Oppressed by Debt : Government and the Justice System as a Creditor of the Poor book cover
1st Edition

Oppressed by Debt
Government and the Justice System as a Creditor of the Poor

Edited By

Saul Schwartz

ISBN 9780367417734
Published December 31, 2021 by Routledge
154 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This edited collection brings together essays that explore personal debts to government. Intensive collection efforts by governments in need of revenue often cause hardship, whether it is the poor in the United States going to jail because of unpaid fines, low-income English people being evicted because they paid their council taxes but could then not pay their rent, or poor former students having tax refunds or social benefits taken by the government when they have defaulted on their student loans.  

Student loans, fines and fees arising from the justice system, benefit overpayments and unpaid taxes have all ballooned in the past decade, but no other volume comprehensively addresses the various ways in which governments have become privileged creditors, using their power to collect debts owed to them by their citizens. With each essay emphasizing a particular kind of debt to government, the book focuses on what happens when citizens cannot pay the debts they owe to their governments. Contributors offer pragmatic options to facilitate a movement to soften the stance of governments toward those who owe them money.  

The insights in this collection will be of relevance to students and academics in criminology, sociology, public policy, and economics, as well as policymakers and government officials interested in effecting change in this area.  

Table of Contents


Saul Schwartz and Joseph Spooner

Chapter 1. Benefits Overpayments and the Criminalisation of Female Poverty

Samuel Kirwan

Chapter 2. The Local Austere Creditor

Joseph Spooner  

Chapter 3. Criminal Justice Debt and The Return of Debtors’ Prisons

Neil L. Sobol

Chapter 4. Student Debt in the United States: Racial Disparities and Wealth

Fenaba R. Addo 

Chapter 5. Reducing the Burden of Student Loan Repayment: A Canada-US Comparison

Christine Neill

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Saul Schwartz is a Professor in the School of Public Policy at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Wisconsin. Broadly speaking, his research involves the analysis of policies aimed at helping the poor. That work currently involves investigations of the prevalence of payday loans among the liabilities of bankrupt individuals, the economic stress experienced by international students during the COVID pandemic and this volume on debts-to-government. His paper entitled "Who Doesn’t File a Tax Return?: A Portrait of Non-Filers," co-authored with Jennifer Robson, recently won of the Vandercamp Prize for the best paper submitted in 2020 to the journal Canadian Public Policy.