A 19-year-old Michigan man thought he’d do some unlicensed fishing but when he cast his line he ended up reeling in a jail sentence. Because he caught a fish out of season and couldn’t afford the $215 fine, he was sentenced to three days in jail. The American Civil Liberties Union is using the fisherman’s case, along with four others, to attack a state law it considers to be the modern-day equivalent of a debtors’ prison.
We’ve brought you several stories about so-called modern day debtor’s prisons that have starting rising across America as shady debt collectors pervert the power of the courts to their own end. They’re basically deputizing the local police to do their debt collecting for them. Now a Washington lawmaker has put forward a new bill to try to put a stop to the practice.
An increasing tool of choice for collection agencies is getting folks thrown in jail for missing “financial assessment hearings,” even when the folks had good reason – like moving and never getting the letter – or the validity of the debt is in dispute. In addition, collectors are requesting forfeited bail to pay off judgement, turning our local jails into de facto debtor’s prisons, and the police into deputized debt collection agents. Now regulators and officials are taking notice, and taking action to curb some of the worst abuses.