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Corrupt Government
See other Corrupt Government Articles

Title: Prosecutors and Judges Have Brought Back Debtors’ Prisons
Source: The Nation
URL Source: https://www.thenation.com/article/p ... -brought-back-debtors-prisons/
Published: Feb 22, 2018
Author: David Dayen
Post Date: 2018-02-24 10:41:18 by Tooconservative
Keywords: None
Views: 193
Comments: 24

One of the defining features of my work has been the loss of integrity in the justice system, not just because of separate tiers of accountability for the rich and powerful, but also because of the active collusion of the system in corrupt practices. An ACLU report on modern-day debtor’s prisons caught my eye because of its deep examination of the judiciary’s active collaboration.

Debtor’s prisons have been illegal in America since 1833. But that doesn’t matter. We know about some ways people can languish in jail for being poor—if they cannot pay bail, for example, or if they rack up fines related to imprisonment that must be paid upon release. The ACLU report scrutinizes an additional phenomenon: private debt collectors using courts and district attorneys to threaten incarceration as a means of profit.

A staggering one in three Americans have a delinquent debt in the hands of a private collection agency, according to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau data. These debts are not large—around $1,300 on average. But debt collectors often hit up small-claims courts to obtain a judgment, filing hundreds of suits per day in some cases. Over 90 percent of these cases are decided for the collection agencies, mostly because they go uncontested. After winning, companies can garnish wages or seize property. They can also ask for “judgment debtor examinations,” a process where debtors are grilled about their financial histories to determine the final payment method. If the debtor doesn’t show to the exam, companies can petition judges to issue arrest warrants. Judges can also issue arrest warrants to individuals who fail to comply with a court-ordered payment plan. The fact that the debtor never receives a notice of the lawsuit or of when to show up to court, or whether the debt is even real, is of little consequence.

The ACLU examined over 1,000 cases in 26 states where judges dutifully issued the arrest warrants for failure to appear. In four states where they could receive full data (Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Utah), the ACLU found 8,500 arrest warrants in debt-collection cases. The warrants cover every kind of debt: medical bills, student loans, rent payments, homeowners’ association fees, utility bills, repairs, payday loans, gym fees, you name it. The amounts involved in the warrants were as low as $28.

Debtors typically don’t know about the warrant until they’re pulled over for a traffic violation or officers enter their home or workplace. Debtors can sit in jail for weeks, all for not paying a bill. If they arrange bail, that money often goes directly to the debt-collection agency.

Among dozens of stories is the case of Gordon Wheeler, a Texan whom US Marshals arrested at his home for failure to appear at a debtor’ exam in 2015. He was recovering from open-heart surgery and couldn’t physically get to the hearing. The judgment concerned a $2,500 student loan debt from 1983, which with interest and fees was now $12,000. Wheeler didn’t have the money, so he went to jail. Other debtors were arrested in front of their children; those hit with warrants included those with disabilities and a woman stricken with Alzheimer’s who died before she could be jailed. The report even found examples of people jailed for debts extinguished in bankruptcy, debts they didn’t owe, or debts they’d already paid off.

Specific debt collectors and specific judges specialize in issuing arrest warrants. A medical-debt collector in Idaho obtained 345 arrest warrants and jailed 222 debtors over a six-year period. Jared Kushner’s real-estate business obtained arrest warrants for 105 former tenants since 2013, resulting in 22 debtors’ going to jail. Hundreds of these arrest warrants can be rubber-stamped by judges in a single day.

The value of the arrest warrant lies in the threat itself, providing a powerful spur to get people to pay, regardless of the validity of the debt. The ACLU documented scores of cases where individuals were specifically warned that they would go to jail if they didn’t pay the debt, sometimes in written letters from the court. So the court system is actively participating in a kind of blackmail, dangling the prospect of an unconstitutional loss of freedom to extract cash. And of course these are traditionally the most vulnerable members of society, disproportionately black and brown, bearing the brunt of this perversion of the law. The impact doesn’t just include a couple weeks in jail but lost wages, potential lost employment, scrambles for childcare, the burden of a criminal record, and the psychological stress and humiliation of being locked up for being poor.

