A debt of care: Commercial bail and the gendered logic of criminal justice predation

Joshua Page, Victoria Piehowski, Joe Soss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Among the institutions that link criminal justice and inequality in the United States, commercial bail remains one of the most important yet least understood. Each year, the bail industry extracts millions of dollars from lower-income Americans, disproportionately draining resources from poor communities of color. We draw on ethnographic research to explore how the bail system operates as a predatory social process, arguing that gender interacts with class and race to structure resource extraction in this field. Poor women of color are especially subject to bail predation because they are seen within the larger social organization of care as bearing primary responsibility for defendants. Gendered care work and emotional labor are thus central to the field’s logic of practice and to bail industry profits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-172
Number of pages23
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Russell Sage Foundation.


  • Bail
  • Care
  • Ethnography
  • Gender
  • Predatory industries


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