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On the Mundane Aspects of Imprisonment
July 26, 2008 9:14 AM   Subscribe

When one goes to jail for a long time, how are the mundane aspects of one's previous life handled? What happens to the pets? If there's a mortgage and no one to assume responsibilities, is the house sold for the prisoner? Who pays the cable bill? Do you have to pay to cut your cell phone plan short of the contractual ending date? Who returns the library books?
posted by sleslie to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your family or your lawyer.
posted by jopreacher at 9:20 AM on July 26, 2008


I know a landlord whose tenant got sentanced to 2 years for dealing meth. They ended up throwing out most of the person's worldly posessions and keeping some of them, including a passel of shoes that were luckily my exact size. When she gets out of prison, she won't have a thing to her name, and I hope she doesn't come track me down for her stripper heels.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:25 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Joepreacher is correct; in the US at least the judicial system does nothing to handle your affairs while you're in prison: your family, friends and in rare cases (usually very rich people with very highly paid private lawyers), your attorney.

And yes, if you're in prison and not paying your mortgage, it will be foreclosed, unless you are able to work out some sort of forebearance agreement with your lender. You should be let out of prison to attend hearings, but you may not be, given various and sundry conditions of your sentence. Then it can be sold at judicial sale and if there is any money left over after the mortgage (and any liens secured by the property) is paid, it is disbursed to the prisoner.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:28 AM on July 26, 2008


If no one takes care of these things, then the accounts go default. I'm sure bills are sent, collection agencies involved, accounts canceled, credit rating ruined, etc.
posted by sharkfu at 9:30 AM on July 26, 2008


in the US at least the judicial system does nothing to handle your affairs while you're in prison

Are there countries where a prisoner *does* get help with these things? It seems unlikely to me, but the way you've phrased this makes me wonder.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:44 AM on July 26, 2008


Dee Xtrovert: in my experience (but I have practiced criminal law in only three US states), there is no division of the court or public defender that provides post-conviction civil representation to prisoners, which is what you would need for something like a mortgage foreclosure: civil representation. I have worked at privately-funded institutions that existed to provide criminal defense to the indigent, which also provided minimal representation (usually in child custody matters) for people who had been convicted and were incarcerated. While I worked as a public defender, I had coworkers who once or twice in extraordinary circumstances got permission to attend to these sorts of things for their clients, post-conviction, on their own time.

The US judicial system treats its defendants and convicts like, well, criminals and does very little to assist them in getting their lives in order so that, when released, they can reintegrate as functioning members of society. Most come out far worse off than when they went in, stripped completely of what minimal support networks or assets they had going in. /soapbox.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:55 AM on July 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh and I would add: I've never encountered a publicly-funded legal assistance organization that was precluded from representing prisoners in debt-related proceedings, but I've never encountered one solely for that purpose.

As a practical matter, once someone is in prison, it's difficult to talk or meet with them, even if you are their attorney. Prisoners have to schedule phone calls and visits in advance, for one thing.

Additionally, an attorney with dozens of open cases, particularly a public interest attorney, is not going to have the time or resources to gather a prisoner's financial records, assuming he has any. That is going to fall on a friend or a family member
posted by crush-onastick at 10:01 AM on July 26, 2008


Pets usually end up with a friend or relative, or in the county shelter.

If someone's arrested with a pet with them (such as in a car), the police or Animal Control take the pet to the county shelter. That's how I've seen it work. They're held for a few days, then treated like any other animal - put up for adoption, fostered out, etc.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:37 AM on July 26, 2008


Wow. Thank you for this question, I'd never even considered this and I'd consider myself more educated on this than most people not in the corrections business.

I am 100% for the punishment of prisoners for their crimes, but if they are ever to be released back into society, this kind of treatment of criminals only means that we're sentencing ourselves to have to deal with them again and again in the future.
posted by crazy finger at 3:05 PM on July 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


if they are ever to be released back into society, this kind of treatment of criminals only means that we're sentencing ourselves to have to deal with them again and again in the future.
That's precisely the point. Think of each criminal as a little parcel of money, waiting to be collected up by Wackenhut and the like. A recent article on the subject.

In Australia, each state has a "Prisoner's Legal Service" but they are funded more-or-less as a charity, staffed mostly by volunteers (law students, ex-lawyers who've left the profession for health or age or family reasons, social workers, etc), and have huge amounts more work to do than they possibly could ever do.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:20 PM on July 26, 2008


crush-onastick said "Then it can be sold at judicial sale and if there is any money left over after the mortgage (and any liens secured by the property) is paid, it is disbursed to the prisoner."

Depending on the type of crime and the state in which the prisoner was convicted, any monies that the prisoner receives while incarcerated may be disbursed instead to his/her victims if such directive was made at sentencing (or is already in state law). For example, I have a relative who was incarcerated for a person-on-person crime; while he was in prison, his parents and sole grandparent all died. Had they not revised their wills, he would have inherited all their assets, which would then have passed to the victim.
posted by catlet at 9:02 PM on July 26, 2008


catlet: yes, legally the funds are disbursed to the prisoner, but they may be attached to pay restitution. However, they do pass, however briefly to the prisoner
posted by crush-onastick at 9:17 PM on July 26, 2008


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