Debtors’ Prison Returns To America?

1debtjail0606bwDid you know you can be thrown into jail for being unable to pay your credit card bills? Arrest warrants were used to jail hundreds of in-debt people last year in Minnesota, even though owing money isn’t a crime. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reports:

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. “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.

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  • Cerebralcaustic

    Sensationalism.

    Owing money is not a crime.

    But contempt of court is a crime:

    >In Illinois and southwest Indiana, some judges jail debtors for missing court-ordered debt payments.

    • 5by5

      Way to be compassionate.

      • Andrew

        Compassion is a Marxist lie.

        • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/U6IZ4PQ6MS3UNI34ZXHWN3NZWQ Markov Chainey

          Um.. an inability to experience compassion is termed, I believe, psychosis.
          Probably why so many psychopaths are Friedmanites..

        • 5by5

          Yeah, that Jesus was a Commie pinko, eh? :-)

    • Hypnos1

      So this article is sensationalism because its not illegal to be in debt. Unless the court says it is. In which case it becomes something else. Is that right?

      Its not debtors prison because they're not being jailed for owing money, they're being jailed for owing money that the court knows about…. do I understand you correctly?

      • vicwiz

        which is deptors prison.

        • Q&A

          Arrested and booked for failure to appear to a scheduled hearing are not the same as being

          imprisoned for failure or inability to pay an outstanding debt . Clearly the debtor was under

          contract with the creditor, even by the debtor's own admission. A court appearance arranged to

          settle the matter, whether the debt was valid or not wasn't even the issue at thar point.

          It's imparative that the people of world learn about the finer points of public procedures and

          how to properly conduct their actions in commerce in this world. I see this as the only way that

          we might gain freedom from the fictional yoke of slavery that is manifesting itself as a reality

          in our lives.

          Lastly I also believe that it is important to refrain from being angered by stories like this for too long. Move quickly to the next step and discover the remedy instead of dwelling on the problem. Of course discovering the remedy will require intense study and self reflection. Investigate the source and workings of this world's system of commerce.

          I live in Minnesota myself, and go to a study group every thursday morning where we help eachother with legal matters and study the law in general, and have lunch and snacks etc. Lots of work but freedom and responsiblity come to those who will it to be so. We actually discussed this very article the week it was published. Take care.

          • Bontha1

            The Credit Card company can get a court day and if the other half does not respond to the summons then the judgement will be made without dispute. The court has no right to issue an arrest warrant on failure to appear. Failure to appear is reserved for criminal court when a the accused is on bail or released on written promise to appear. The Courts are as corupt as the other branches of government. Lobbyists rule with money and influence. AMERICA SUCKS!!!!!!!

    • Georgejetson

      Plaintiffs are required to show the judge proof of service, so that people have notice that they were being sued and can reply. I've seen more than a few cases where the judges don't make the plaintiffs (rich ones anyway) show that any notice was given, then the person is arrested without any notice that anything was wrong. This happens to victims of identity theft too! The problem is that now the judges are on the corrupt bandwagon and refuse to require the wealthy to comply with the laws protecting the rest of us. They and their wealthy benefactors are the ones who need jail!

  • 5by5

    Tell you what, they can lock up people for not paying their debts, the moment they stop charging people interest rates that can be called by no other name but criminal usury.

    If you're charging ANYONE over 10% interest, you're a scumbag, and I really don't give a crap whether they pay your criminal corporation back or not.

    Stop punishing individuals while simultaneously handing out corporate welfare.

    People should be concerned about wealth redistribution, but they've got the wrong idea about which direction that money is flowing in. It isn't being taken from the rich to give to the poor who actually need it, it's being taken from the poor to give to the already comfortably rich.

    The current system is fundamentally unjust.

    • emperorreagan

      Our entire economic system is centered on being unjust.

      In one of the manufacturing or engineering design classes I took in college, I remember discussing the profit margin for a manufacturing venture operating in the US at its sweet spot in all of those supply/demand/cost/etc. curves was typically 10%.

      10% is not enough profit for the capital class, regardless of the venture. It's why factories moved off shore and it's why financial institutions regularly engage in usury.

      The idea that 10% off the top for doing absolutely nothing except possessing capital is somehow not enough is absurd.

  • floating

    Here's an idea, if you can't afford something or can't afford a high interest rate… DON'T SPEND THE MONEY! You only think you need that big screen TV. This is America, if you still want that TV but can't really afford it (just because you have a $50,000 credit limit that doesn't mean you have $50,000 extra cash), then go out and make as much money as you want. Stop thinking inside the box and being a hopeless employee and go make something of yourself Jesus Christ.

