Modern Day Debtor’s Prison

Philadelphia Co. Prison Debtors' Wing (demolished) from HABS

There are many things That are un-American, but few things as much as debtor’s prisons. Child support is a funny thing. It has changed over the years, and the national focus on forcing dead beat dads to pay up is on the verge of insanity. I have talked about child support a lot. This is a touchy issue for me. So much so, that I am willing to give up a larger chunk of my fortune freely to avoid having the state in my bank accounts collecting this money. My views stem from the idea that controlling people’s behavior through the courts is a bad plan. Both parties go into a sexual act knowing the risks, but the courts are trying to impose the risks of the woman onto the man. The man’s risks are smaller. He risks never seeing his child if he isn’t married to the mother. He risks STDs. She risks pregnancy and STDs. So long as the woman retains the sole right to determine what happens with the child up unto shortly after birth, the man should have no requirements forced upon him. She can abort, put up for adoption, or keep the baby. Now if she puts up for adoption, and the father knows he can be granted custody of the child in that process. Generally speaking she gives up nothing if the father keeps the baby. She won’t be asked for child support, and yet will retain some modicum of parental rights with the child. The father on the other hand will have to fight for parental rights if she keeps the child, and will be forced to pay child support whether he sees the child or not.

Child support is not bankrupt-able. It is not a debt, but a fine. I say fine, because it is a required payment for past behavior. There is no benefit that is bestowed on a father for paying child support. Legally he has no more parental rights, and may not have any relief to paying for the costs of the child out of his own pocket. He can be put in jail for failure to pay, even if he cannot reasonably afford it. That’s right. It doesn’t matter if the amount is made up by the judge based on a salary he never earned. That is a fine. Because it is treated as a debt as well, it also gets reported to the credit reporting agencies. This makes no sense to me. If I don’t pay my fines for parking tickets, I go to jail, but it doesn’t go on my credit report. Here we get both. So it is a fine and a debt. How is this so, I don’t know. The end result is we have debtor’s prisons.

Now many people reading this will think that it doesn’t matter. They got their shit together, and this won’t impact them. Lets understand that the same civil court system that handles family law also handles other law suits. A credit card company can choose to sue you for the debt you owe, and instead of getting a judgement that is bankrupt-able, they get a court imposed fine that is now something that can be used for contempt of court. BOOM, you now go to debtor’s prison for not being able to pay your credit card. Google search this, and you will see that is already happening. The use of family courts prejudice against the dead beat dad, and their liberal use of contempt of court to jail these men is carrying itself into the other areas of the courts. People are being jailed for debt under the guise of contempt of court or failure to appear. The use of procedural penalties to punish and bully people into compliance is something we should all be disturbed by. Its is something that we can become the victim of without any real process to protect us.

There is an increasing use of administrative judges that effectively dole out default judgments. They are often hand tied by the law, and are simply their as a way to bypass the jury system. This is the case when it comes to your driver’s license. In most states this is controlled by the treasury or similar department. A jury trial, even for most DUI cases would end up with people not losing their licenses, because most people recognize that the cost exceeds the crime. People could have died, but in truth most cases only involve the driver who hadn’t harmed anyone. Most juries would recommend a much lower sentence in the form of fines for first time offenders. This didn’t please the law makers under pressure from groups like MADD, so they move the decision making away from the real courts into a kangaroo court to solve the problem. There are more things moving to these type of courts over time. Family law is a good candidate for this type of move. This would lead to more problems, and would politicize your family issues more than they are now. These judges are granted many of the same tools to punish as any other court, so they can use the contempt of court and failure to appear to subject people to their rule.

Be watchful of your government. It is a beast that has the sole purpose in life of controlling other people. Left unchecked it will place its mark on every part of our daily lives. It is the warning in much of Orwell’s writing.