Debtors Prison Back in Vogue

I once languished in debtors prison. When I was about seventeen, I got strep throat something terrible. It got so bad I couldn’t swallow my own saliva without great pain. I was lying in my bed trying to recuperate when my father came to my door:

“Son, the police are here for you.”

“Huh? What for?” I croaked out.

“I don’t know. They say they have a bench warrant for your arrest.”


I got up and put on some clothes. Two officers were standing in the hallway.

“Hi. What’s this about?” I asked.

“Are you Charles Minkoff?” the lead officer asked.

“I go by Michael.”

“But your legal name is Charles M. Minkoff, Jr.?”


“We have a bench warrant here for you. We’re taking you in.”

This is when they put me in handcuffs. My dad intervened.

“Wait a second. He is very sick! What is this about? Why are you arresting him?”

“An unpaid ticket.”

“An unpaid ticket for what?”

“An expired tag.”

My father looked at me annoyed. I regularly let things like this slip through the cracks. My father had never woken up late. And he wouldn’t have paid this ticket either. Because he never would have gotten one in the first place. He paid his tags months before he needed to.

“Well. It doesn’t seem reasonable to take him to jail for that,” my dad said, his annoyance shifting from me to the officers.

“Sorry. If you want to talk about it, you’ll have to come in and pay his fine.”

“I’ll pay his fine. I will. You have my word. But will you leave him here? He is very sick.”

“No, sir. You can come in. We’ll be waiting.”

So they cuffed me, drove me into downtown Cumming (Forsyth County, Georgia) and put me in a holding cell with a drug dealer. Where I waited until my parents came and paid my ticket.

Whenever I tell anyone that story, most people are surprised. First, that I was so irresponsible, but mostly that police had nothing better to do. They didn’t. Police used to pull me over every week or so. They didn’t like the cut of my jib.

But it turns out, my experience is not unique. Debtors prison is coming back into style for exactly the same kinds of scenarios as the one I experienced. People can’t pay fines and fees, so they are put in jail until they pay them or do their time. Debtors prison never made any sense to me. How can a person pay a fee from jail (unless they have parents willing to pay it for them)? And doesn’t it cost the taxpayer money to jail people? So, bottom line, you’re probably losing money in the end.

Two police officers took two hours to pick me up, talk to my parents, drive back to county, put in my paperwork, etc. They got about $200 out of my parents. Was that worth it? Probably not.

As Carl Takei of the ACLU said in an interview with Fox News:

It’s a waste of taxpayer resources, and it undermines the integrity of the justice system. The problem is it’s not actually much of a money-making proposition … to throw people in jail for fines and fees when they can’t afford it. If counties weren’t spending the money jailing people for not paying debts, they could be spending the money in other ways.

Or they could just not collect the money in the first place. Welcome to your police state. Debtors prison is just the beginning.

29 responses

  1. I’m broke, thanks to the Obama society that is destroying America’s economy. Take me to prison where I will be warm (can’t afford my utilities bill) free housing and meals. All on the taxpayer’s dole… how wonderful…. maybe I could sleep for a change instead of worrying where I was going to get the money to pay my bills…………….

          • Isn’t it ironic how someone who actually believes everything obamao says could call someone stupid?! Yes, homo TROLLS like mrBlob ARE THAT STUPID…..

          • Boob isn’t stupid. He is just an arrogant bigoted liberal. They will never admit a mistake and they vehemently hate anyone who does not think and believe as they do. Liberalism accepts no dissent. They are exactly what they accuse us of being.

      • I didn’t know Forbes made the Keynesian mistake of conflating the stock market with the economy. This is one of our biggest problems today, this foolishness. The economy is entrepreneurial, it is real people putting their dreams to work in the real world. Businesses in the US are struggling over massive over regulation from the most draconian government policies we have ever seen. Except for the friends of Obozo, who’s printed money, injected into the national casino produce rigged game profits. The economy is not doing well, the friends of this corrupt President, the crony capitalists are.

        • Obviously there’s a great deal you don’t know about economics. Do you feel that anyone who invests in the stock market are “crony capitalists” of Obama?

          • No, but Obama policies breed corruption. The fed lending the banks at no interest, the banks buying US bonds at a couple percent return to fund Obama’s stupid and erroneous Keynesian demand creates it’s own supply theory which keeps getting us deeper into dept as the fiscal multiplier doesn’t work and never has, then the banks giving huge political money to Obozo is corrupt. The stock market, where a huge amount of printed money, which devalues our currency is going, is not the economy. It can provide capital to help get the economy going, but the over regulation now is hindering investment. The consumer get’s killed with a devalued currency, but Obama fat cat friends get rich. Liberals are destroying this country, and you, the typical liberal, don’t know what you are talking about!.

          • If that was true why is inflation at 1%? If the financial collapse taught us ANYTHING it taught us that Wall Street needs some regulations.

          • Do they measure inflation the same way they used to? What you see in the stock market IS inflation manifested by their reckless policies. We have a government bond bubble now that is just as bad if not far worse than the tech bubble, or any real estate bubble, but when will it burst and what will happen then? What the financial collapse taught us, if anything, is the government forcing unsafe business practices on banks causes imbalances. I’m in the mortgage business. We now have to work 3 to 4 times harder to do a loan and for less pay. All these massive draconian regulations, HAVE NOT DONE ANYTHING TO FIX THE PROBLEM! They were written by people, it seems, who hate us and don’t understand the business at all. They could have done a few things to help solve the inherent problems, but no, the radical left lawyers who wrote these laws had to damage our ability to recover. Not only in my industry, pick one: healthcare, trucking, farming, energy production, manufacturing–massive needless regulations. Now I have to do reports all the time, I have had to pass three different tests for all the crazy new rules and licencing, and the new regulations keep coming, more at the beginning of the new year. You have a typical shallow left wing talking points point of view. You should look at how things work not just what demagogues argue for political purposes. The problem often is with angry left wingers though, is you can only think in emotions, often angry emotions, so you feel justified in hurting other people. Especially if they are business people. This current left wing government has no idea how much it is hurting small business people in America…or maybe they do?

