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Debtors' prison

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 18th century debtors' prison at the Castellania in Valletta, now the offices of the Health Ministry in Malta
The 18th century debtors' prison at the Castellania in Valletta, now the offices of the Health Ministry in Malta

A debtors' prison is a prison for people who are unable to pay debt. Through the mid 19th century, debtors' prisons (usually similar in form to locked workhouses) were a common way to deal with unpaid debt in places like Western Europe.[1] Destitute persons who were unable to pay a court-ordered judgment would be incarcerated in these prisons until they had worked off their debt via labour or secured outside funds to pay the balance. The product of their labour went towards both the costs of their incarceration and their accrued debt. Increasing access and lenience throughout the history of bankruptcy law have made prison terms for unaggravated indigence illegal over most of the world.

Since the late 20th century, the term debtors' prison has also sometimes been applied by critics to criminal justice systems in which a court can sentence someone to prison over willfully unpaid criminal fees, usually following the order of a judge.[2] For example, in some jurisdictions within the United States, people can be held in contempt of court and jailed after willful non-payment of child support, garnishments, confiscations, fines, or back taxes. Additionally, though properly served civil duties over private debts in nations such as the United States will merely result in a default judgment being rendered in absentia if the defendant willfully declines to appear by law,[3] a substantial number of indigent debtors are legally incarcerated for the crime of failing to appear at civil debt proceedings as ordered by a judge. In this case, the crime is not indigence, but disobeying the judge's order to appear before the court.[4][5][6][7][8] Critics argue that the "willful" terminology is subject to individual mens rea determination by a judge, rather than statute, and that since this presents the potential for judges to incarcerate legitimately indigent individuals, it amounts to a de facto "debtors' prison" system.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ A Debtors' Prison: Debilitating cycles of incarceration in the US
  • ✪ Child Support a debtors prison, "Deadbeat Dads' or Dad's BEAT TO DEATH ( Parens Patriae)
  • ✪ York Debtors' Prison
  • ✪ Debtors' Prison
  • ✪ Debtors' Prison Returns -- Pay Your Ever Increasing Debts with Slave Labor


