I've been saying for years that they'd start throwing us debtors' prisons again. That joke just got a whole lot less funny.
Deborah Poplawski still gets angry about her arrest in Minneapolis last year over an old $250 debt. During her night in jail, she worried about abandoning her 15-year-old dog, Nina, in her apartment.
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It's not a crime to owe money, and debtors' prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.
Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect.