State Bans on Debtors' Prisons and Criminal Justice Debt

27 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2016  

Christopher D. Hampson

Harvard University, Law School, Students; Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School, Students

Date Written: February 10, 2016

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.

Keywords: debtors' prisons, criminal justice debt

Suggested Citation

Hampson, Christopher D., State Bans on Debtors' Prisons and Criminal Justice Debt (February 10, 2016). Harvard Law Review, Vol. 129, p. 1024, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2827221

Christopher D. Hampson (Contact Author)

Harvard University, Law School, Students ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School, Students ( email )

45 Francis Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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