Where's a fan? Good lord... Yeah you have to- Can we get some soft lighting for the glistening, child? Can we choose just a soft lighting. No I am- committed to balance, okay. I'm done. I often use humor to defuse things that are uncomfortable mentally and this process is one of those. They were all the same... Driving without insurance... um Each police office never justify, when they would say 'oh, we ran your plates, your plates don't match the car.' The question I've always asked: What... was the determining factor that you use to consider me a threat, for you to get behind me to run my plates to determine my plates didn't match the car? No matter what municipality I was in, no matter where I was, no matter how the problem came up, I wasn't speeding, I didn't run through a light, I didn't run a stop sign, I wasn't swerving... Okay, one time a changed a lane without a blinker, okay yeah. - I'm 49 years old, I'll be 50 in May. My hopes for the future is just to get me a job that I'm comfortable with, maybe I can grow with and keep a roof over my head. And spend time with my kids and grand babies. I wanted to be a soldier, I wanted to go into the air force, yeah... But then when I turned 18, I got pregnant and that got put off. - Why did you want to go to the air force? - Because I wanted to jump outta planes. I always wanted to be- see how it'd feel to put on a parachute and jump out of a plane, yeah. And I just like soldiers, they style, they just- yeah. - In spite of temporary tags, how do you plead? Uh... Guilty, I don't know, guilty. Okay, unfortunately that's not a defense We'd think it would be but it's not. $75 plus cost... uhh Mr. Evans, you're charged by the city with high grass with weeds violation, how do you plead? - Um... - High grass and weeds, just $75 plus cost, okay? Thank you sir. On the loud music how do you plead? - Not guilty. - Okay that's just $50 plus cost. For the stop sign how do you plead? - Guilty. - Okay, that's just a hundred dollars plus cost. At no operator's license we're gonna continue that to November 25th, okay? On the plates it's just $75 plus cost. Under the driving while suspended you can still get a hardship, it's $250 plus cost. And sitting in a driving vehicle with no headlights how do you plead? Did you? Okay testing of equipment violation, $75 plus cost. See park in the corner to make arrangements, okay? You're charged by the city with failure of registry, no inspection, improper plates, and failing to appear, how do you plead? - I'm guilty - Okay we're going to dismiss the failure to appear charge, okay? The other three are just equipment violations, which means you wont get any points or any convictions on your driving record. $375 plus cost, if you can't pay it today they'll make arrangements for you over in the corner, okay? - Lemme just make it short. With the story of me still in four states from Jennings, I was arrested 19 different times for that one incident I did a total of 67 jail days, I went to court, went in front of the judge and he fined me $1800, sworn and put me on a $100 payment plan, but I had just got out the penitentiary from doing two years and I didn't have a job coming home from the penitentiary right away so, therefore he put me on a $100 payment plan told me I had to come up with the money no matter what or how. So I was able to borrow money for like approximately four months, when I got to the fifth month I went to court, I didn't have the $100. So I asked him to give me till the next Tuesday, gimme one week to come up with the $100 He said he can only give me three days and a warrant would be back out. And he reissued the warrant because I didn't have the hundred in three days. - Small municipalities, they would break the people in, have no where to keep them and then decided, they got together like in a huddle, 'Look, we got this new game we're gonna play, here's the plan, ya'll rake em' we'll bake em'. You give them the tickets we'll huddle them over here, put the money in half.' So then they've decided because they don't have any jail space, and all these little podunk municipalities like Upland Parks, Velda Village, Hillsdale, Pine Lawn, Bel-Nor, Bel-Ridge, Normandy, Upland Parks that whole stretch, oh I could keep going, Calverton Park, I could keep going, you turn the corner and go down to Edmundson and other places, but that was just natural bridge, but why are there so many in between there, if you can't house all the prisoners why do you have them? I had to call and tell my son, because you know, I couldn't pick him up, it was 9:00 and I watched the clock, at 9:00 I had to pick him up from my mom's house, my mom got him from daycare that day, and I thought I would have enough time to get out before he would have to leave my mother's house. And I watched the clock and it was 7:00 and I kept calling people, 8:00 and then 9:00 came and I knew it was tine to call my son and tell him I didn't when I was coming home. I knew I didn't have any money, I knew I was wanted everywhere, I knew if I could fix the problem in Clayton it wouldn't fix the problem because once you get locked up they run your name through every municipality within a 100 miles of St. Loius. They don't tell ya, so at first- they do now. When they first started they didn't, so you would say you go to Clayton, $500, so you pay that $500 thinking you were going home, they would say by the way Pine Lawn needs to see you next, you go to Pine Lawn, you go yeah I'm done! Oh by the way, Normandy has to see you next, you go wait a minute who the hell else is on this list? And they go hold on, you gonna have to go to um... and drop of money at every one, before you can go home. Oh you don't have the money, well wherever you stop at on this list just stay there till you get the money because this is your trip home, this is your Yellow Brick Road. Go from Clayton, to Normandy to St Ann to Claverton Park, then run back around to Florissant, then go to Ferguson, then we need to stop by the city because you forgot you had a ticket down there and then stop by here, and stop by here, and stop by here, and stop by here. - My name is Michael Woods and my fine was $340 and I paid $150 of it tonight. Traffic voilation, driving with a suspended license. - I am here on, at St Ann Court, for a driving while suspended on a 49 CC scooter, I also got a failure to apear and they made me pay $600 to- as my bond. - Actually mine date back to a 2011 ticket that I got on the highway when I was going, speed trap up on 70 by the airport. So mine is really old, I mean I definitely have had a thousand- well, now $1100 that I've got to you know, forfeit which is- I gave to them and that's it because I still might have to pay for my fine once I do get my driver's license though. Even if you get all the way down to the 0 on this one last payment, miss that payment? Oh your ass is going back destroyed and over. You get new fines, new court dates and they want to keep you in the system. Nothing says hey, we see here you have five kids, we see your rents due, we see your lights are off, we see you gotta pay for daycare, go ahead and skip this last payment because you have a life to live. It's like fuck your life. Pay us your money, fuck your life. And they have fucked too many lives in St. Louise. - To me St. Louise, I feel is like a war zone... that's what I describe it, war. A lot of war and racism. - Why? How? - Well it's for- it's like with authority we get harassed a lot, we get the most tickets, we get the most pull overs, you know... It just feel like it's a war zone. I'm thankful, I'm blessed to have what I did get. That I am. And it is like I say, the amount that I get will probably help me live comfortably for about another year and... I wish I had a bit more, I was hoping there had been enough to where I could just buy me a house, I feel, if I can just buy me a house paid for, I wont ever had to worry about being homeless again, it would be mines forever. But it wasn't enough to buy me a house, so... I got the lease for another year and go back to work, hopefully I can find me a job... that will hire a felon. But usually the jobs that hire felons be minimum wage like fast food, you know, and then with those jobs you don't get to work full time hours so you basically don't make enough to even pay for our lease, our house from month to month. What you get at a fast food restaurant. So it's a struggle, yeah. It's a struggle. - When you been locked up 15 times and you're not a criminal? It's not a- those are not incidents that you want to keep in your mind as warm and happy thoughts. So the 15 times that I was locked up, I really don't try to separate one from the other because they all suck, they're all inhumane. They're all people that are places that they really shouldn't be because somebody wanted to gouge them for money or feed off their habits. It's really not about the payout, it's about admitting you were wrong. They'd rather pay us the money and have us shut up, they'd actually rather pay twice as much if they could just not admit that they did it. But you gotta admit you did it aaaand pay it back. - When I was a kid, growin up I had a good child life. I was a sick child for part of my life. From 9 to 11 I was paralyzed, I caught this disease, well not disease, I got bit by of course an insect, They say it was brought in from overseas, that's the only thing they can come up with but it caused me to be paralyzed. I was supposed to be paralyzed for the rest of my life, I experienced being blind and deaf with "muralitis", it was called "muralitis". I lost my feeling from the top part of my body down. I had no feeling for like a year. I lived in children's hospital for a whole year with that. Then went home in a wheel chair, stayed in a wheel chair for another year and I got up out that wheel chair and taught myself how to walk, I was not gonna be in a wheel chair for the rest of my life. So, the lord has blessed me.



