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According to a report in The WSJ, debt collectors in states are using legal loophole justify jailing poor citizens

 
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09/01/2012 10:03 PM
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According to a report in The WSJ, debt collectors in states are using legal loophole justify jailing poor citizens
To most of us, "debtors' prison" sounds like an archaic institution, something straight out of a Dickens novel. But the idea of jailing people who can't pay what they owe is alive and well in 21st-century America.

According to a report inThe Wall Street Journal,debt collectors in Missouri, Illinois, Alabama and other states are using a legal loophole to justify jailing poor citizens who legitimately cannot pay their debts.

Here's how clever payday lenders work the system in Missouri -- where, it should be noted, jailing someone for unpaid debts is illegal under the state constitution.

First, explains St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the creditor gets a judgment in civil court that a debtor hasn't paid a sum that he owes. Then, the debtor is summoned to court for an "examination": a review of their financial assets.

If the debtor fails to show up for the examination -- as often happens in such cases -- the creditor can ask for a "body attachment" -- essentially, a warrant for the debtor's arrest. At that point, the police can haul the debtor in and jail them until there's a court hearing, or until they pay the bond. No coincidence, the bond is usually set at the amount of the original debt. As the Dispatch notes:

"Debtors are sometimes summoned to court repeatedly, increasing chances that they'll miss a date and be arrested. Critics note that judges often set the debtor's release bond at the amount of the debt and turn the bond money over to the creditor -- essentially turning publicly financed police and court employees into private debt collectors for predatory lenders."



[link to www.dailyfinance.com]





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