When one thinks of English Victorian authors, Charles Dickens is probably one of the first to come to mind. Even people who aren't "literary" are endeared to his famous "A Christmas Carol," which has been adapted for films and other media. Numerous other Dickens novels have also been made into films, television specials, and PBS mini-series. But he is perhaps best known as a champion of the abused poor of England, especially children, at the hands of the British legal system. Charles Dickens is one of my all-time top favorite authors, and one of the few whom I can say that if I ever met him in person, I would have probably really liked him.
Dickens's writing of debtor's prison came from first-hand experience. He was born February 7, 1812, in Landport, Hampshire, England. His father, John Dickens, was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. When Charles was four, they relocated to Chatham, Kent, where he lived a happy childhood. He loved the outdoors and was a voracious reader. In 1822, the rest of the family moved back to London, but Charles remained in Kent where he continued his schooling. However in 1824, his father was put in Marshalsea debtor's prison for living beyond his means. Charles soon left school and began working at a factory, where he pasted labels on boot-blacking cans for ten hours a day to make money to help his family. Thus, his own experience with the horrendous conditions of child factory labor and debtor's prison gave him ample materials for his novels.
Fortunately, the family's stay in prison was short-lived when John's grandmother died and left him money to pay his debts. Eventually Charles returned to school, this time to Wellington House Academy, which he considered a bad school with a brutal headmaster—another source for material in his future novels. From 1827-28, Dickens worked in a law office as a junior clerk, then got a job as a freelance reporter, opening him up to the literary world, where he became immensely popular and successful. This information was obtained from the lengthy article at Wikipedia.