Sometimes local prosecutors are enlisted in this game. District attorneys have jurisdiction over bounced checks, which they are supposed to review for violations of state law. Over 200 DA offices contract with private companies specializing in bad checks like Bounceback or National Corrective Group to handle the cases. The debt collectors, using the prosecutor’s seal and signature, send “repayment demand letters,” threatening criminal charges and prison time if the bad-check writers don’t pay up. The ACLU estimates that over 1 million such letters go out every year. Some of these bounced checks are for as low as $2, which would never trigger a criminal prosecution, and the DA has usually not reviewed the cases for criminal implications. So these companies are just using an official-looking letter and an empty threat to coerce payment.

That doesn’t mean just payment for the unpaid check but a series of fees, as well as mandatory attendance in a diversion program run by the same debt collectors, which costs upward of $200, often more than the bad check itself. Per the contracts, the DA offices get a kickback on those fees, which enables the cycle. One documented case in California showed that someone who inadvertently bounced a check for $3.87 for groceries ultimately paid $444.87 in fees and restitution.

The ACLU argues that these practices violate human-rights conventions prohibiting arbitrary detention. It recommends a ban on arrest warrants in debt-collection cases, protections for debtors in post-judgment hearings, and the termination of contracts between DA offices and private debt collectors.

But what really infuriates me is the role of judges and prosecutors, without whom this entire game would fall apart. Chosen to uphold the law, they have decided to destroy it, joining with some of the sketchiest operators in the country to facilitate the use of their courts and jails for blackmail. In the case of the bad-check letters, prosecutors have effectively sold their office for a few bucks, an unconscionable breach of ethics.

Observers of horrible debt-collection tactics famously talk about Unicredit, a Pennsylvania company that decorated its office to look like a courtroom and held fake court proceedings to intimidate debtors into payment. But why go through that trouble when you can get the real courts to do you a solid? We banned debtor’s prisons because we considered it immoral to punish someone for a lack of money. But now immorality is reserved for the judges and prosecutors facilitating the reemergence of the criminalization of the poor.

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#1. To: Tooconservative, sneakypete (#0)

Well, capitalism is about profit, justice is for Commies. Right, Pete?

A Pole  posted on  2018-02-24   11:38:16 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: A Pole (#1)

Nice way to open a thread by trolling someone based on personal frictions from other threads.

Did you have any actual comment? The thrust of the article, since you probably didn't read it as you rushed to try to troll pete, is that debtor's prisons have made an unofficial comeback in the States and relatively few people know about it. This is a form of abuse comparable to the corrupt civil asset forfeiture racket by the feds and the states.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-24   12:35:35 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Tooconservative, A Pole (#2)

Did you have any actual comment? The thrust of the article, since you probably didn't read it as you rushed to try to troll pete, is that debtor's prisons have made an unofficial comeback in the States and relatively few people know about it.

Communists turned entire nations into debtors prisons. You not only owed the state money,you owed them your life,your land,and your family.

In the entire history of the world,the only nations that had to build walls to keep their own citizens from leaving were those with leftist governments.

sneakypete  posted on  2018-02-24   18:34:21 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: sneakypete (#3)

You not only owed the state money,you owed them your life,your land,and your family.

Not to quibble too much but it was worse than just owing them. You didn't owe them, strictly speaking. The state owned you along with every means of production, all land/plants/animals and you possessed no right to protest or resist. That was considered counter-revolutionary, you would be killed or punished severely.

The sheer horror of communist totalitarianism is almost more than the ordinary American can imagine.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-24   19:07:01 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: Tooconservative (#4)

The sheer horror of communist totalitarianism is almost more than the ordinary American can imagine.

I think there are very few that can even begin to grasp even the day to day life,with families who would be middle class if they were Americans living with up to 3 families in an apartment with just one kitchen and one bath. It's a wonder to me they didn't go mad and start killing each other.

Try to tell them something as basic as each floor on a hotel having a "floor monitor" that sat at a desk by the elevator and the stairway,and kept a list of the names of everyone in each room,and you had to check in with her when coming back to the hotel,and anybody coming to visit you had to check in with her and explain why you were there,what you would be doing,and how long you would be there,and then taking your internal passport,that's right,Soviets had to have an internal passport they could get stamped to prove they had permission to travel and who they were,to copy your personal information,and they kept it until you left and reported to them to get it.

