Academic Commons


Creditors’ Use of Consumer Debt Criminalization Practices and their Financial Abuse of Women

Johnson, Creola

In 1998, while a practicing attorney, I helped a legal aid client file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief because she was no longer able to manage her debts. As required under bankruptcy law, I had to help her file a list of all her creditors, as well as a statement of intention, which provides a snapshot as to how certain debts will be treated. My client, “Brenda,” a single mother, became fearful as I discussed with her the possibility of not paying a rent-to-own (“RTO”) company from which she had obtained a living room set. She told me that we had to pay the company because, as she said, “I don’t want them to put me in jail.” I was completely dumbfounded that she thought that could really happen to her. I explained to her that the RTO company could not put her in jail for failing to pay a civil debt. But she insisted we had to pay because, “I’m not going to jail.” Little did I know I was really the ignorant one.


Also Published In

Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
October 17, 2017
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.