Medieval Europe

During Europe's Middle Ages, debtors, both men and women, were locked up together in a single, large cell until their families paid their debt.[9] Debt prisoners often died of diseases contracted from other debt prisoners. Conditions included starvation and abuse from other prisoners. If the father of a family was imprisoned for debt, the family business often suffered while the mother and children fell into poverty. Unable to pay the debt, the father often remained in debtors' prison for many years. Some debt prisoners were released to become serfs or indentured servants (debt bondage) until they paid off their debt in labor.

By region


Council of Europe

Article 1 of Protocol 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits the imprisonment of people for breach of a contract. Turkey and the United Kingdom (due to concerns over British nationality law) have signed but never ratified Protocol 4. Greece and Switzerland have neither signed nor ratified this protocol.


France allows for contrainte par corps, now denominated contrainte judiciaire, for money owed to the State by non-insolvant debtors aged from 18 to 65; its length is limited following the amount of the debt and aims to pressure the debtor to pay his debts, consequently the owed money stays owed to the State.


Schuldturm in Nuremberg
Schuldturm in Nuremberg

In the late Middle Ages, and at the beginning of the modern era, public law was codified in Germany. This served to standardize the coercive arrest (Pressionshaft), and got rid of the many arbitrary sanctions that were not universal.[10] In some areas (like Nürnberg) the debtor could sell or redistribute their debt.