Or things like a "light bulb store",where you had to go to get a new light bulb if a old light bulb burned out. The store sold nothing but light bulbs,and you had to turn in the burnt one to be allowed to buy a new one. If you also needed a light shade and an extension cord,you had to go stand in line at two other stores to buy them.

In the entire history of the world,the only nations that had to build walls to keep their own citizens from leaving were those with leftist governments.

sneakypete  posted on  2018-02-24   19:26:14 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: sneakypete (#5)

Try to tell them something as basic as each floor on a hotel having a "floor monitor" that sat at a desk by the elevator and the stairway,and kept a list of the names of everyone in each room,and you had to check in with her when coming back to the hotel,and anybody coming to visit you had to check in with her and explain why you were there,what you would be doing,and how long you would be there,and then taking your internal passport,that's right,Soviets had to have an internal passport they could get stamped to prove they had permission to travel and who they were,to copy your personal information,and they kept it until you left and reported to them to get it.

The monitoring and control were nuts. Imagine your "career" was sitting in the hallway, scribbling little notes about your neighbors in a horrible poured-concrete tenement building, cold in winter, hot in summer. The fruits of the Revolution. A country full of damned trees but lacking toilet paper.

They should have invented cellphones. Now we get tracked everywhere. And we pay for it ourselves. And the big corporations and social media companies and mapping companies and government all get far more data about us than they can really exploit.

Capitalism has achieved a casual surveillance state that the Soviets and Nazis could never have dreamed of.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-24   21:58:09 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#7. To: Tooconservative (#6)

Capitalism has achieved a casual surveillance state that the Soviets and Nazis could never have dreamed of.

I would say it was a combination of science and personal choice did that. The Government had nothing to do with it.

In the entire history of the world,the only nations that had to build walls to keep their own citizens from leaving were those with leftist governments.

sneakypete  posted on  2018-02-25   9:11:28 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#8. To: Tooconservative, sneakypete (#2)

TC, I did not mean any mischief. I just get worried about this issue and evolution of systems based on market. Remember Solon's reforms abolishing debts and freeing slaves.

BTW, read carefully what 13th Amendment states:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.

A Pole  posted on  2018-02-25   10:35:58 ET  (1 image) Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#9. To: Tooconservative (#4)

Not to quibble too much but it was worse than just owing them. You didn't owe them, strictly speaking. The state owned you along with every means of production, all land/plants/animals

Not true. You don't know what you are talking about.

The sheer horror of communist totalitarianism is almost more than the ordinary American can imagine.

One thing I can agree, in most cases American prison is much more comfortable that a Soviet concentration camp in 1930s. It is enough to compare descriptions by Solzhenitsyn with American prison experiences.

Regular life in both systems could be tough. But standard of life in USA was higher than in the Soviet block, on the other hand in many market economies was lower.

A Pole  posted on  2018-02-25   10:45:09 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#10. To: A Pole (#8) (Edited)

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.

A fine quote, goes right to the crux of this shameful revival of debtors prisons. It did also bring to a complete end the practice of white slavery in America (typically the Irish "indentured servants"). Which opened the door more fully to the trade in African slaves. This transition from white slavery to African slavery is still not well known to Americans.

Notice how only a handful of states even report their full stats on this issue of the revival of debtors prisons. That means the problem is almost certainly much larger than is known at present.

These local prosecutors sign off on these prosecutions against the poor. And later, when they run for higher office, they can rely on these horrible debt collectors to keep their campaign coffers full, knowing that they are already corrupt.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-25   10:54:42 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#11. To: A Pole (#9)

Not true. You don't know what you are talking about.

You're wrong. The real horror of communism and Nazism is that the state did own you, completely and utterly. Even if you belonged to the favored political class. Take one step out of line and you'd be in a concentration camp, a gulag, or a "psychiatric hospital".

But standard of life in USA was higher than in the Soviet block, on the other hand in many market economies was lower.

There is an old argument on the Right that Stalin and FDR were competing to build a successful and sustainable communist system. They argue that FDR won and Stalin lost. I think the argument goes too far, even if I don't like FDR.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-25   10:58:08 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#12. To: sneakypete, Tooconsrvative, A Pole (#3)

Comrade A Pole: "Did you [sneakypete] have any actual comment?"