    If you only make 40,000 a year teaching that's a shame but then you say, “well I love teaching though so I get to do what I love…” bullshit. Do that for fun then and do something else for money because this is America and anyone can make as much money as they want, they just have to go out there and get it. Fuck credit cards who the hell uses credit cards anymore? If you can't pay cash wait till you can. I haven't used a credit card in years and trust me your life will improve and you'll realize how much money you really have.

    • http://thediamondmind.blogspot.com/ Eddie Daedalus

      Considering the largest cause of bankruptcy is due to medical illness, I fond your POV rather quaint.

    • Akbar372

      anyone can make as much as they want in America? you're an idiot.

      • floating

        No, you must be if you haven't figured out a way to make a lot of money in this free country.

        • E.B. Wolf

          Inherit it! Duh…

        • Indridi

          Actually, most won't make a lot of money because they're not sociopaths willing to f*ck anyone &or everyone in their path for another handful of bloody tearstained money.

    • Hypnos1

      You're a fucking genius! Lets apply that logic to the rest of our problems!

      Raging oil gusher of doom? Stop needing oceans. fixed.
      Impoverished and starving third world? Get a job, lazy. fixed.
      Overpopulation? Go buy another planet. fixed.

      Why bother finding solutions when we can all just say “don't have the problem”. It was so easy all this time!

    • 5by5

      “This is America and anyone can make as much money as they want, they just have to go out there and get it.”

      Love that dream world you're living in. Out here in the REAL world, people are having trouble “scoring” a stupid temp job.

      To quote George Carlin, “You know why they call it 'the American Dream'? Because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

      We need large-scale public works projects like the WPA to get people working again and earning again until the private sector decides to get off it's ass and start hiring Americans again. That's how you dig out of a Depression, people. Economies rise from the bottom up.

      • floating

        I'm sorry man but you have it all wrong. Temp job? Create your own job, be your own boss, get creative. George Carlin had the American Dream and he didn't get it by working a 9-5 for some company, he went out and created his own thing and then the sky was the limit. You have to be asleep to believe the American Dream is possible doing it any other way because this country gives us every opportunity to pursue this.

        What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? You're not going to get whatever you think the American Dream is by fighting an endless battle working some 9-5 job. If you have a brain you can figure out a way to do it within your means. Everyone's different and everyone's situation is different but if there's a will there's a way. If you need the security of your 9-5 right now then just take one hour a day, one hour a week, any amount of time you can to developing your own thing and move on.

        Why would you wait for jobs to open? You are probably as smart as most people what do you really think separates the big guys form the little guys? Sure some people are born rich, but a lot started from nothing. One thing they didn't do is become rich at some 9-5 job unless they won the lottery while working there or developed an invention or did something else that was creative and productive outside of something that should only be used as a tool to get you to the next level which is that 9-5 job.

        A lot more jobs will be gone soon because why would you have a factory of people working when a robot can do it for free? Is this a bad thing? Should we really be spending most of our waking hours doing mindless jobs like this anyways? I think most of us can and want to be spending our time more wisely and there's no reason why you can't be making money in the process.

        You want to dig out of the depression for what, to just barely scrape by? To retire when you're 75 and then use your time the way you want?

        • GWF Hegel

          oh lord, you're an idiot.

          some people can do very well in America, good for them. it's not really all about intelligence though. idiots can do well as well as clever people. good for them. really.

          it's clearly not something that's going to work for everyone. not everyone can be an entrepreneur and have employees. who would be the employees? some people need to work behind the bar, clean the toilets, and tabulate the accounts (yes, white collar work is getting less and less well paid). we can't all be george fucking carlin making millions from stand up and acting, you moron.

          you've inadvertently explained why people are in debt, by the way, as everyone thinks that they're going to make a lot of money, because it's part of the myth of america, but many discover that there are only so many good jobs to go round, and only so much effective demand, and small business is having a very tough time against giant corporations.

          if you want to be successful in america, you have to be positive, and it's possible to do it. but don't buy into too much of this bullshit about free markets and a rising tide lifting all boats. only so many people can be successful. not everyone can be a fucking millionaire. it doesn't work like that.

          • vicwiz

            Sad but true. That the system is shaped like a pyramid the small portion of rich on top. Thats what current capitalism is. Only some are rich and the others on dream of being rich and since the brain cant differentiate real from imagination sometimes its all the same. If you have peace in your life you are rich.

          • special

            I agree with you 100% “not everyone can be and entrepreneur” I added more to what you said in my own post. I go by the name of Simonsays

  • Alech

    If it encourages people to save instead of borrow, this could be a good thing.

