Not really...but keep reading.
The history of debtors prisons is a long one. Debtors prisons date back to ancient times but the most vivid images we conjure up when thinking of debtors prisons are images from the 19th-century in Europe and from Charles Dickens novels.
Unlike prisons of today where there are criminal sentences, the length of stay at a debtors prison was determined by how fast the debt could be paid, which oftentimes took decades, especially because many of the prisoners were forced to pay for their "room and board" at the prison on top of the debt they owed. Also unlike prisons of today where a criminal's offense had to be of a certain level of severity to warrant a sentence, a debtor could be sent away to prison for the smallest of debts. In 1824, Charles Dickens' father was sent to one of the most famous of debtors prisons for being unable to pay a debt he owed to a baker (yes-that's baker--as in cupcakes, not banker-- as in money!). If the debtor was from a low social or economic status they would be imprisoned in the most deplorable conditions with dozens of people crammed into a single cell. Starvation and sickness was rampant.
These days news outlets are quick to use headlines "Debtors' Prisons Thrive" and "The New Debtor's Prisons" and "The Local Courts Reviving Debtors Prisons". These headlines are attention getting but they are also misleading. If you read past the headline you'll see that the topic of these stories is not that debtors prisons are being rebuilt and returning but rather that there are certain debtors that are being jailed for very specific debts--criminal justice debt.
Stories are popping up all over the country featuring defendants who are unable to pay their criminal penalties or court imposed fees. For example police ticket John and Jane Doe for driving with expired license tags. Each were fined $100 for the violation, plus Jane Doe was fined another $150 for having an expired license. They are unable to pay the fines and so they are placed under probation under the supervision of a private company who supervises criminal fine probationers. John and Jane Doe are then charged a $45 monthly service fee for their probation. They try to make payments but when they can't keep up, they are charged more fees. A few months go by and then one day a police officer knocks on their door and arrests them. They were released only after relatives paid the $1000 in fees that were owed. This is just one hypothetical example of how the criminal justice system is piling on the fees. These extra fees are different from the original fines in that fines have the primary purpose of deterring illegal behavior whereas these extra fees are used at funding the operating budgets of the cities, counties, and courts.
The American Civil Liberties Union is working to abolish these types of fees and point to a 1983 Supreme Court ruling that held that before a court jails someone for failing to pay a fine or fee, it must first ensure that the person's failure to pay was willful--in other words that the person could have afforded to pay but refused. The ACLU further argues that these extra fees create a two-tiered justice system where the haves can satisfy the system quickly and the have-nots carved with the same infraction can face perpetual penalties.
These days there are people being jailed for failing to pay their criminal justice fines and fees and there is a variety of opinions on whether or not this is a problem (I am of the opinion that it is!), but to sensationalize the story and use headlines like "Debtors Prisons Thrive" is unnecessarily fear inducing and misleading to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are struggling with other forms of debt and who, if law abiding, will be not going to jail for this debt.