what is going on today. It is through our own laziness that politicians, lawyers, etc have taken advantage of us. Remember, our elected officials don’t know what we want unless we let them know in a big way and that they will not be re-elected if it isn’t done to our liking. We are their employer! Stop whining and complaining if you are not going to take the initiative to get the ball rolling. E-MAILS AND POSTINGS WILL NOT WORK!!! By the time we see these inhumane news items it is too late, the deed has been done and that is why we don’t hear about new laws, etc until they are passed. Everyone has to be better informed and pay close attention to what is going on in government and act on it (not talk or email about it)in a timely manner in order to stop the injustices. How bad do things need to get before we get off our duffs and start making government do what “we the people” (not CORPORATIONS) want. Come on youth, show the old folks how it’s done!!! STAND UP AMERICA. You don’t like the way things are being done….change it. We DO have rights and it is up to us to enact those rights.

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