In most of the cities, the towers and city fortifications functioned as jails. For certain sanctions there were designated prisons, hence some towers being called debtors' prison (Schuldturm). The term Schuldturm, outside of the Saxon constitution, became the catchword for public law debtor’s prison.

In the early modern era, the debtor’s detainment or citizen’s arrest remained valid in Germany. Sometimes it was used as a tool to compel payment, other times it was used to secure the arrest of an individual and ensure a trial against them in order to garnish wages, replevin or a form of trover. This practice was particularly disgraceful to a person’s identity, but had different rules than criminal trials. It was more similar to the modern enforcement of sentences (Strafvollzug) e.g. the debtor would be able to work off their debt for a certain number of days, graduated by how much they owed.

The North German Confederation eliminated debtors' prisons on May 29, 1868.

At present a comparable concept to debtors' prison still exists in various forms in Germany:[citation needed]

  • A maximum of 6 weeks coercive arrest for failure to pay fine (Bußgeld).
  • A maximum of 6 months coercive arrest for failure to issue an oath of not being able to pay any kind of liability.
  • As an alternative sentence, if a fine (Geldstrafe) is not paid, up to 6 months.
  • As a personal arrest for the securing of a foreclosure or garnishment on wages.
  • Failure to pay child support as ordered by court, which is a crime under the Penal Code.

Great Britain (later the United Kingdom)

A mid-Victorian depiction of the debtors' prison at St Briavels Castle
A mid-Victorian depiction of the debtors' prison at St Briavels Castle

In England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, 10,000 people were imprisoned for debt each year.[11] A prison term did not alleviate a person's debt, however; an inmate was typically required to repay the creditor in-full before being released.[12] In the Kingdom of Great Britain and the later United Kingdom, debtors' prisons varied in the amount of freedom they allowed the debtor. With a little money, a debtor could pay for some freedoms; some prisons allowed inmates to conduct business and to receive visitors; others (including the Fleet and King's Bench Prisons) even allowed inmates to live a short distance outside the prison—a practice known as the 'Liberty of the Rules'—and the Fleet even tolerated clandestine 'Fleet Marriages'.

Life in these prisons, however, was far from pleasant, and the inmates were forced to pay for their keep. Samuel Byrom, son of the writer and poet John Byrom, was imprisoned for debt in the Fleet in 1725, and in 1729 he sent a petition to his old school friend, the Duke of Dorset, in which he raged against the injustices of the system. Some debtor prisoners were even less fortunate, being sent to prisons with a mixture of vicious criminals and petty criminals, and many more were confined to a single cell.

The father of the English author Charles Dickens was sent to one of these prisons (the Marshalsea), which were often described in Dickens's novels.[13] He became an advocate for debt prison reform, and his novel Little Dorrit dealt directly with this issue.[14]

The Debtors' Act of 1869 limited the ability of the courts to sentence debtors to prison, but it did not entirely prohibit them from doing so. Debtors who had the means to pay their debt, but did not do so, could still be incarcerated for up to six weeks, as could those who defaulted on debts to the court.[15] Initially, there was a significant reduction in the number of debtors imprisoned following the passage of the 1869 Act. By 1870, the total number of debtors imprisoned decreased by almost 2,000, dropping from 9,759 in 1869 to 6,605 in 1870.[16] However, by 1905 that number had increased to 11,427.[16]

Some of London's debtors' prisons were the Coldbath Fields Prison, Fleet Prison, Giltspur Street Compter, King's Bench Prison, Marshalsea Prison, Poultry Compter, and Wood Street Counter. The most famous was the Clink prison, which had a debtor's entrance in Stoney Street. This prison gave rise to the British slang term for being incarcerated in any prison, hence "in the clink". Its location also gave rise to the term for being financially embarrassed, "stoney broke".


