It is not that the US need incarcerate any more of its populace. With 2% of the world’s population, we incarcerate 23% of the world’s total inmates, mostly our own people. More than any country in the world, we keep inventing new ways to lock people up. Sometimes, it’s the reinvention of an old way, taking us not just back to the 20th Century, but further back still. Debtors’ prisons were abolished in the 19th Century, but the prison-industrial-complex has a plan.
In some states those owing money are rounded up and thrown in jail. In other words, in some places, it is now a “crime” to be poor, unemployed and in financial ruin. Recall that, according to the Weird Laws app, it’s illegal to be broke in Illinois. Recall also that more than half of all bankruptcies are due at least in part to medical bills. Job loss is another major cause of unpaid debt.
Imagine you, a law abiding citizen, hear hear a knock on the door one night, followed by the reading of an arrest warrant. Imagine spending a night (or longer) in jail, possibly with no one knowing what happened to you. Imagine further that you had no time to arrange care for your family members or your pets. So much urgency and haste, –for an unpaid bill!
This happened to Deborah Poplawki–for a $250 debt. Read about her and other victims of such practices here. Hard economic times are difficult enough without this cruelty and bullying brutality.
A few weeks ago we learned from a Huffington Post investigative story that delinquent water bills could cost a homeowner his or her house at a “tax” sale, even if the homeowner owns it outright. Today police now act as bill collection enforcer for companies not wanting to do their own bill collection.
Pay your bills on time, you say? In some states, an error, a mistake or identity theft could still land you in jail and up the creek. Write to Jim Webb, who seemingly is the only one who cares about travesties such as this. Ask him to add this to his list of prison-industrial-complex concerns. And then double check all your accounts are in order. Faster than you can say economic injustice, chances are some bully “purchaser of debt” will go too far.