There's good news and bad news for Americans who have fallen on hard times. The good news is that state and local governments are willing to provide cash-strapped citizens with food, shelter and medical attention.
The bad news is that these services will be provided within the confines of a jail cell…
How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn't pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn't owe. "She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn't have to pay it," The Associated Press reports. "But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs."
Although the U.S. abolished debtors' prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don't pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff's deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.
The process is simple enough: A company will sell its roster of debtors to a collection agency, which files a lawsuit against the debtor requiring a court appearance. If the debtor fails to respond to a summons, a warrant is issued for their arrest. Then local governments charge the debtor for their trial and incarceration.
With local education budgets strapped by falling revenues, let's just think of this as an unorthodox attempt to teach history. What better way to "bring the past to life" then to actually bring the 19th century back to life?
And look on the bright side, if corporations are people, it means we can put them in debtors' prison. It's funny because it's depressingly impossible!
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Tags: Books, Crime, Debt, Money, Poverty