Ιmprisonment for debts, whether to the tax office or to a private bank, was still practiced until January 2008, when the law changed after imprisonment for unpaid taxes, as well as other debts to the government or to the social security office, was declared unconstitutional after having been practiced for 173 years; imprisonment was, however, still retained for debts to private banks.[clarification needed] The situation regarding imprisonment (προσωποκράτηση (prosōpokrάtēsē): custody) for debts to the government is still unclear, as courts continue to have this ability for criminal acts.[17]


The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, as amended, contains provisions for criminal penalties, including imprisionment, if someone defaults on a debt or a payment obligation.

Section 28A of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992 (As amended by the Securities Laws(Amendment) Act, 2014)[18] contains provisions for penalties, including imprisonment, for failure to pay back investors or the authorities.

In India, courts have been known to jail financial defaulters as a way to coerce them to pay back their victims or the government. For example, in the case of Subrata Roy, his bail was conditional on him paying back huge amounts to the investors or the regulators.[19]


An eighteenth century debtors' prison is found within the Castellania in Valletta, Malta, now used as offices by the Ministry for Health. It remained in use as a prison until the nineteenth century. In line with the European Convention Act, no person is to be deprived of his liberty because of the incapability to fulfill a contractual obligation.[20]

United Arab Emirates

Debtors in the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, are imprisoned for failing to pay their debts. This is a common practice in the country. Banks are not sympathetic to the debtors once they are in prison, so many just choose to leave the country where they can negotiate for settlements later. The practice of fleeing UAE to avoid arrest because of debt defaults is considered a viable option to customers who are unable to meet their obligations.[21][22]

United States of America

Early debtors' prisons (colonization–1850)

Many Colonial American jurisdictions established debtors' prisons using the same models used in Great Britain. James Wilson, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, spent some time in a debtors' prison while still serving as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.[23] Fellow signatory Robert Morris spent three years, from 1798 to 1801, in the Prune Street Debtors' Prison, Philadelphia[24][25] Henry Lee III, better known as Henry "Light-Horse" Lee, a Revolutionary War general and father of Robert E. Lee, was imprisoned for debt between 1808 and 1809[26] where he made use of his time by writing "Memoirs of the War".[27]

Debtors' prisons were prevalent throughout the United States up until the mid-1800s. Economic hardships following the War of 1812 with Great Britain helped swell prison populations with simple debtors. This resulted in significant attention being given to plights of the poor and most dependent jailed under the widespread practice, possibly for the first time.[28] Increasing disfavor over debtors' prisons along with the advent and early development of U.S. bankruptcy laws led states to begin restricting imprisonment for most civil debts.[29] At that time growing use of the poorhouse[30] and poor farm were also seen as institutional alternatives for debtors' prisons. The United States ostensibly eliminated the imprisonment of debtors under federal law in 1833[31][32] leaving the practice of debtors' prisons to states.

Changes to state debtors' prisons
Kentucky 1821 – save where fraud was shown or suspected
Ohio 1828
Maryland 1830 – for debts under $30
New Jersey 1830
Vermont 1830
Massachusetts 1831 – exempted females for any amount and males with debts under $10
New York 1832, Connecticut 1837, Louisiana 1840, Missouri 1845, Alabama 1848, Virginia 1849
Historic preservation
  • Accomac, Virginia – constructed 1782–1783, converted to a "gaol [jail] for debtors" in 1824, closed 1849[33]
  • Tappahannock, Virginia – constructed prior to 1769, converted to other uses 1849[34]
  • Worsham, Virginia – authorized 1786, constructed as a "goal [jail] for debtors" 1787, closed sometime between 1820 and 1849[35]

Modern debtors' prisons (1970–current)

While the United States no longer has brick and mortar debtors' prisons, or "gaols for debtors" of private debts, the term "debtor's prison" in modern times sometimes refers to the practice of imprisoning indigent criminal defendants for matters related to either a fine or a fee imposed in criminal judgments.[8][36] To what extent a debtor will actually be prosecuted varies from state to state.[4] This modern use of the term debtors' prison arguably has its start with precedent rulings in 1970, 1971 and 1983 by the U.S. Supreme Court,[5][37] and passage of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978.