          • Jim, if you’re in the mortgage business I would assume you would be aware that the real estate market is up over 25%. I know it’s more difficult to actually do more then see if someone has a heart beat before you give them a loan but keep in mind we’re still recovering from a financial collapse brought on by deregulation. The good news is that if you have convictions in your beliefs you can cash in BIG TIME!!! Sell the market short or buy gold (which is down OVER 25% this year) & instead of just bitching you can tell everyone that “I told you so”!

          • The financial collapse did not happen from deregulation. This is pure ignorance and left wing talking points. Everyone was following FNMA and Freddie guidelines, especially FNMA. The banks were essentially doing what the government was instructing them to do, then selling the mortgage notes, essentially, to the government backed agencies. Government appointed bureaucrats where in charge. For example, Franklin Raines, who Pres Clinton appointed, was in charge of FNMA. He loaned out money at $100 reserve to $1 cash kept on hand, when it should be maybe 8 to 1. When congress called him on it he told them they didn’t understand, real estate in the USA would never go down. As the government driven real estate bubble went up, year after years, FNMA gudelines became crazier and crazier. At the end of it, they had something called a NINJA loan (meaning: no income, no asset, no job!) People could sign and take cash out on their houses without even having a job: that was a Freddie Mac loan but FNNIE was just as crazy. Why do you think the government did not try to prosecute the mortgage brokers and the banks for selling these crazy loans everyday? Because they would have been made to look like fools in court, because it was the government’s fault. The government only went after specific financial fraud (which will always exist and should always be prosecuted). Unlike the News medias suggests, sub prime was only a small part of the market, at it’s peak about 15%–and the government (GSEs) was buying those notes and telling them to do more of it right up to the house of cards coming down. I am not “just bitching”and I repeat, you don’t understand nor it seems, will you listen. Sure people can gamble (speculate short term) on the stock market, but it is not the economy. It was a twelve page mortgage application a few years ago, now it it 27 pages or so for the simplest kind of loan because of government forms no one reads. The more pages there are, the less people read them, I see it all the time.The back room in funding is a nightmare because of regulations now: every loan has to go through a rigorous audit. It comes down to what is good for the country. They now control our pay. How would you like someone telling you how much you can make in your own business? They are making it stricter on Jan 1 again too. They could have made the guidelines more conservative, backed Fannie and Freddie and let the system balance. Now the rocket scientists on both side want to destroy the system. The Dems in congress would not let the Bush admin audit FNMA and Freddie, by the way, because Maxine Waters and Gregory Meeks accused, Paul O’Neil, John Snow, and Bush of being racist, because F. Raines is black. The GSAs were chartered by congress and it was their duty to watch them. They created the mess and they now pass laws killing us and blaming free enterprise. Your corrupt dear leader had Franklin Raines in his transition team when he should have been in jail. FHA, is now acting just about as recklessly as sub prime was before, only the government is backing the weak loans now directly, while the government pushes more bubbles trying to manipulate things. There is you crony capitalism and your corrupt left wing government manipulated utopia for you.

          • Didn’t I hear the the Feds were buying “mortgage backed securities” from Wall St.? Haven’t I read that hedge fund managers were using the phony money from the feds to buy up foreclosed properties and renting them out for a nice bottom line? (hint: yes to both) So is this how the housing market is “improving”?

      • from the mouth of the sad lonely little scumbag liberal homo TROLL, mrBlob. He actually believes everything obomba says.

  2. I can see it now . . . . those we support via entitlements will be living the high life while the tax payers will be taxed and taxed and taxed . . . . finally losing everything and ending up in the can.

  3. Its a Penal Law called “Failure To Pay Fine”, its not debtors prison and its nothing new. If I owe Joe Shmo fifty bucks and don’t pay him, he takes me to civil court and the judge orders me to pay him if it is legitimate; if I owe a fee to the a government agency and don’t pay, they assess a penalty, or fine, and if I don’t pay that when ordered to pay, I go to jail. That is nothing new. Pay your bills and you wont be fined or arrested for failure to the pay, its simple. If you would have turned in your license plate, there would be no fine. If you get a parking ticket and don’t pay the fine, you may be arrested too, get over it.

    • Yeah and they will HUNT YOU DOWN in a hospital bed and drag you off to jail for it. Absolutely ridiculous. These morons spent more time on a registration violation than it was worth. Count the cost of this kind of extreme measure and I think you’ll find that it cost more to enforce in this case than the amount owed. STUPID!

  4. Gee, what a loser you are. This is the egregious example you use? People are going to jail because they cannot pay their medical bills. Hopefully the ACA will help to alleviate that.

    • People are going to jail because they cannot pay their medical bills? What people? Where is this happening? The ACA is going to help with that? rofl! The IRS will put you in jail now for not being able to afford your affordable care premiums. You won’t even get care at all, just jail.

  5. This is not a new phenomenon, when I was a Sheriff’s Deputy back in the 70’s violators were given jail time to pay off their fine at about the rate of $10 per day.

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