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


Bill Introduced in United States Senate to Reform Bail System

A new bill from bipartisan Senators encourages states to reform bail system.

Man Unable to Afford Bail Sat in Jail on False Charges

Video footage shows police officer hiding drugs and then returning to that location to discover them.

A Step Forward for Bail Reform in Cook County, Illinois

Chief Judge Evans issues an order reforming bail procedures in Cook County.

New Connecticut Law Reforms the State's Pretrial System

Connecticut law offers reform measures to bail and pretrial procedures.

Memo to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Discusses Disparate Impact of Court Fines and Fees in Nevada

The Nevada Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a memo detailing inequities in Nevada's implementation of court fines and fees.
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