News & Resources

Many falsely afraid of debtor's prisons

Jun 07, 2012 Philip Burgess

There used to be a time where individuals who owed payments were thrown in jail for failing to make payments on time. The debt collection industry, however, has evolved and these prisons were outlawed in 1833 in the United States. Despite recent media attention, it is important that both recovery agents and consumers themselves know that simply owing a sum will not result in being put in jail. Illinois Attorney General Recently, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced support for the Debtor's Rights Act of 2012. The text of HB 5434 details the language that must be used in the citation of a debtor. It particularly spells out the clause commonly used that notes a debtor can be jailed if he or she fails to make a court appearance. The Rock River Times reported the bill would stop warrants from being issued for the debtor's arrest  if a debt collector fails to notify the individual who has missed payments. Madigan, according to the source, has told media outlets the passage of the bill will keep those who cannot pay out of debtor's prisons in Illinois. Court charges still possible If an individual does not appear in court, they can be found in contempt, regardless of their economic standing. Debtors have the opportunity to explained their situation to a judge and work out a payment plan, rather than being found in contempt. According to InsideARM, consumers and collectors alike should realize the difference between debtors' jails and separate court charges. The Red River Times explained that when orders to appear in court for debtors appear, they are usually valid for three years, potentially giving those who have missed payments time to catch up. Rules against threats All agents in the recovery industry should know they are legally not allowed to threaten an individual who has missed payments with the possibility of being incarcerated. According to Part 1 of Section 806 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, regarding harassment or abuse, both the use and threat of harm to an individual's reputation is strictly outlawed. Moreover, Section 807 holds threatening to take action that would not be legally valid or that an agent does not fully intend to take is also illegal.