[Pnews] Thousands of Americans jailed for debts chased by private collectors
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 22 17:33:12 EST 2018
Thousands of Americans jailed for debts chased by private collectors
22 Feb, 2018
An estimated 77 million Americans have a debt that has been transferred
to a private collection agency. Thousands have ended up in jail over
debts as small as $28, with African-Americans and Hispanics the most
The findings come from a new report
the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spanning 26 states and Puerto
Rico, published on Wednesday. The practice violates many US state and
federal laws, which prohibit the jailing of debtors.
In one case cited in the report, a disabled woman who wears a prosthetic
leg was shackled by her waist and feet by two armed US marshals before
being put in jail overnight.
“/They had a warrant for my arrest and I asked them for what, he didn’t
say what it was for. He said, ‘He’ll tell you later,/’” said Tracie
Mozie of Dickinson, Texas.
Law enforcement officials had entered Mozie's bedroom to arrest her over
a $1,500 federal student loan she took out in 1986 to pay for
truck-driving school. The loan had mushroomed to $13,000 with interest
and fees. Monzie was unable to pay because she is unemployed and lives
on disability benefits.
The ACLU examined more than 1,000 cases in which civil court judges
issued arrest warrants for debtors. In some instances the amounts were
as small as $28. Letters were sent over bounced checks as low as $2, the
The report is the first ever to analyze the cooperation between courts
and the private debt collection industry across the US, according to the
ACLU. Private debt collectors use the criminal justice system to try to
compel repayments, even when the debts are disputed or when the debtor
cannot repay. More than 6,000 debt collection firms operate in the
United States, collecting billions of dollars each year.
Following their arrest, debtors may remain in jail for several days
until they can pay the bail. In some cases, the ACLU found some people
were locked up for as long as two weeks.
This practice violates the many state and federal laws as well as
international human rights standards that prohibit the jailing of debtors.
**The report finds that the long-term consequences of arrests for both
courts and people can be profound and scarring. Arrest warrants can be
entered into background check databases which mean they can jeopardize
future employment, housing applications, education, and access to
In one case in Maryland, an elderly couple were jailed because they did
not appear at a district court hearing for which they had never been
served notice. Isaac, 83, and his wife Doris owed $2,342.76 to their
homeowners’ association and $450 in attorney’s fees. They had never been
served with notice of the hearing, which had itself been scheduled
because they failed to appear at a post-judgment proceeding for which
they also had never been served. While in detention, Isaac began
vomiting blood and became non-responsive, according to the report.
While debtors’ prisons were outlawed by Congress almost two hundred
years ago, in reality the practice seems to live on.
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