Can I Serve Jail Time to Pay Off Student Loans?

I check the stats for this site every so often–visitors, views, referrers, etc. One slice of data that caught my eye recently is the search engine terms people type into sites like Google that get them to this site.

On Thursday, I saw the usual suspects:

  • no more harvard debt
  • how to pay off student loans
  • how do i pay off my college debt

And then…

  • can i serve jail time to pay off student loans?

Mother. Of. Pearl. Seriously? You can’t make this stuff up. And as proof, here’s the screenshot:

Jail Time

In spite of myself, I had to smile. I might have even laughed out loud. I can’t really remember. 

But then I felt bad for whoever wrote that in. Are we in such desperate times that such desperate measures must be pursued to rid one’s self of student loans?

And then it dawned on me that this person might actually be a bona fide mother-flippin’ genius. (And yes, it was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions during those 30 seconds. I didn’t know if I should laugh, cry, or be impressed.)

Think about it. If this guy’s making $45k a year and he can get the courts to agree to throw him in the clinker until his debts are paid off, how long would it take until he achieves financial freedom? $45k at 40 hours a week for 52 weeks comes out to roughly $21 per hour. If this individual making an average college grad salary owes the average college grad debt of $26k, then he’ll have to spend 1200 hours in lock-up, or 50 days. 50 days?? To pay off $26k of debt? Does such a thing exist for mortgages? Because if it does, I’ll take the title for my house in exchange for 337 days of my life in the slammer.

Caveat: I’m assuming this is one of those country club penitentiaries. I want to be able to work out in a climate-controlled facility, rock some volleyball on the weekends, maybe even hit up a little bocce ball–I don’t even know right now. I want a laptop with high-speed internet access, books, and a private cell with its own bathroom. I want three home-cooked squares a day. I want to be able to date. Scratch that, I must date. (Females, not felons.) In fact, I must have all of these things, and throw in a heated pool to boot . That cool, warden?

To get serious for a moment, this search engine term represents some extremely powerful social commentary. The above scenario is a complete farce. Even if you could go to prison to pay off your student loans, it ain’t gonna be a walk in the park. You’d be ripped away from your friends and family, your warm bed, hobbies, privacy and most importantly, your freedom. Replace your wife/husband/kids/friends/dog/cat with convicted felons and your bed for an inch-thick pad. Oh, and I highly doubt it would take only 50 days to pay off $26k of debt.

And yet! somebody literally asked the internet if they could go to jail to pay off their debts. That’s desperation. And I’m neither laughing nor impressed.


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13 responses to “Can I Serve Jail Time to Pay Off Student Loans?

  1. Ha that is definitely interesting!

  2. MJ

    The world is so upside down, not really a surprise to read this. Affordable healthcare? Available healthcare? Jail provides it. Dental? Again, jail is the answer. And, yes, 3 reliable meals, in our area with dietary choices like Kosher, better than trying to sort it out with foodstamps. Finally, a roof, these days too many folks are without a roof/address, jail sure is the answer to basic needs. I do believe one can acquire an education while incarcerated….hello?! Of course, not likely that your readers are in this demographic, but a lot of days, doing the right thing seems to have a lot to do with adjusting the stupid sign around the neck. What is that expression that freedom isn’t free? You can say that again.

    • I was following you until I got to this part: “doing the right thing seems to have a lot to do with adjusting the stupid sign around the neck.”

      What do you mean?

      • MJ

        Joe, I used to think it was stupid to end up in jail, now I wonder who is more stupid; that perhaps while I pay for the healthcare, dental, meals, housing, and education for offenders, in addition to my own, that it might just be me who is stupid, that I pay a huge price for “freedom”. So, my sarcasm and bitterness in the reply may have gotten the better of me and confused you.

  3. yosnowden

    Sounds very Dickensian. Although I think the debtors’ prisons in Victorian England were extremely squalid and not voluntary, of course.

