Shay’s Rebellion and the Constitution by Mary Hull, 2000, Excerpts
They feared being thrown in to debtor’s prison. Debtor’s prisons were overcrowded and unclean places. Cells were damp and often lacked proper light and ventilation. These conditions bred sickness and all kinds of problems. The majority of people in debtor’s prison were yeoman farmers, rural laborers, and craftsman.
A man sitting in debtor’s prison could not earn any money to pay his way out. But creditors often insisted that someone who owed them money remain in jail, in the hopes that his friends or family would pay his debt in order to have him released. Sometimes this ploy worked. Other times, people remained in debtor’s prison for their entire term with no way to pay their debt.