America’s criminal justice system is being used to enforce private debts. That’s according to a new in-depth investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) into the extent and impact of courts cooperating with the private debt collection industry in the U.S.
In “The Criminalization of Private Debt,” the ACLU reports that courts in 26 states (including Florida) plus Puerto Rico have issued warrants for the arrest of alleged debtors, all because a private debt collection company asked them to. Of course, such practices violate numerous state and federal laws, as well as international human rights laws. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hammer of these practices comes down especially hard on Black and Latino communities, primarily because of a long history of gaps in wealth and poverty along ethnic and racial lines.
It’s estimated 77 million Americans – 1 in 3 – has debt that has been turned over to a private collection agency. Of those, the ACLU reported, thousands were arrested and thrown into jail because they had not paid this money. Bear in mind: Debtors’ prisons were eradicated in the U.S. way back in 1833. And yet, the ACLU discovered tens of thousands of debt-related warrants are issued annually. Continue reading