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

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Criminal Courts Lack Authority to Impose Fee Schedules for Costs

Criminal court costs cannot be collected through court-imposed fee schedules.
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Georgia City Threatens Utility Shut-Off for Failure to Pay Court Debt

Attorneys attack city's plan to tie court debt to utilities access.
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Leading Defense Orgs Support Pretrial Risk Assessments

Validated pretrial risk assessments are necessary component of fair pretrial release system, defenders say.
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Federal Judge Enjoins Harris County Bail Practices

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against Harris County's bail system.
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Fight Against Money Bail Has Unlikely Allies

Ongoing case against money bail in Harris County includes surprising witnesses for the plaintiffs.
Read More »

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