Center for Media Justice home of the Media Action Grassroots Network

The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty

This report by Karen Dolan and Jodi L. Carr summarizes the “criminalization of poverty,” filling out the true breadth and depth of this national crisis. The key elements examined are:
  • the targeting of poor people with fines and fees for misdemeanors, and the resurgence of debtors’ prisons – the imprisonment of people unable to pay debts resulting from the increase in fines and fees;
  • mass incarceration of poor ethnic minorities for non-violent offenses, and the barriers to employment and re-entry into society once they have served their sentences;
  • excessive punishment of poor children that creates a “school-to-prison pipeline”;
  • increase in arrests of homeless people and people feeding the homeless, and criminalizing life-sustaining activities such as sleeping in public when no shelter is available; and
  • confiscating what little resources and property poor people might have through “civil asset forfeiture.”
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