Thursday, 4 March 2010

Inheritable debts

I heard an astonishing fact yesterday at the LJDM seminar. Or is it a fact? I'd be grateful for confirmation.

Apparently, if you move into a new bed in a British prison, you become responsible for the debts of the person who was there before you.

The opportunities this offers for abuse or gaming of the system are immense. If you know you're going to be moving out, you have every incentive to run up a huge debt before you leave. Is there a credit checking system? Gambling is rife in prisons and this system allows you to borrow, gamble in the hope of winning big; and if you don't, stick some other poor sap with the losses.

In fact, now that I put it that reminds me of something similar in another world.

There must be more to this. Who is doing the lending in this system? What about the sucker who moves into the bed? Do prison officers influence who gets which bed? What are the amounts at stake - is the debt 20 cigarettes, £3 or £3000? What is £3 in prison worth at purchasing-power parity?

In the outside world, is this more like the model of limited liability corporations - or is it more like sovereign debt? If I move to Greece, then as long as I continue to live there I'm stuck for my share of the Greek national debt.

Finally, does anyone know if this is actually true? I can't find any reference to it on the Internet.


Min said...

In the outside world, from what I heard on the radio several years ago, in India you can inherit debts. (Laws may have changed.) The result was (still is?) debt peonage, particularly in places where people work for the creditor, the interest is usurious, and the wages are low.

Anonymous said...

It's absolute rubbish.