Debtors Increasingly Thrown In Jail. Wait, What?

Did you know you can get thrown in jail for not paying your debts? Yes, in America, in the 21st century, debt collectors are effectively deputizing local police forces to collect on debts, manipulating the system and using your tax dollars to do their dirty work.

Debt collectors buy five to six year old debts for pennies on the dollar from companies that have already written off ever collecting the debt. Then, the firms, frequently run by attorneys, employ a system of auto-dialers and call center teams to get the cash. They aim to get double what they paid for the debts. Anything after that is just gravy.

In some states and counties, the collectors can seek court orders to get debtors to pay, which can result in a civil warrant for the debtor’s arrest. Some precincts then apparently have the luxury and manpower to enforce them and a deputy sheriff shows up on the debtor’s doorstep and arrests them. The debtor can spend 24-48 hours in jail until their court appearance.

Debtors often don’t even know that there is a warrant out for their arrest until they get the knock on their door and the bracelets on their wrists.

The point of bail is get a person to show up to court. But in some cases, the judge will set the bail at the exact amount of the debt owed.

“It’s certainly an efficient way to collect debts, but it’s also highly distasteful,” Hennepin County District Judge Jack Nordby told the Star Tribune. “The amount of bail should have nothing to do with the amount of the debt.”

Deborah, a debtor who was arrested and spent 25 hours in jail, said she was groped in an elevator during her incarceration and slept in a cell with 16 other women, one of whom offered her drugs.

Her crime? $250 in credit card debt.

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

In jail for being in debt [StarTribune] (Thanks to FlackmanFTD!)