    • 5by5

      That neglects to confront the fact that people aren't borrowing (ie using credit cards) for “luxury items” anymore. They're using them to pay medical bills and other base survival needs. We're in the middle of a Depression – this isn't about “encouraging savings” anymore. People's savings went out the window like half a decade ago.

    • GWF Hegel

      That sort of logic applies to a lot of ugly practices.

      You also overlook the fact that part of the reason why people borrowed so much is that it was economic strategy from the beginning. The building of a consumer-debt-based boom was quite conscious on the part of the economic architects. They can't determine the actions of individuals but they can do a pretty good job of steering the general path of a population.

    • vicwiz

      no

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Well…looks like one more tiny step in the direction of revolution via desperation. What stops progressive revolution? A comfy safe middle class with no vested interest in anyone but themselves. I suppose we can thank Wall Street and vindictive law enforcement for helping to push America toward much needed change.

  • Sobeit19

    Glad I don't live in Minnesota.. What next? arrest you for being late on your light bill?

    • E.B. Wolf

      Don't give them any ideas.

  • Simiantongue

    About 10 years ago I was pulled over because my license plate was missing. It came off in the car wash a day or two earlier. To my surprise when the officer checked on me in the computer I had a warrant out for my arrest. The warrant was for theft. It was a Sunday around lunch. I had to wait until Monday morning in order to post bail. Apparently I had rented a movie and never brought it back. The store reported it as a theft. They never contacted me at all to sort it out first. They said the cost of the movie and the late fees were in excess of $150. When I went to confront them at the store they looked up the movie. It was a kids movie that I recalled renting and returning more than a month before, on time too. They numbered all their movies. We looked at the movie number and went to the shelf and there it was. Apparently when I returned it, it was not checked in properly before being put back so they had no record of the return. No apology, nothing.

    What does this have to do with this article? I find it ironic that our system is skewed so heavily that Banksters and white collar criminals can get away with ruining the very foundations of our economic system. Veritably raping our way of life and in the process perhaps literally killing people or at the very least causing great hardship on millions of us, getting stinking rich in the process and not a word about criminal prosectution. Yet this woman defaults on an apparently insignificant sum, or I am involved in a mix up that should have been easily avoided and we go to jail.

    We have enough resources that when one of us little people fall out of the goose step march we are pounced upon by the powers that be, the system makes sure you get whats coming to you in the way of punishment. Yet criminals run amok amongst the elite and not only is nothing done it is actually expected because when you're one of the elite it's not wrong it's expected, it's being “upwardly mobile”.

    In the immortal words from the movie Aliens
    Hudson: That's it, man. Game over, man. Game over, what the f**k are we supposed to now, huh, what are we gonna do?
    Burke: Maybe we can build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh, how about we try that.

    I give up, really.

    • Neo2012

      Last year in Brooklyn. I pulled to the curb and let my wife out of the car and an NYPD squad car raced up behind me, gave me a summons for court, for “Interfering with MBTA Operations”. I went to court…paid my child support money to an attorney, $700. bucks, and lost a day of work for court. After all of this BS…come to find out the violation that the DUMBASS NYC cop wrote on the summons was for an 1800's NYC violation of wearing a bathing suit in public. These twisted bastards are more than willing to destroy hard working Americans, but give a free ride to “ILLEGAL” people. WTF?

  • Hadrian999

    so, I'm no economist but if I owe you money and you have me jailed how do you expect me to get money to pay you?

  • Simonsays

    Some people above me and below me don't know what time it is. Some people don't realise that everyone America is going to be rich or super rich.

    Many people who make the statements about we live in America “the land of the free” need a reality check. First of all let me say that , Although Im not rich I will say that in order to have a businees and become rich or wealthy off that business requires a certain MINDSET, but to go along with that certain mindset requires a certain amount of research,knowledge,knowhow, and good timing to make that business happen . And that mindset applies to born citizens and non born.

    Most people in business have the mindset of a opportunist in otherwords they know whats profitable and know how to get in and get out whether its legal or nonlegal although many in the illegal world particpants rarely escape to something more legit. But the lesson Im trying to teach is “EVERYONE IS NOT BUILT LIKE THAT” In otherwords the system needs To have bluecollar workers and whitecollar workers to balance everything out. Everyone can't be lawyer,pschologists,doctor, or social work. Everyone can't be a scientists,mathmatician,engineer, or and inventor. And everyone can't be a Construction Worker,Salesmen, Cashier, bartendeer or Garbage men.

    You have get in where you fit in but at the sametime jobs in those industry have to be availiable and pay good amount of money so you can pay your debt. When a person is layed off sometimes people supplement credit card money to take care of basic living needs when the economy is down.

