« New York Times highlights modern rural incarceration realities | Main | SCOTUSblog examining "The Court after Scalia" »

September 3, 2016

"State Bans on Debtors' Prisons and Criminal Justice Debt"

The title of this post is the title of this article by Christopher Hampson recently posted to SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Since the 1990s, and increasingly in the wake of the Great Recession, many municipalities, forced to operate under tight budgetary constraints, have turned to the criminal justice system as an untapped revenue stream.  Raising the specter of the “debtors’ prisons” once prevalent in the United States, imprisonment for failure to pay debts owed to the state has provoked growing concern in recent years.  Existing approaches have failed to recognize an alternate potential font of authority: state bans on debtors’ prisons, enacted over several decades in the first half of the nineteenth century, as a backlash against imprisonment for commercial debt swept the nation.  This Note takes a first pass at this missing constitutional argument.

September 3, 2016 at 06:53 PM | Permalink


Good article -- the type of thing that might be open on a "RBG Court" with fifth vote.

At Scotusblog, there is an ongoing "after Scalia" discussion and the essay on the "rule of leniency" might interest various readers. See also, Dorf on Law on a recent state case that discusses the matter as well.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 4, 2016 11:14:21 AM

I recently won a "debtors' prison" case in the Fla, S.Ct.

Supreme Court of Florida _____ No. SC14-274 _____ JEAN CLAUDE NOEL, Petitioner, vs. STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondent.


Posted by: Jean-Claude Noel | Oct 14, 2016 4:58:00 PM

Hi Joe, thanks for your comment. I'm the author of the article, and part of why I wrote it was to avoid putting all eggs in the U.S. Supreme Court basket. The Note has a little bit about U.S. Constitutional law but even MORE about STATE constitutional law. 41 states have a ban on imprisonment for debt in their state constitutions. I think this could be much more interesting than just national politics. Maybe the case from Jean-Claude and the Supreme Court of Florida is a sign of things to come.

Posted by: Chris Hampson | Dec 31, 2016 5:15:59 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB