Debtor prisons are supposed to be a thing of the past, so how did this elderly man end up in jail?


Iheanyi D. Okoroafor, a 78-year-old retiree living in South Hadley, Mass., was imprisoned for a $508.27 bill, according to the Boston Globe.

On June 11 Judge Robert S. Murphy Jr. sentenced Okoroafor to 30 days in jail for failing to pay a small-claims order from a heating contractor.


While being led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, Okoroafor told the judge, “My wife is in the hospital. I need to go and see her.’’

Luckily, Okoroafor was freed from jail the next day after his daughter paid the debt.

The judge determined that Okoroafor was in contempt, noting that Okoroafor receives a $2,000 monthly state pension. However, under Massachusetts law, state pensions cannot be considered by the court as income that can be applied to debt, the Globe reported.

In short, it seems that Judge Murphy may have overstepped his bounds.

Daile Jiménez, a University of Connecticut School of Law professor who studies debt-collection laws, told the Globe that the law concerning state pensions is clear and that “the judge could not have ordered Mr. Okoroafor to pay the judgment from this income.’’


As for Okoroafor, his daughters, both residents of Maryland, plan to move their parents near them “for the family, financial and emotional support they cannot get in Massachusetts.”

Read more at the Boston Globe.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter