Debtors' Prison

Definition - What does Debtors' Prison mean?

In the old English common law, people who failed to pay back their loans could be incarcerated in debtors’ prison. This practice was outlawed nearly two centuries ago in the United States.

Today, the concept of debtors’ prison typically comes up when courts analyze whether contemporary debt collection practices arise to the effect of a debtors’ prison.

Justipedia explains Debtors' Prison

The incarceration of people who defaulted on their loans in debtors’ prison originated under the logic that punishing people for failure to pay their loans back would deter defaults. In debtors’ prison, however, there was no chance that the person could generate an income in order to pay back the loan.

Meanwhile, slavery became more and more socially disfavored. In the United States, slavery was defined as forced servitude. Once slavery was outlawed under this definition, debtors’ prison had to be outlawed too.

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