But what really infuriates me is the role of judges and prosecutors, without whom this entire game would fall apart. Chosen to uphold the law, they have decided to destroy it, joining with some of the sketchiest operators in the country to facilitate the use of their courts and jails for blackmail. In the case of the bad-check letters, prosecutors have effectively sold their office for a few bucks, an unconscionable breach of ethics.

Observers of horrible debt-collection tactics famously talk about Unicredit, a Pennsylvania company that decorated its office to look like a courtroom and held fake court proceedings to intimidate debtors into payment. But why go through that trouble when you can get the real courts to do you a solid? We banned debtor’s prisons because we considerer it immoral to punish someone for a lack of money. But now immorality is reserved for the judges and prosecutors facilitating the reemergence of the criminalization of the poor.