Today we’re kicking off our series, “The Color of Money,” in an effort to examine how the economic downturn is affecting minorities. We’re starting the conversation with a look at modern day debtors’ prison
—a 19th century relic that is alive and well in parts of 21st century America. While imprisonment for debt was officially abolished in the 1800s, for Edwina Nowlin, it is a harsh reality. Her teenage son was kept in prison until she could come up with the funds to pay the court-ordered $104/month fee. When she couldn't pay, she was sent to jail for 30 days. It took a lawsuit by the ACLU of Michigan to get her out.
With unemployment rates higher among African Americans and Hispanics, and the median income about $20,000 lower than it is for whites, these groups run a greater risk of falling into debt and bearing the consequences. Joining us to talk about these penalties and the rise of debtors' prisons is Stephen Bright
. He’s the president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights
. He also teaches at Yale and Georgetown Law School .