Volume 29

Debt and Policing: The Case to Abolish Credit Surveillance

by Tamar Hoffman

This paper serves as an indictment of contemporary credit monitoring, reporting, and scoring, which is the lifeblood of the debt-based extractive economy and ultimately, the prison-industrial complex. Grounded in history, this paper demonstrates that credit surveillance and debt police the economic participation and physical bodies of Black people, Indigenous people, and immigrants. Credit reporting’s protection of capitalism, the economic backbone of settler-colonialism, is at the heart of government mass surveillance programs, which through lucrative private-public partnerships facilitate wealth accumulation predicated on the banishment of Black people, Indigenous people, and immigrants. For this reason, abolishing the prison-industrial complex requires the abolition of credit surveillance and survival debt. Racial justice requires social provisioning to push back against systems of policing rather than increase access to credit systems that entrench surveillance. From this perspective, this paper urges a shift beyond access-to-credit reform to the solidarity economy and community-controlled finance grounded in an abolitionist ethic.

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