In 1970, the Court ruled in Williams v. Illinois that extending a maximum prison term because a person is too poor to pay fines or court costs violates the right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.[38] During 1971 in Tate v. Short, the Court found it unconstitutional to impose a fine as a sentence and then automatically convert it into "a jail term solely because the defendant is indigent and cannot forthwith pay the fine in full."[39] And in the 1983 ruling for Bearden v. Georgia, the Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment bars courts from revoking probation for a failure to pay a fine without first inquiring into a person's ability to pay and considering whether there are adequate alternatives to imprisonment.[40]

A year-long study released in 2010 of fifteen states with the highest prison populations[41] by the Brennan Center for Justice, found that all fifteen states sampled have jurisdictions that arrest people for failing to pay debt or appear at debt-related hearings.[31] The study identified four causes that lead to debtors' prison type arrests for debts:

  • State laws that attempt to make criminal justice debt a condition of probation, parole, or other correctional supervision with failure to pay resulting in arrest and reimprisonment.[42][43]
  • State laws that consider imprisonment as a penalty for failure to pay criminal justice debt. These actions are considered a civil contempt of court charge, thus technically not in violation of state constitutions that prohibit debtors' prisons, but for the same reason those incarcerated must be released immediately if they either pay or prove themselves unable to do so.[44][45][46]
  • Citizens choosing jail time under state programs where imprisonment is a way of paying down court imposed debt.[6][47]
  • States that regularly arrest citizens for criminal justice debt prior to appearing at debt-related hearings, leading in many cases to multi-day jail terms pending an ability to pay hearing.[48][49]
  • The routine jailing of persons who owe civil debt when such debts are related to child support arrears. Imprisonment for such debt is legally justified by the legal fiction that the incarceration is not for the debt, but rather for not obeying a court order to pay the debt.

In an article in The American Conservative, Michael Shindler argues that another factor responsible for debtors' prison type arrests is that "Whereas indigent defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to a court-appointed lawyer in criminal cases involving incarceration, indigent debtors in state and local courts have no one to defend them against the error and abuse that characterizes debt collection litigation." Similarly, Shindler writes, regarding explicitly illegal debtors' prison type arrests ordered by local judges,"the reason these officials engage in this sort of excessive behavior is often due to ignorance."[50]

In a 2019 report by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law argues that debtors' prisons are likely to appear in states like Arkansas where many people live in poverty and are unable to pay fines and fees, where poor record-keeping exacerbates challenges faced by defendants and where arrest warrants and drivers license suspensions make it even harder for people to pay off court-imposed debt.

Modern examples

In 2014, National Public Radio (NPR) posted a report stating that there were still cases of judges imprisoning people who have not paid court fees.[51] The American Civil Liberties Union has been challenging such policies since 2009.[52]

In September, 2015, the town of Bowdon, Georgia made international news[53] when a sitting municipal judge, Robert A. Diment, was surreptitiously recorded threatening defendants with jail time for traffic violations if they did not provide immediate payment.[54] The incidents caused the Bowdon Municipal Court to be closed for a month in order to implement changes in policy.[55]

Modern U.S. by state
State Modern Debtors' Prison
  • Imprisons debtors as a penalty for failure to pay criminal justice debt.
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt, applies 12% interest
  • A city government in Alabama that imprisoned debtors for fees resulting from the use of a private probation company was halted by Circuit Court Order as being a modern debtors' prison. (2012)[8][56]
  • Imprisons debtors who are then typically required to submit financial documentation to the courts, to facilitate seizure of assets or wage garnishment.[7]
California P.C. § 1205[6]
  • Imprisons debtors who choose jail time under programs where imprisonment is a way of paying down court imposed debt.[6]
  • Imprisons debtors as a penalty for failure to pay criminal justice debt.[58]
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt as a contempt of court charge.[5]
  • Imprisons debtors as a penalty for failure to pay criminal justice debt.[4]
  • Imprisons debtors for criminal justice debt without legal counsel[59]
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt
  • Imprisons debtors who are then typically required to submit financial documentation to the courts, to facilitate seizure of assets or wage garnishment.[36]
Maryland H.B. 651[60]
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt
  • Stops payments and accrual of arrearages while a debtor is imprisoned and for a specified time after release for child support debt.[60]
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt
  • Imprisons debtors as a penalty for failure to pay criminal justice debt.[4]
Minnesota Const art I § 12[61]
  • Imprisons debtors who are then typically required to submit financial documentation to the courts, to facilitate seizure of assets or wage garnishment.[7] Actually, debtors cannot be imprisoned merely for failing to pay their debts, but they can face sanctions by the court for failing to obey a court's order to show cause as to why they failed to reveal their financial situation to creditors.
Missouri Rev § 543.270[47]
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt[62]
  • Imprisons debtors who choose jail time under programs where imprisonment is a way of paying down court imposed debt.[47]
  • Imprisons debtors for "failure to appear" as a contempt of court charge during discovery procedures to locate assets of the debtor.[63]
Oklahoma O.S. §,2.13 [42]
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt
  • Imprisons debtors who are then typically required to submit financial documentation to the courts, to facilitate seizure of assets or wage garnishment.[42]
  • Imprisons debtors for civil debt through an Order of Capias resulting from failure to appear for a deposition as part of discovery procedures to locate assets of the debtor.
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt as a contempt of court charge.[64]
South Carolina
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt as a contempt of court charge without giving debtor right to defense counsel.[65]
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt as a contempt of court charge.[66]
Texas Government Code Ch 21 § 002(f)
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt as a contempt of court charge during off-work hours.[67]
Washington Const art I § 17[68]
  • Imprisons citizens who are then typically required to submit financial documentation to the courts, to facilitate seizure of assets or wage garnishment.
  • Allows imprisonment of debtors for child support debt as a contempt of court charge.
  • Proposed legislation requiring companies to provide proof a debtor has been notified about lawsuits against them before a judge could issue an arrest warrant for civil debts. (2011)[69]

International agreements

In 1976 Article 11 of the ICCPR – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – came into effect stating, "No one shall be imprisoned merely on the ground of inability to fulfill a contractual obligation."

This international treaty contradicts many domestic laws of ratified states which allows for civil jail.

See also


  1. ^ Cory, Lucinda. "A Historical Perspective on Bankruptcy" Archived February 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, On the Docket, Volume 2, Issue 2, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Rhode Island, April/May/June 2000, retrieved December 20, 2007.
  2. ^ "What is Contempt of Court and other Contempt of Court Questions Answered". JustAnswer.
  3. ^ "What Happens If I Get Sued?".
  4. ^ a b c d Writer, Editorial (5 April 2009). "The New Debtors' Prisons". The New York Times. United States.
  5. ^ a b c Writer, Staff (14 April 2009). "Debtors' prison - again". The Tampa Bay Times. United States. Archived from the original on 6 July 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d California, State of (2012). "CAL. PEN. CODE § 1205". Find California Penal Code.
  7. ^ a b c Chris Serres, Glenn Howatt (17 March 2011). "In jail for being in debt". The Star Tribune. Minneapolis, MN.
  8. ^ a b c Circuit Court, Shelby County (July 2012). "Circuit Court of Shelby County CV 2010-900183.00". Scribd Research Law. Shelby County, Harpersville .pdf Alabama, USA.
  9. ^[dead link]
  10. ^ Archived December 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Ware, Stephen (July 2014). "A 20th Century Debate About Imprisonment for Debt". American Journal of Legal History.
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