Debtor’s prison and other myths designed to hurt the debt collection industry

Lately, a lot of media has focused on the fact that many debtor have been sent to prison.  The media has jumped to the wrong conclusion that creditors, somehow, have the power to put debtor’s in jail for failing to pay their obligations.  This kind of story must really sell papers.  Its just plain wrong.

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Here’s the truth.  I am a collection attorney.  I collect debts for a living and have done so for over 20 years.  Yes, I have had debtors arrested and put into jail but not because they failed to pay a debt.  Rather, I usually ask the court to have a debtor arrested when he fails to appear in court after I have had him served with a subpoena.  When someone ignores a court’s subpoena, one can be held in contempt of court and be arrested for doing so.  Simply because one owes a debt and has friends in Congress does not magically elevate this person from a court’s jurisdiction.

One tool that we use to collect debts is called a creditor’s examination.  After I get a judgment against someone, I prepare a subpoena directing him to appear at the courthouse with his financial information.  The judge signs the subpoena and then I have it personally served on him.  When that person fails to appear in court, the judge rightfully wants to know why this person ignored the court’s subpoena.  I know that when a court orders me to appear in court, I show up.  No one is above the law, right?  Well…may be.

I just read an article by Jessica Silver Greenberg entitled Welcome to Debtor’s Prison, 2011 Edition.  Ms. Greenberg notes that many lawmakers are trying to reel in the collection industries’ use of arrest warrants in connection with debt collection.  I think Ms. Greenberg’s article is excellent.  However, I think these efforts by law makers is nothing short of shameless pandering to a liberal middle class voter demographic.  After all, courts use arrrest warrants in several situations.  For example, if a key witness fails to appear for a trial, a court may issue a warrant.  If a criminal defendant fails to appear for a hearing, the court may issue a warrant.  So, then, why should the fact that someone owes money, excuse him from complying with a court’s subpoena?  That just does not make sense to me.

I would love to hear your view.

Gary Nitzkin and Nitzkin and Associates are debt collection attorneys.  We have been in business since 1990 and collect commercial debts in excess of $5,000.  If you have any questions about debt collection issues, please call or email Attorney Gary Nitzkin at (888)293-2882 or email him at

This entry was posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011 and is filed under Bad Debt Collection info floating around the 'Net, Uncategorized . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Debtor’s prison and other myths designed to hurt the debt collection industry”

  1. Alex Says:

    We live in an predatory, greed-driven society in which the affluent try to make a quick buck and sit on the spoils by lending their surplus to the working class and skimming interest off the top so that they can send their privileged kids to law school. In this environment, there are any number of reasons why decent, hard-working, everyday folk might find themselves in debt and in trouble. Using civil law to collect debts in a way that ultimately results in the arrest of those who are too financially strapped to generate sufficient returns for these greedy, golf-playing moneylenders and their lawyers is not only disgusting, but it is simply not good for America. You are very eloquent. Do something productive with your law degree and put it to work for the People!

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