Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (no relation to the radiant Amy Madigan, whom I’ve loved in everything from that one episode of “Hart to Hart” called “Slow Boat to Murder” to her chilling turn as the sister of Brother Justin in HBO’s “Carnivàle” and as long as we keep it a secret from my boss, Stephanie, you guys can totally email me to talk ALL ABOUT “Carnivàle” and I will DROP EVERYTHING) spent yesterday congratulating herself and other lawmakers for Keeping America Debtors’ Prison Free!
Madigan is conflating two separate issues: “Long ago, our society recognized that it was immoral to send a poor person to debtor’s prison,” she said in a statement. And she’s right: we don’t send people to debtors’ prisons these days. (Though, if you’ll let me put on these spats, monocle, and top hat: debtors’ prisons were a hell of a lot better than England’s Victorian-era workhouses. Poor people would literally rather have died in the streets than be sent to a workhouse.)
So, what is happening? Contempt of court. People are serving jail time for not appearing for their court dates. And that’s an entirely separate issue.
So. Again. And someone PLEASE say this slowly to Lisa Madigan (she’s not taking my calls currently):
Debtors’. Prisons. Do. Not. Exist. And since they don’t exist: You. Can’t. Put. An. End. To. Them.
But really, the best way to illustrate this issue is by turning to the Book of Mean Girls: