“No Money? No “Get Out of Jail Free” Card!

jail 300x199 “No Money? No “Get Out of Jail Free” Card!

Years ago, our prisons were flooded with people unable to pay bills.  Let’s fast forward to today.  Imagine those out-of-work, disabled, elderly, etc. that might crowd the prisons.  Or students just out of college who can’t find jobs and are unable to repay their loans?  In order to avoid jail time, students might pursue another degree and incur still more debt.

Years ago, the poor, disabled, and unemployed groups did not receive assistance and would simply be thrown in jail if they fell behind on their debts without the means to afford a legal representative.  Prison overcrowding is already an issue.  Who would handle the additional court cases, man the prisons, or build new facilities.  If a comparison was done of the number of people already in prison added to the number of people unable to pay their bills, the results might be shocking.  Our jails and legal system would be overwhelmed.

Recently, Ohio has come under the radar for this very reason.  In several counties, those unable to pay their bills are being put behind bars without a fair hearing.  Debt warnings are not being sent, according to Huffington Post.  Rights to an attorney are waived, and people are being arrested for failure to appear in court. An investigation was released last week “by the Ohio Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union,” which is why the strong focus on Ohio.

In a 2010 study, 15 states total were cited for imprisoning those failing to pay debts or appear at the hearings.

If someone calls and threatens to incarcerate you for not paying a debt, contact the Attorney General of your state to determine if that practice is even legal.  The Better Business Bureau has received many calls from individuals regarding debt collector threats.  The debt collectors that have been reported are very evasive with contact details and use threats of incarceration and legal action, call people and harass them at work, etc.  The Federal Trade Commission has strict guidelines as to what debt collectors can and cannot do.  You may wish to familiarize yourself with these.  Should you have questions or concerns regarding debt collector do’s and don’ts, please contact us.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/giando/2397571608/”>Giandomenico Ricci</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

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About Kristal Heffley

Ad Review and Social Media Specialist of BBB serving Northern Indiana. Kristal spends a great deal of time learning, writing about, and educating the public on scams of the day. She also is quite the social-media enthusiast and community partner. You can follow her posts, i.e. BBB serving Northern Indiana on Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and of course, our blog.