In the past few years, our nation has become increasingly aware of the phenomenon known as the "criminalization of poverty." When facing criminal charges, indigent defendants can be held in jail simply because they cannot pay for their freedom. Poor defendants can subsequently feel coerced into pleading guilty as a way to restore their freedom as quickly as possible. Ultimately, indigent defendants can be forced to pay hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars in court costs and fees, thus perpetuating—and deepening—their financial straits. To help address this problem, the Office of the Ohio Public Defender has launched the Criminalizing Poverty Homepage
The page contains resources to assist defenders and communities in learning more about this issue; a blog that will post updates on cases, statutory changes, and reform efforts; and videos and resources from the Michigan Journal of Race & Law’s 2016 symposium, “Innocent Until Proven Poor: Fighting the Criminalization of Poverty.”
We hope this resource will help all of us reach our goal: to stop the criminal justice system from punishing people simply because they are poor.