TC: "Communists turned entire nations into debtors prisons."

Pete: "You not only owed the [Commie] state money,you owed them your life,your land,and your family."

Somebody behind the Iron Curtain just got smoked.

Liberator  posted on  2018-02-25   14:21:02 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#13. To: Tooconservative (#0)

Frankly, the credibility of the ACLU wanes...as does the cred of this author from The Nation. NOT surprising.

For instance it linked to story, 'The U.S. Is Locking People Up For Being Poor', which is BS.

Liberator  posted on  2018-02-25   14:24:50 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#14. To: Liberator (#13)

Frankly, the credibility of the ACLU wanes...as does the cred of this author from The Nation.

I will admit that at times the ACLU does some good things.

However they seem to pick and choose which rights they defend - and even more so in the age of political correctness.

Does the ACLU Any Longer Defend Civil Liberty?

“Truth is treason in the empire of lies.” - Ron Paul

Those who most loudly denounce Fake News are typically those most aggressively disseminating it.

Deckard  posted on  2018-02-25   14:55:29 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#15. To: Liberator (#13)

Frankly, the credibility of the ACLU wanes...as does the cred of this author from The Nation. NOT surprising.

There are times when ACLU or The Nation or Mother Jones or even National Enquirer get a real story that no one else is following or, due to the advertising budgets of some dirty actors, will not expose these stories to the public.

That doesn't require you to sign up with these outlets or organizations for their full agenda. It's either true or it's not. And the proof is pretty abundant, based on full reporting stats from 4 states to the feds. The real question is why other news outlets haven't reported on this, any more than they report much on baseless civil asset forfeiture or on the use of SLAPP lawsuits to silence anyone who objects to some big business or corporation.

For instance it linked to story, 'The U.S. Is Locking People Up For Being Poor', which is BS.

In effect, it is true. Admittedly, it's a clickbaitish headline pitched to a Lefty audience. But that title doesn't cast doubt on the factual content of the article.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-25   15:16:28 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#16. To: Deckard (#14)

However they seem to pick and choose which rights they defend

Which is why no one signs up with the ACLU any more except Lefties.

People forget that the ACLU once had a lot of Republicans in it. How many people recall Dick Thornburg, U.S. attorney general during the first Bush presidency, was a strong member of the ACLU and quite active in his state's organization until he resigned in 1969? Thornburgh is still active, having forced out Dan Rather at CBS as their investigator and working for the Paterno family to really call into question the Louis Frieh report on the Penn State pedophile scandal. He was a good A.G. overall, a lawyer with a great career and who has an impeccable reputation. He's old but still hitting above his weight.

Thornburgh, a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, is a strong supporter of the vice president and was once rumored to be a potential running mate for Bush.

In the campaign, Bush has attacked his Democratic opponent, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, as a "card-carrying member of the ACLU."

Thornburgh said in the statement, which was released last night to reporters, that he was involved in the civil liberties union chapter in Pittsburgh, his hometown, "for a brief period in the 1960s.

"At the time, he said, the union stood "for free political discourse and the legitimate rights of the accused."

His affiliation with the group, he said, grew out of his "leadership role in establishing a public defender's office in our community" and his family's "continuing personal interest in securing the full enjoyment of the rights of our mentally retarded son during a period when the rights of handicapped persons in the areas of education, rehabilitation , housing and institutional care were far from assured.

"As it became increasingly clear that the ACLU was diverting itself from these types of efforts into the pursuit of a separate political agenda, many portions of which I strongly disagreed with, I resigned from the organization."

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-25   15:26:15 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#17. To: Deckard (#14)

I will admit that at times the ACLU does some good things.

Rarely. As they say about "a broken clock..."

The ACLU as a result of its long-range Marxist agenda to undermine the underpinnings of America has been pretty consistent about which "rights" it defends, and which ones it attacks. It destroys common sense laws by technicality when "t"s are uncrossed and "i"s un-dotted. Financed by internationalists/globalist elites, we know it's always been at war with and against the USA. Isn't it funny how it and its "cousin," the SPLC, have been anointed arbiter of "Hate Crime," "Hate Speech," and "Hate" sites? (how did THIS happen??)