    ALSO MANY ECONOMISTS HAVE ALREADY DEVISE SYSTEMS AND IDEAS TO HELP GET AMERICA OUT DEBT WHERE EVERYONE WINS BUT THE BIGBOYS IN CHARGE NEVER LISTEN.

  • Simonsays

    Some people above me and below me don't know what time it is. Some people don't realise that NOT EVERYONE IN America is going to be rich or super rich.

    Many people who make the statements about we live in AMERICA! ” THE LAND OF THE FREE” need a reality check. First of all let me say that , Although Im not rich I will say that in order to have a businees and become rich or wealthy off that business requires a certain MINDSET, but to go along with that certain mindset requires a certain amount of research,knowledge,knowhow, and good timing to make that business happen . And that mindset applies to born American citizens and non born Americans.

    Most people in business have the mindset of a opportunist in otherwords they know whats profitable and know how to get in and get out whether its legal or nonlegal although many PARTICIPANTS in the illegal world rarely escape to something more legit. But the lesson Im trying to teach is “EVERYONE IS NOT BUILT LIKE THAT” In otherwords the system needs To have bluecollar workers and whitecollar workers to balance everything out plus the engine to make it so the bluecollar workers and whitecollar works have a job which is through a business. Everyone can't own a multibillion dollar or multimillion dollar corporation or business let alone a small business of some type . Everyone can't be a lawyer,psychologist,doctor, or social work. Jus like Everyone can't be a scientists,mathmatician,engineer, or and inventor. And everyone can't be a Construction Worker,Salesmen, Cashier, bartendeer or Garbage men. Just like most people are not going to have the oppertunity to play a professional sports with a 500,000 to 5,000,000 dollar contract depending on the worth of the athlete

    You have get in where you fit in but at the sametime jobs in those industry have to be availiable and pay good amount of money so you can pay your debts off. When a person is layed off sometimes people supplement credit card money to take care of basic living needs when the economy is down.

    ALSO MANY ECONOMISTS HAVE ALREADY DEVISE SYSTEMS AND IDEAS TO HELP GET AMERICA OUT DEBT WHERE EVERYONE WINS BUT THE BIGBOYS IN CHARGE NEVER LISTEN.

  • Georgejetson

    Plaintiffs are required to show the judge proof of service, so that people have notice that they were being sued and can reply. I’ve seen more than a few cases where the judges don’t make the plaintiffs (rich ones anyway) show that any notice was given, then the person is arrested without any notice that anything was wrong. This happens to victims of identity theft too! The problem is that now the judges are on the corrupt bandwagon and refuse to require the wealthy to comply with the laws protecting the rest of us. They and their wealthy benefactors are the ones who need jail!

  • Bontha1

    The Credit Card company can get a court day and if the other half does not respond to the summons then the judgement will be made without dispute. The court has no right to issue an arrest warrant on failure to appear. Failure to appear is reserved for criminal court when a the accused is on bail or released on written promise to appear. The Courts are as corupt as the other branches of government. Lobbyists rule with money and influence. AMERICA SUCKS!!!!!!!

  • Scottyboy123

    man is mn. stupid they have something called tax recapture program where a company can legally take your tax returns if you owe them money. why not just do that? because its frozen brained mn. go figure!!! i live in mn. unfortunately

  • Scottyboy123

    man is mn. stupid they have something called tax recapture program where a company can legally take your tax returns if you owe them money. why not just do that? because its frozen brained mn. go figure!!! i live in mn. unfortunately

  • JustWatching

    “They” will do whatever “they” have the power to do.  Life isn’t fair.  It wasn’t meant to be.

    They say it’s your government.  How long has it been since you’ve gone to your congressman’s office to tell him you are tired of what he’s doing?  How do you expect him to know you don’t like it?  Letters are good.  Personal office calls are better.  Leave your bat in the car.

  • JustWatching

    “They” will do whatever “they” have the power to do.  Life isn’t fair.  It wasn’t meant to be.

