Once a common practice for punishing debt evaders, debtor’s prisons have been abolished since the 1830s. Jailing people over unpaid debts is no longer common practice, but that isn’t to say it hasn’t happened to some unsuspecting consumers.
Breaking The Law?
Lisa Lindsay is a breast cancer survivor and, now, a statistic of having been imprisoned. After receiving a $280 medical bill in error, Lindsay was told she did not have to pay it. What Lindsay didn’t know was that the bill was eventually wrongly turned over to a collection agency. The collection agency eventually sent state troopers to Lindsay’s home to take her to jail for non-payment of debt.
How could this happen? Although the federal law banned debtor’s prisons over 150 years ago, several states do allow police to imprison people for nonpayment of debt. The debtors aren’t charged with nonpayment, but rather for failing to appear in court, pay legal fines or respond to lawsuit matters; essentially debtors are held in contempt of court.
Unfortunately, this is happening all too often in America today. Many people enter credit negotiations only to find out later that their agreement was never valid or the debt was unlawfully turned over to collection agencies anyway. Finding legitimate and valid debt relief isn’t as easy as it should be and there are many agencies working to revise laws in order to make it easier for consumers to find help with their debts.