Criminalizing Poverty

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(1) Description of the pattern

Poverty can be criminalized, both ideologically and physically in various ways in order to keep people in the cycle of poverty.

(2) Why the pattern is good (i.e. bad)

Poverty is among the greatest threats to the structure and ideology of capitalistic culture. If poverty is viewed as being a failure of the system, the power structure may be in danger. Therefore, if the poverty stricken are classified as criminals, they are personally responsible for thier state, and the power structure is not in danger.

(3) Evidence and Examples

"In recent years, the United States has seen the proliferation of local measures to criminalize “acts of living” laws that prohibit sleeping, eating, sitting, or panhandling in public spaces. City, town, and county officials are turning to criminalization measures in an effort to broadcast a zero-tolerance approach to street homelessness and to temporarily reduce the visibility of homelessness in their communities. Although individuals experiencing homelessness should be afforded the same dignity, compassion, and support provided to others, criminalization policies further marginalize men and women who are experiencing homelessness, fuel inflammatory attitudes, and may even unduly restrict constitutionally protected liberties. Moreover, there is ample evidence that alternatives to criminalization policies can adequately balance the needs of all parties. Community residents, government agencies, businesses, and men and women who are experiencing homelessness are better served by solutions that do not marginalize people experiencing homelessness, but rather strike at the core factors contributing to homelessness."

From: "Executive Summary." Searching out solutions: constructive alternatives to the criminalization of homelessness.. Washington, DC: United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 2012. 2. Print.