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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Courts - "Welcome to Debtors' Prison, 2011 Edition " [Updated]

Today's WSJ has this long story by Jessica Silver-Greenberg. Here is a quote:

More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can't or won't pay to be jailed. Judges have signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties with a total population of 13.6 million people, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of filings in those counties. Nationwide figures aren't known because many courts don't keep track of warrants by alleged offense. In interviews, 20 judges across the nation said the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began.
Here is an intriguing paragraph from near the end of the story:
Earlier this year, Vanderburgh County, Ind., Superior Court Judge Robert Pigman asked Indiana's highest court to review the legality of debt-related warrants after law-enforcement officials complained they can't quickly access arrest orders for dangerous criminals because their computer system is clogged with debt cases. The Indiana Supreme Court hasn't responded to the request.
A photo is captioned: "Jeffrey Stearns, of [Hancock County] Indiana, spent two nights in jail over a $4,024.88 debt." Details about Stearns' jailing, from the end of the story, include that he was arrested and jailed "for not paying $4,024.88 owed to a unit of American International Group Inc. on a loan for his pickup truck."

[More] The WSJ Law Blog has commentary on the article, in an entry headed "On the Rise of Debtor’s Prison: ‘The Scariest Thing That Ever Happened to Me’."

[Still More] See this ILB entry from June 9, 2010, headed "Is jailing debtors the same as debtors jail?" It is about the case of Perry County's Herman Button.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 17, 2011 09:20 AM
Posted to Courts in general | Indiana Courts