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Copyright (c) 2002 Washburn Law Journal
Washburn Law Journal

NOTE: Putting Fear Back Into the Law and Debtors Back Into Prison: Reforming the Debtors' Prison System

Fall, 2002

42 Washburn L.J. 143


Richard E. James*


I. Introduction
Today, H. Beatty Chadwick sits in state prison in Thornton, Pennsylvania; he recently passed his seventh anniversary behind bars. 1 He has not been charged with a crime and his incarceration is indefinite in duration. Most people would say such a thing could not happen in the United States, yet Chadwick still sits in jail. Chadwick is currently imprisoned for civil contempt. 2

Chadwick's problems began in November 1992 when his wife filed for divorce. 3 The civil contempt charge at issue arose out of the disposition of $ 2,502,000 of marital assets. 4 Chadwick claimed he used the money to settle an overseas debt. 5 His wife retained an investigator who discovered that the money in question had been shuffled around overseas before disappearing, with strong indications Chadwick still had access to it. 6 The Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Court of Common Pleas ruled that Chadwick had attempted to defraud both the court and his wife by transferring the money abroad. 7 When Chadwick refused to return the assets after the court ordered him to do so, the court found him in contempt and issued a warrant. 8 He was eventually arrested and sent to jail with the bail set at $ 3 million. 9 Chadwick can become a free man at his choosing by either posting bail or surrendering the missing assets. 10

Instead, Chadwick has chosen to remain in jail. Through multiple appeals in both the Pennsylvania and federal courts, he maintained he ...
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