At the center of the modern debtors’ prison conversation, these debts are deeply linked to labor
An even stronger analogy to work requirements in aid programs comes from court-ordered debts, such as child support obligations and criminal justice fines and fees. The connection arises from the same simple question at the heart of income support programs: Why don’t you have more money? For means-tested benefits, lacking income is why the government gives you money as assistance. For court-ordered debt, lacking income is why you don’t have to give money to the government: the Constitution forbids imprisoning those who simply are unable to pay their debts. But in both contexts, the suspicion arises that lack of income is voluntary if additional earnings could be generated by working more. Notably, that suspicion is thoroughly shaped by racial stereotyping.
When no jobs are available, the next step is to create a degraded tier of second-class work
Take child support enforcement, for example. State agencies’ collection efforts begin by scrutinizing non-custodial parents’ inability to pay and end by scrutinizing their inability to work. Read more