Criminalization of Race and Poverty

Criminalization of poverty has increased significantly in the U.S. since the Great Recession of 2009. Poor and low-income people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being targeted, profiled, fined, arrested, harassed, violated and incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans. A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping on a park can all result in jail time.

The criminalization of poor people happens at the intersectional oppressions of race, class, gender and gender identity. The criminalization of children is especially inhumane and disproportionality affects low-income Latinx and Black children, LGBTQI children and children with disabilities. The school-to-prison pipeline is a significant factor in removing opportunities for self-fulfillment, education and employment, often creating and perpetuating poverty.

By conducting research and reports on the various components of these injustices, and supporting movements on the ground with resources and capacity, the Criminalization of Poverty project aims to encourage and influence policy that will move us from intersectional injustice into intersectional justice.

Latest Work

Report: Mothers at the Gate

A movement of family members is developing around the country that aims to challenge both the conditions in which their loved ones are held and the fact of mass incarceration itself.

The Trauma of Losing a Parent to Incarceration

More than 5 million children have a parent in jail. A country that allows such massive infliction of trauma on its children is a country whose entire future is in question.

Virginia Moves in the Right Direction to Reverse Jim Crow Era Voting Barriers

IPS Criminalization of Poverty Project Director Karen Dolan: “Denying voting rights based on criminal records is an egregious affront to the democratic values we espouse in this country.”

American Schools Are Criminalizing Black Girls

Black girls are the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice system — a trend worsened by the presence of cops in classrooms.

It’s Time to Get Cops Out of Schools

There’s only one way to make sure no more young girls are body-slammed by uniformed officers.

I Am Kalief Browder

Every young black kid gets “the talk” about racial profiling.

Obama’s Last Budget Offers Hope. Could it Bring About Change, Too?

If the GOP wants to stay relevant, its establishment members of Congress may have to pay more attention to this budget than they wish to.

Will Any Presidential Candidate Connect Federal Tax Policy and Police Killings?

Tax policy and police brutality are inextricably linked, yet no one’s talking about it. Here’s why they should.

The Harsh Reality of ‘Ban the Box’ Reform Efforts

While it represents a step forward, ‘ban the box’ only goes so far in addressing deeper systemic issues fueling mass incarceration.

Away with the Clowns

The GOP race may be a circus, but the candidates are dead serious about padding the pockets of the rich.

How The Assault at Spring Valley High Brutally Demonstrates the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’

The assault at Spring Valley High is representative of the U.S.’s disturbing habit of criminalizing black and Latino children.

How the U.S. criminal justice system operates as a debt-based system of racial control

State-sanctioned racial oppression is achieved through a new kind of slavery.

A Significant Step Forward on the Road to Reform

A bipartisan group of legislators have come together to take action on criminal justice reform. Will they secure the votes to pass it?

Pope, Post-partisanship, and Prisons

Can the pope’s emphasis on criminal justice reform begin to shift the ideological landscape in Washington?

A Summer Storm is Brewing

The need for our safety net is palpable, but the GOP’s hurricane budget is shredding it.

Caitlyn Jenner Isn’t ‘Posing’ as a Woman—She Is a Woman

What makes us feel like and identify as a certain gender or genders is in our brain, not between our legs.

How a Broken Tail Light Can Be a Death Sentence in America

We’ve created a perfect storm of poverty, fear, social control and racially charged policing.

Guilty of Being Poor

When a community issues arrest warrants for more offenses than it has residents, something’s deeply wrong.

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

This report provides a new understanding of the growing ways in which those in poverty are disproportionately targeted, marginalized, and prosecuted.