Though many Americans are seeing an improvement in personal finances now that the United States is slowly climbing out of the recession, other citizens still find themselves owing a large amount of outstanding debt. In Illinois, many debtors who would have faced jail time in the past due to their overdue charges will be protected by the Debtors' Rights Act of 2012, pending passage by the Senate.
The Lincoln Daily News reported that the act was overwhelmingly passed by the state's House of Representatives on March 29. The source said findings from Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan's office showed that people living in nearly one-third of the state's counties faced possible jail time because of a failure to attend court hearings regarding outstanding debts. A StarTribune article detailed that while debtors' prisons were abolished in the 19th century, people with outstanding debt can still be put in jail, then face a failure to appear charge because of incarceration, as was the case in Illinois. The source noted that in Minnesota, debtors can still be jailed, and use of arrest warrants for people who owe money increased by 60 percent from 2007 to 2011. The Illinois house bill says that courts cannot issue warrants for the arrest of debtors unless they have had advance notice of the court date and still failed to appear. Section 2-1402 Part b specifies that citation hearings cannot be held sooner than 5 business days after the mailing of the summons unless agreed upon by the parties involved.. The StarTribune described an Illinois sentencing in which a man was jailed for an indefinite amount of time until he could pay off a $300 debt to a lumber yard. Law firm associate Steven Rosso told the news source "sometimes, it's the only sanction we have," indicating that some people in debt have no incentive to pay it off. The passage of the law is something that Illinois debt collection
agencies need to be aware of due to the federal law prohibiting making false statements or threats when attempting to collect on a debt. Because of the new law, debt collectors in that state should take care not to mention imprisonment should a debt go unpaid.