The simple answer to this is “no, there are no debtor’s prisons.” Unfortunately, despite the lack of debtor’s prisons, some people are ending up in jail because of bad debt.
Minnesota law does not impose prison sentences because of bad debt, but Minnesota law which is rather pro-creditor provides a mechanism which allows a creditor to have a debtor arrested.
Creditors are able to manipulate Minnesota laws to apply pressure to debtors by having them arrested. The individual is not arrested for not paying a debt. They are arrested for contempt of court.
In Minnesota a creditor can sue an individual giving them notice of the suit through the mail. If the debtor does not read his mail carefully, the debtor might not even know he has been sued. In Minnesota a creditor can after not receiving a response from the debtor go to court and get a default judgment.
Once a creditor has a default judgment, he is able to send the debtor disclosure forms. If the forms are not filed out and returned to the creditor promptly, the creditor can have the debtor held in contempt of court and go back to court and request a bench warrant. These are given out as a regular course of business.
Once a bench warrant exists, different counties handle the matters differently. Some counties, for example Anoka County, have their police officers go out and actively seek the debtors. The debtors if found are arrested and dragged to jail where they are booked and detained. Often the debtor has to post bail. The bail is often set at the amount the debtor owes the creditor. Sometimes the debtor will be released without bail if the financial disclosure is filled out there and then.
Other counties, like Dakota County do not actively seek debtors, but will pursue the warrant if the debtor is stopped for another reason.
If you have fallen behind on your bills, it is imperative that you always read your mail. Not reading your mail can have severe consequences.
Never let your mail pile up. Never throw out your mail without reading it.