Criminalizing Poverty

"In a country where we have ruled that debtors' prisons are unconstitutional, too many of our citizens are  in jail simply because they don't have the money to get out."

Loretta Lynch, Attorney General

About Criminalizing Poverty

Since the Department of Justice released its Ferguson Report, our nation has become increasingly aware of the phenomenon known as the "criminalization of poverty." This criminalization occurs most often in courts that handle misdemeanor cases, where individuals are arrested and charged with low-level, non-violent crimes. Indigent defendants are then held in jail because they cannot pay for their freedom, and all too often they are systemically coerced into pleading guilty as a way to restore their freedom as quickly as possible. Ultimately, they are forced to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in court costs and fees, thus perpetuating—and deepening—their financial straits.

On this page are a number of resources to help you learn more about this issue. We hope these resources will help all of us reach our goal: to stop the system from punishing people for being poor.

The Criminalizing Poverty Blog

News and articles related to the criminalization of poverty. For more, please go to the Resources section.

Most Recent


A Series on Community Bail Funds: Post 5 of 6

Freedom funds essentially operate as a form of "bail nullification."

A Series on Community Bail Funds: Post 4 of 6

"Freedom funds" pay for the pretrial release of criminal defendants who are too poor to pay for it themselves.

A Series on Community Bail Funds: Post 3 of 6

Money bail causes convictions and negative consequences - even for the innocent.

A Series on Community Bail Funds: Post 2 of 6

A dysfunctional bail system contributes to mass incarceration.

A Series on Community Bail Funds: Post 1 of 6

Quasi-experimental research shows that pretrial detention comes with a series of negative consequences.
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