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Forum Post: "Breast Cancer Survivor Jailed Over $280 Medical Bill : 'DEBTOR'S PRISONS' Return to the U.S", by Alain Sherter.

Posted 6 years ago on April 22, 2012, 3:43 p.m. EST by shadz66 (19985)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Breast Cancer Survivor Jailed Over $280 Medical Bill :

'Debtor's Prisons' Return to the U.S.

by Alain Sherter.

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn't pay a medical bill -- one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn't owe. "She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn't have to pay it," The Associated Press reports. "But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs."

Although the U.S. abolished debtors' prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don't pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff's deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP ( http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505247_162-57416794/ill-lawmakers-target-practice-of-jailing-debtors/ ).

Under the law, debtors aren't arrested for nonpayment, but rather for failing to respond to court hearings, pay legal fines, or otherwise showing "contempt of court" in connection with a creditor lawsuit. That loophole has lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives concerned enough to pass a bill in March that would make it illegal to send residents of the state to jail if they can't pay a debt. The measure awaits action in the senate.

"Creditors have been manipulating the court system to extract money from the unemployed, veterans, even seniors who rely solely on their benefits to get by each month," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan ( http://www.ag.state.il.us/pressroom/2012_03/20120329c.html ) said last month in a statement voicing support for the legislation. "Too many people have been thrown in jail simply because they're too poor to pay their debts. We cannot allow these illegal abuses to continue."

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

Yet Illinois isn't the only state where residents get locked up for owing money. A 2010 report ( http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/InForAPenny_web.pdf#page=82 ) by the American Civil Liberties Union that focused on only five states -- Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington -- found that people were being jailed at "increasingly alarming rates" over legal debts. Cases ranged from a woman who was arrested four separate times for failing to pay $251 in fines and court costs related to a fourth-degree misdemeanor conviction, to a mentally ill juvenile jailed by a judge over a previous conviction for stealing school supplies.

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

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

"Many states are imposing new and often onerous 'user fees' on individuals with criminal convictions," the authors of the Brennan Center report ( http://brennan.3cdn.net/c610802495d901dac3_76m6vqhpy.pdf ) wrote : "Yet far from being easy money, these fees impose severe -- and often hidden -- costs on communities, taxpayers, and indigent people convicted of crimes. They create new paths to prison for those unable to pay their debts and make it harder to find employment and housing as well to meet child-support obligations."

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


fiat lux et fiat justitia ...


See also -

1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2132973/Breast-cancer-survivor-handcuffed-thrown-jail-mistaken-280-medical-debtors-prisons-return-U-S.html ,

2) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505247_162-57416794/ill-lawmakers-target-practice-of-jailing-debtors/ &

3) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-43551981/welcome-to-debtors-prison-whats-in-your-wallet-can-land-you-in-jail/ .

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

[Article copied verbatim under "Fair Use" from : http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31147.htm ]



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[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (22863) 6 years ago

Perhaps we need a debt jubilee.

Here's an interview with David Graeber, the anthropologist that coined the phrase "We are the 99%" on debt forgiveness throughout history.


And another article on the subject: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/10/05/could-national-debt-forgiveness-help-kickstart-the-american-economy/

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

There's no "perhaps" about it I'd suggest as wherever we are on this 'bw', societies and individuals need emancipation from Generational Debt-Bondage and "A fate worse than Debt" !!!

Thank-you for these excellent links which I recommend to all readers. I'll be waiting for July when David Graeber's "Debt ; The First 5000 Years", comes out in paperback as the exorbitant price of a hardback copy may push me into 'the red' !!

Finally, for an insight into "Jubilee" and its OT roots : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jubilee_(biblical) !

radix omnium malorum est cupiditas ...

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 6 years ago

I am actually in favor of this.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (22863) 6 years ago

I love the way Graeber lays out how civilizations have understood the necessity for this throughout human history.

[-] 3 points by GirlFriday (17435) 6 years ago

I have become a Graeber fan since I came here and was introduced to his material.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33490) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

It really does make a lot of sense especially when you look at all of the money that was laid out to the rich in the bailouts. I mean they received a financial reset - why not everyone?

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 6 years ago

That is where I am at with it as well.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33490) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

Makes so much sense. It would also help the business world keep it real as to prices they charge in relation to income people have to spend.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 6 years ago


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33490) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago


[-] 2 points by tomdavid55 (93) 6 years ago

This youtube video mentions this issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTQ1WOC9RgY

[-] 2 points by JadedGem (895) 6 years ago

Add to that that probation costs money at every meeting. They will let people stay out of jail only if they can afford their probation payments. Here in this Georgia town, a mother of a judge is in charge of the probation collecting. That way everyone he sends for probation profits his dear old mom. AWE!