Shame your linked post, 'Does the ACLU Any Longer Defend Civil Liberty?' got little attention. In the essay, the author notes that this subversive org is now pretty much positioned exactly where it's always wanted to be: Nailing what it hopes will be the final spikes in the coffin of the Founders' traditional America and its foundation comprised of culturally white, Western-European Christians.

In place of civil liberties, the ACLU has Identity Politics.

The ACLU “civil rights” survey is concerned with the civil rights of illegal aliens, of women to have abortions and publicly financed birth control, the “fundamental rights of LGBT people,” and Muslim bans.

The civil liberties listed in the Constitution do not qualify for concern; only invented rights that are not listed in the Bill of Rights.

Liberator  posted on  2018-02-25   15:33:47 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#18. To: Tooconservative (#16)

People forget that the ACLU once had a lot of Republicans in it.

I didn't think there were that many.

Bush's campaign salvo at Dukakis ("Card-Carrying member of the ACLU") was pretty devastating as I recall.

But didn't Congressman Bob Barr get involved with them? (blowing Freeper minds in the process)

Liberator  posted on  2018-02-25   15:38:18 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#19. To: Liberator (#18)

But didn't Congressman Bob Barr get involved with them? (blowing Freeper minds in the process)

His pathway to grabbing the nomination of the Libertarian party. He dropped the ACLU after that as the LP dropped him. He's faded away.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-25   16:15:05 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#20. To: Tooconservative (#11)

The real horror of communism and Nazism is that the state did own you, completely and utterly. Even if you belonged to the favored political class. Take one step out of line and you'd be in a concentration camp, a gulag, or a "psychiatric hospital".

Yeah, you know better how Poland under Communism looked like, than a person that was born there, went to school and university, etc ...

You must be some f***ing genius. He, he.

A Pole  posted on  2018-02-25   16:36:24 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#21. To: A Pole (#20)

Yeah, you know better how Poland under Communism looked like, than a person that was born there, went to school and university, etc ...

Poland and other Warsaw Pact countries never bore the full brunt of the Bolshevists. In Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, they outright killed or enslaved millions. Their hand never fell so heavily upon eastern Europe as in the Soviet heartland.

But the fundamental ideology of the Soviet regime never changed until it finally fell.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-25   16:47:11 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#22. To: Tooconservative (#0)

Recently, I talked with a guy who spent 2 months in jail before he could even see a judge to review his case. He owed back child support.

Oh, but it's not what you might think. His kids were grown and in their 20's and 30's. He didn't owe his ex-wife a cent. He paid all that.

The problem was that his ex went on public assistance for a year or so at a time when he just didn't have the means to pay -- 15 years ago. He was expected to repay for the amount spent for her on public assistance.

He thought he had worked out the matter with Virginia. But he moved to North Carolina and they didn't see the matter the same way. So he languished in jail.

no gnu taxes  posted on  2018-02-25   17:13:24 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#23. To: no gnu taxes (#22)

Oh, but it's not what you might think. His kids were grown and in their 20's and 30's. He didn't owe his ex-wife a cent. He paid all that.

It's just as much a scandal IMO. These laws get abused a lot.

The punishment provided no deterrence and cost a lot to inflict on him.

Tooconservative  posted on  2018-02-25   18:53:44 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#24. To: A Pole (#20)

Yeah, you know better how Poland under Communism looked like, than a person that was born there, went to school and university, etc ...

Yeah,I do. I knew some Poles who escaped from there and joined the US Army in the hope they would get to go back there to kill all the leaders and make Poland free.

They were as serious as a heart attack about it,too.

ou must be some f***ing genius. He, he.

Yeah,I am,but that has nothing to do about it. Anybody but a blind fool could see that before the USSR collapsed and Poland became free.

If Communism was as slick as the duck's ass in Poland,Comrade,PLEASE splain to all of us why now that they are free to choose what form of government they have,the Polish are no longer communists.

In the entire history of the world,the only nations that had to build walls to keep their own citizens from leaving were those with leftist governments.

sneakypete  posted on  2018-02-25   21:15:38 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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