MSN Should you go to jail for being unable to pay a small bill? Debtors’ jail has been abolished in the United States since the 1830s, but a study by the American Civil Liberties Union has pointed out a de facto debtors’ prison has emerged, with debtors put in handcuffs for showing “contempt of court” when creditors harass them with summons at what the ACLU calls increasingly alarming rates.
One teacher’s aide and breast cancer survivor was thrown in prison for not paying a $280 medical bill that she had been told she received in error. Using public courts and services funded by tax dollars to pressure collection of private debts is even encouraged by some states, such as Alabama and Florida, which add hefty collection fees to debtors’ payment plans.
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