    They say it’s your government.  How long has it been since you’ve gone to your congressman’s office to tell him you are tired of what he’s doing?  How do you expect him to know you don’t like it?  Letters are good.  Personal office calls are better.  Leave your bat in the car.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UK3UDSUYECO627HM67MTIOX3NU Christopher G

    The truth is that these companies are predatory, and often take a small debt and inflate it to many times the original debt.  When I was 18, I had a small (my first) credit card, with a limit of only $350.  Like a lot of teenagers I quickly maxed it out. (I bought a $300 a suit for weddings and funerals.)  Shortly thereafter, I lost my minimum wage job.  I got behind in the payment, and was charged by the predatory credit card company a $50.00 late fee and a $50.00 over limit fee, within a couple of months I got a new job, but was still being charged 100.00 in fees every month… After paying more than $900 over the next year to the credit card company on a $350 debt,  I still owed money, and I was getting nowhere… so I stopped paying, waited for it to be charged off and figured Id pay it off without the ridiculous fees and interest rate.  Anyway, that was more 15 years ago, and  the statute of limitations has run out so I cant be sued for it, But the banks have been selling it to each other for ten cents on the dollar for years, and various debt collection companies have tried to collect.  Now they claim I owe them more than $3000, lol… I generally play with collector (someone to be pitied, because they are caught in a high stress, low paying telemarketing job.)  over the phone for a while before telling them in so many words to go fuck themselves. The reason I am able to do this is because I used to work for one or two of these slimy debt collection companies, I know how they operate and I know the law. (It was the best job I could get at 19 years old, it paid $12.50 an hour.) My credit is excellent now, and I have not a single negative on my report.  (I figure if I must be a slave to a system of credit, I might as well be a house slave, rather than a field hand)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UK3UDSUYECO627HM67MTIOX3NU Christopher G

    The truth is that these companies are predatory, and often take a small debt and inflate it to many times the original debt.  When I was 18, I had a small (my first) credit card, with a limit of only $350.  Like a lot of teenagers I quickly maxed it out. (I bought a $300 a suit for weddings and funerals.)  Shortly thereafter, I lost my minimum wage job.  I got behind in the payment, and was charged by the predatory credit card company a $50.00 late fee and a $50.00 over limit fee, within a couple of months I got a new job, but was still being charged 100.00 in fees every month… After paying more than $900 over the next year to the credit card company on a $350 debt,  I still owed money, and I was getting nowhere… so I stopped paying, waited for it to be charged off and figured Id pay it off without the ridiculous fees and interest rate.  Anyway, that was more 15 years ago, and  the statute of limitations has run out so I cant be sued for it, But the banks have been selling it to each other for ten cents on the dollar for years, and various debt collection companies have tried to collect.  Now they claim I owe them more than $3000, lol… I generally play with collector (someone to be pitied, because they are caught in a high stress, low paying telemarketing job.)  over the phone for a while before telling them in so many words to go fuck themselves. The reason I am able to do this is because I used to work for one or two of these slimy debt collection companies, I know how they operate and I know the law. (It was the best job I could get at 19 years old, it paid $12.50 an hour.) My credit is excellent now, and I have not a single negative on my report.  (I figure if I must be a slave to a system of credit, I might as well be a house slave, rather than a field hand)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UK3UDSUYECO627HM67MTIOX3NU Christopher G

    The truth is that these companies are predatory, and often take a small debt and inflate it to many times the original debt.

    When I was 18, I had a small (my first) credit card, with a limit of only $350.  Like a lot of teenagers I quickly maxed it out. (I bought a $300 a suit for weddings and funerals.)  Shortly thereafter, I lost my minimum wage job.  I got behind in the payment, and was charged by the predatory credit card company a $50.00 late fee and a $50.00 over limit fee each month. Within a couple of months I got a new job, but was still being charged 100.00 in fees every month… After paying more than $900 over the next year to the credit card company on a $350 debt,  I still owed money, and I was getting nowhere… so I stopped paying, waited for it to be charged off and figured Id pay it off without the ridiculous fees and interest rate. 

    Anyway, that was more 15 years ago, and  the statute of limitations has run out so I cant be sued for it, But the banks have been selling it to each other for ten cents on the dollar for years, and various debt collection companies have tried to collect.  Now they claim I owe them more than $3000, lol… I generally play with collector (someone to be pitied, because they are caught in a high-stress, low-paying telemarketing job.)  over the phone for a while before telling them in so many words to go fuck themselves. The reason I am able to do this is because I used to work for one or two of these slimy debt collection companies, I know how they operate and I know the law. (It was the best job I could get at 19 years old, it paid $12.50 an hour.)

    My credit is excellent now, and I have not a single negative on my report.  (I figure if I must be a slave to a system of credit, I might as well be a house slave, rather than a field hand)

  • Addiefam

    Time for Cival disobiediance. The government started the collapse in 2008. Now they throw our. Money. To the banks who give it to themselves in bonuses and then use law in forcement to force us out of our homes and throw us in jail for not being able to pay our bills.

  • Addiefam

    Time for Cival disobiediance. The government started the collapse in 2008. Now they throw our. Money. To the banks who give it to themselves in bonuses and then use law in forcement to force us out of our homes and throw us in jail for not being able to pay our bills.

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