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


Juvenile Offenders Unshackled: A Look 10-Years Later

10-year report of unshackling in Miami-Dade County

Advisory for Recipients of Financial Assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice on Levying Fines and Fees on Juveniles

Advisory opinion regarding collecting fines and fees from children in the justice system

Examples and Resources to Support Criminal Justice Entities in Compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA protects children in the juvenile justice system

Law You Can Use: Supreme Court of Ohio passes rule to end automatic shackling of juveniles

Update on the Supreme Court's shackling rule

Report: Juveniles Lack Legal Advice; Often Urged To Plead Guilty

Children deserve competent and trained lawyers

What You Should Know About Juvenile Solitary Confinement

Questions & answers about juvenile solitary confinement

Louisiana juveniles got longer sentences after unexpected LSU football losses, study finds

Judges imposed harsher dispositions after football losses

Recruitment begins for landmark study of adolescent brain development

NIH will study brain development in children
Read More »