Automating Inequality

Automating Inequality

How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

Virginia Eubanks

the pattern of increased data collection, sharing, and surveillance reinforces the criminalization of the unhoused, if only because so many of the basic conditions of being homeless—having nowhere to sleep, nowhere to put your stuff, and nowhere to go to the bathroom—are also officially crimes. If sleeping in a public park, leaving your possessions on the sidewalk, or urinating in a stairwell are met with a ticket, the great majority of the unhoused have no way to pay resulting fines. The tickets turn into warrants, and then law enforcement has further reason to search the databases to find “fugitives.” Thus, data collection, storage, and sharing in homeless service programs are often starting points in a process that criminalizes the poor.

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