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Debtors' prison is a prison for people who are unable to pay debt. As recently as the mid 19th century, it was a common way to deal with unpaid debt in Western Europe. Debtors' prison started to disappear since the start of the 20th century. Today, none of the major economies practise it anymore.

What were the factors that caused debtors' prison to disappear in most parts of the world in the 20th century?

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The fact that if you are in prison it's hard to pay your debts? –  Lennart Regebro Nov 15 '13 at 12:50
    
(Also it turns out that depending on how you define debtors prison, parts of the US to practice it). –  Lennart Regebro Nov 15 '13 at 13:21
    
@LennartRegebro: Intriguing! Got a reference at hand? –  Pieter Geerkens Nov 15 '13 at 22:22
    
@PieterGeerkens Wikipedia, in fact. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors%27_prison#Modern_U.S._by_State –  Lennart Regebro Nov 16 '13 at 4:10
    
In many countries you can still be held hostage in prison for debt, especially debt to the government. A main reason it was abandoned for private debts was the establishment of government run prisons, and the criminilisation of kidnapping in most countries (iow your landlord locking you in a cell until your family paid your overdue rent became a crime, fact that many people died in those private prisons no doubt had something to do with it as well as that'd now be considered murder). –  jwenting Nov 18 '13 at 9:10
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