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 6 years ago

Very deceptive headline. It totally misrepresents the story.

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

Were you deceived ?! Also try the links. pax ...

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 6 years ago

I sure wasn't, shadz. Great post.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 6 years ago

Obviously I wasn't deceived, but that was the intention of the title. Just to sell a story. The source "The daily mail" has more in common with the "national enquirer". Try this link:


So by their logic, thousands of people are also being jailed in the U.S. for not paying parking tickets? Jailing for failure to appear is a completely separate offense.

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

The true sources of this story are the actual circumstances.

The import of it is self-evident to those with the eyes to see (like the inestimable 'GF'). I live in The UK and am thus extremely aware of 'The Daily Mail' and generally do not recommend their logic to anyone but 'news is news' and even CBS ran with this one.

fiat lux ...

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 6 years ago

From the story:

"Acting within the law, debtors aren’t arrested for nonpayment, rather for failing to arrive to court hearings thereby falling foul of contempt of court laws. This results in a police arrest warrant being issued for ‘failure to appear’, the debtor is tracked down, packed off to jail and can only get out by paying the set bail bond which of course matches the amount owed."

If she had gone to court, she would not have been jailed. I give the journalist an"A" for sensationalism, and an "F" for honesty.

[-] 2 points by chell8 (9) 6 years ago

Since when are civil suits a cause for arrest? Seriously. Since when? Civil actions are entirely different procedures than criminal actions; and arrests are NOT an intended form of redress in that setting. As to failure to pay a criminal fine; i find the numbers of people jailed for such offenses, (particularly when those individuals complete community service agreements etc.,) to be appalling. And that is not speaking statistically, but personally. i have known far too many people who have gone to jail for a simple registration fine, or SINGLE parking tickets, or some other such garbage. It is simply about the revenue..in the same way private jails/prisons are about revenue and recycled funds...in the same way so many government employees are now 'contractors' and not actual employees.. i am sure that seems tangential, but it isn't.

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

"The Cost of a Nation of Incarceration : Nationwide, the numbers are staggering: Nearly 2.4 million people behind bars, even though over the last 20 years the crime rate has actually dropped by more than 40 percent." : http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31156.htm .

I link to the above as I believe that it speaks to the gist of your comment.

multum in parvo ...

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 6 years ago

My beef is with the journalistic integrity of the story. Whether arresting a person for such minor offenses is moral is a completely different subject.

[-] -3 points by Misaki (893) 6 years ago

Another thread about money, poverty and debt! If you are poor, it's because you want to be or because you're stupid.

[-] 7 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

If you were trying to be cute or ironic with that comment you failed because you only represented and articulated quite concisely, the misanthropic rhetoric of the Standard Randian Psychopathy of the US 0.01% Parasite Class !!!

caveat emptor ...

[-] -3 points by Misaki (893) 6 years ago

You didn't read the thread. I can tell somehow.

That puts you in the "poor because you're stupid category"... I think. Or do you like being poor?

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

You may or may not have something useful to add, however your rude, haughty and arrogant bearing are self-defeating and singularly unattractive.

verb. sat. sap. ....

[-] 2 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 6 years ago

Misaki doesn't play well with OWSers.

[-] -2 points by Misaki (893) 6 years ago

If you wouldn't support a solution to unemployment because the person who suggested it wasn't nice enough, I'm not sure which category that puts you into.

Could you maybe state which it is?

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

Consider that it's not a question of "nice" but of 'good grace'. temet nosce ...

[-] 2 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 6 years ago

" haughty and arrogant bearing are self-defeating" should not be followed up with "verb. sat. sap. ...."


[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

I do believe that you may have a serious point ! Thus, I'm joining you in that hearty chuckle !!!

[-] 1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 6 years ago


[-] -1 points by Misaki (893) 6 years ago

Enjoy being poor ^_^

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 6 years ago

To say such a thing and display such evident 'schadenfreude' at its prospect, really says nothing about me but speaks a large volume about you ... Chapter One of course would be devoted to just how your head came to be jammed so far up your (x) !

Good luck with the rest of your autobiography !!

Gnothi Seauton ...

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 6 years ago

You haven't said that you're miserable or that you dislike being poor, so I can only assume you enjoy it. Or are you trying to say that you aren't as happy as I thought? :'(

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 6 years ago

re-appropriate the property and wealth ?

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 6 years ago

It's nice to hear that someone isn't afraid of saying that. However, some ways are more likely to be effective than direct conflict.

This might be a better explanation than the one I linked above: http://jobcreationplan.blogspot.com/2012/04/low-consumer-demand-and-inefficiency.html

but I plan to try a new argument based on feedback since the last one I tried.