  4. I have a college age daughter. My wife and I dearly love her and enjoy her company. She is saving money by living with us while attending college and we have told her that, whether she has a job or not, she is welcome to live with us as long as we are living in the future. When she graduates from college, we will work on helping her get her school loan paid off. People have to get over this idea of you have to kick the kids out when they first go off to college. If they get some sort of great job and want to go off on their own, that is up to them, however, if they are struggling, there should be no shame in living with Mom and Dad for as long as it takes. I think that some savage beasts, out in the wild, treat their offspring better than some humans treat theirs. By the way, this poor economy is probably going to be wth us for quite some time to come. People should be willing to to what they reasonably can to help family members because the government cannot do it all and things could get worse before they get better if ever.

  5. Taryn

    My county jail is one of the higher paying at $50 a day towards your fines. Most are around $25. Even at the high rate it would still take 2 years to pay off 26k in loans. Definitely not worth it to me. I guess it depends what you price your freedom at.

  6. As with most replying on here, I am glad you are tackling a tough subject for many people. And I find it hilarious, but sadly true in my own case.

    As a graduate on a(n) (in-) state medical school, with minimal debt from my undergraduate degree (~$8,000; paid most while working full time during school) I feel absolutely cornered by my debt. There are many other issues at hand, including the fact that I have been looking into leaving medicine entirely (but that’s a long topic in and of itself), but the bottom line is that like many current college graduates I have been hit by ballooning tuition costs which are currently severely impeding my ability to lead an ‘adult’ life.

    I graduated medical school with ~$230,000 in federal loans, and $18,000 in private loans which really only covered a few sneaky gaps my school had built into our 4th year (tuition, books, plus $16k/year living…ouch). Needless to say, several years into residency my loans (no longer covered by deferment, thanks .GOV) have crested with accrued interest to just over $300,000. Payments while enrolled in the IBR lock things around $350/month, which comes to $4,200/year in payments, whilst the loans accrue roughly $20,000/year in interest (professional school graduate loans are at 6.8% and 7.9%). It is like throwing glasses of water at a house fire. The private loan is an additional $190/month minimum (which somehow doesn’t fall under the categorization of a standard student loan, and they hiked the rate up to 11%; my fault for not reading closely enough, which makes me wonder why the financial aid counselor at my college didn’t catch this as well). Unfortunately paying only $190/month leads to reducing the principal by only $400/year, so I typically pay $325/month to at least make a dent in it. Total monthly payment: $675-700. This is taking a tremendous bite out of my wonderful $2,500/month take home income.

    I live incredibly minimally, yet despite these efforts I seem to make no headway. I drive a 13 year old honda, which I work on myself. I do not own a TV (or have cable, or internet for that matter, just a smart phone with a $50/month bill [read: budget provider]). I rarely purchase clothing. I basically have given up on dating. Saving for retirement? Ha, a laughable thought. Residency is a terrible time to hold down a second job, and the 80 hour/week restrictions imposed by the ACGME also include moonlighting hours (i.e. if you are at the hospital 75 hours a week, you can only be approved to work 5 hours elsewhere), drastically limiting one’s ability to earn additional income.

    To be honest, I would gladly do 5 years in prison (as long as I can work out, be fed regularly, and read books or work on a different degree) if it meant being able to walk away from this mess. In fact, that is starting to sound like a great idea the more I think about it, the one catch being that going to prison would not make any of these loans disappear: They would be patiently waiting with an additional lump of interest to smack me in the face as I re-entered the world.

  7. Pingback: The co-operative university against indenture | Richard Hall's Space

  8. Clay

    Yeah they can throw you in jail. You have to remember that politicians in Washington don’t give a damn about you. There are people right now in Ohio who are in jail for credit card debt. It’s supposed to be illegal but the courts use sneaky tactics to put you in jail anyway. If it can happen for a 5,000 dollar credit card debt how much more do you think it can happen for a 100,000 student loan debt? A debt that you can’t file bankruptcy on? Of course it can happen. And your local newspapers won’t say a thing about it, but they will have a conniption fit over your local grass hopper population that is being genocided by Roundup.

  9. There’s an episode of the old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” show about a man who steals a large sum of money, turns himself in to the police, goes to prison, but never tells anyone where the money is. When he gets out of prison years later, a policeman whose still investigation him tell him that he can’t keep the money (it’s still stolen property) and he promptly returns every dollar of it. Later, we see him on a cruise ship talking about how much money can grow when it’s properly invested. He returned the principal, but was able to keep the interest and dividends.

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