The Law: Debtors' Prison Updated

With a successful housebuilding business in Burlington, Vt., George J. Chicoine figured to be able to meet the modest $150-a-week child-support payments that were due his estranged wife. But he eventually fell $2,550 behind. Brought before Judge Robert W. Lar-row, Chicoine claimed he did not have the money. The judge said that there was evidence he had $90,000 stashed away, and ordered him to pay. Chicoine refused. That meant that he was in contempt of a court order, and Judge Larrow threw him into jail. Chicoine has been an inmate ever since—for a total of five years and four months.

Contempt of...

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