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Return of the debtors' prison, or just more creditor harassment?

Alabama courts are at the center of a major controversy due to recent reports that people who are in debt are being thrown in jail here and in other states, as the result of hard-hearted creditors.

A number of reports are calling the practice a revival of long-since antiquated debtors' prisons. Others are saying it's no more than an extreme form of creditor harassment. Either way, it's bad news for Birmingham residents who are weighed down by their credit card debt or other outstanding bills.

How the new practice comes about differs from state to state, but generally a creditor will get a court to order the debtor to appear in court to disclose their assets. If an individual fails to show up in court, the court issues a warrant for the debtor's arrest. This type of practice was shut down by a state judge in Harpersville, Alabama, earlier this summer.

Debtors' prisons were outlawed throughout the United States well over 150 years ago, so this emerging trend within out state has many people quite concerned.

In a day and age when debtors' prisons are thought of as a relic of the past, currently existing only in books or movies, it's hard to believe that people are actually being jailed as a result of becoming financially overwhelmed.

On the other hand, some are saying that they are not being jailed for having debt; rather, they are being put in jail for violating a court order. Still, many see this as a convenient loophole used by creditors to excessively punish those with debt. Facing jail time for falling behind on bills -- which could happen to anyone -- is obviously a very scary prospect. This may increase the sense of urgency for Alabama families to alleviate their debt.

Whether debtors' prisons are back or not, Alabama residents who are struggling with credit card debt and other financial challenges should know that there are ways to escape creditor harassment, get debt under control and have a fresh start. For example, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can expel credit card debts and may be the best option for many people seeking debt relief.

Source: The Daily Mail, "Return of the debtor's prison: How debt collectors in a THIRD of states are throwing poor citizens behind bars for owing just $280," Sep. 1, 2012

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