“A Criminal Debt” for BBC World Service/Life of the Law

UPDATE, SEPT 2014: Not only was Rufus Taylor’s debt forgiven last year, but on September 30th, 2014 the entire debt collection program was quietly shut down. Sharon Dietrich, the lawyer from Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, called the change “jaw dropping.”

This story is a revision of a story I did last year for the BBC on a massive criminal justice debt collection in Philadelphia. After the BBC documentary aired, Julia Barton of Life of the Law asked if I could do a new version, but this time look more broadly at the theories and consequences of people coming out of prison in debt.

Rufus Taylor is a compelling a subject, so we stuck with his story of a $42,000 debt that he discovered he owed a few years after he was released from prison.

For context, I spoke with Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow as well as Professor Ronald Wright of Wake Forest University. He co-authored “Mercenary Criminal Justice” with Professor Wayne Logan of Florida State University.