An Illinois woman recently found herself under arrest and put in debtors' prison over an unpaid $280 medical bill she didn't even owe in the first place.
Breast cancer survivor and Herrin, IL resident Lisa Lindsay had received a $280 medical bill by mistake, according to the Daily Mail. However, after inquiring about the charges, Lindsay was told she didn't have to pay but somehow the bill still made its way to a collection agency.
Thinking the matter was put to rest, the southern Illinois teaching assistant surprisingly received a visited from Illinois state troopers one day and was promptly taken from her home in handcuffs and whisked away to jail.
After all was said and done the arrest ended up costing Lindsay more than $600 in total after legal fees were added to the original amount.
"I paid it in full so they couldn't do it to me again," said Lindsay.
Cases such as Lindsay's are becoming increasingly more common across the country with one third of the fifty states currently allowing debtors to be imprisoned for the inability to pay their debts.
The Lindsay case along with other similar cases have definitely caught the eye of Illinois law-makes, alerting them to growing problem of debt struggling people in their state are facing. Legislators in Springfield are now pushing reforms to make it harder for poor people to be jailed for missing court dates and / or found in contempt of court for struggling to pay debts.
According to a CBS Money Watch report the new bill would require court appearance notices to be served to the debtor in person at their home instead of the current practice of mailing the notice. Also, the bill would require arrest warrants to expire after one year and rather than "bail money" going to pay off the debt, most of it would be returned to the debtor.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan puts part of the blame for the heightened problem on the recession, saying: "More people are unemployed, more people are struggling financially and more creditors are trying to get their debt paid."
However, Madigan doesn't let the courts off the hook either, claiming informal traditions in some Illinois courtrooms "have allowed these abuses to occur."
"We're using public resources to collect private debts says Madigan. "At what point do you say it's illegal?"