An Arkansas judge who has allegedly run a debtor’s prison by punishing cancer patients and others for writing bad checks and suffering from medical debt may soon be having a day in court of his own as the ACLU launches a suit against the man and his modern-day debtor’s prison.

Sherwood District Court Judge Milas “Butch” Hale set up an elaborate court system in his district in Arkansas which preyed on the weak and poor. Using old debts, he would imprison those with high medical debt, forcing them to sign away their rights in the process.

People who’s only crime was signing a “bad” check or two were sentenced for up to 90 days in jail for a debt to the court of a couple thousand dollars, a sum determined by Hale for fees from the cases.

By choosing to aggressively pursue bad checks in the district, the court has earned quite a reputation as a money-maker and has marketed it’s business skills to local companies nearby. In just 5 years, Judge Hale’s court collected nearly $12 million.

Debtor’s prisons are a clearly illegal practice in the United States but that doesn’t stop judges from sneakily conducting them anyway. Nor does it stop good people like the ACLU from shutting them down and getting justice for innocent victims.

You can read more about this ongoing case at the Huffington Post.

Sydney Robinson is a political writer for the Ring of Fire Network. She has also appeared in political news videos for Ring of Fire. Sydney has a degree in English Literature from the University of West Florida, and has an active interest in politics, social justice, and environmental issues. She would love to hear from you on Twitter @SydneyMkay or via email at