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Guilty of Being Poor


Guilty of Being Poor

Karen Dolan

Here’s something you might not know about Ferguson, Missouri: In this city of 21,000 people, 16,000 have outstanding arrest warrants. In fact, in 2013 alone, authorities issued 9,000 warrants for over 32,000 offenses.

That’s one-and-a-half offenses for every resident of Ferguson in just one year.


Thank you, Ms. Dolan for your excellent reporting on this poignant subject. In lieu of Debtors’ prisons, it’s cheaper to (the 1%) keep them tethered to perpetual dues to pay. The criminalization of small items and/or benign recreational drug use keeps prisons occupied. How else can politicians pay back Corrections Corp. of America or any other prison-building firm for their generous campaign contributions?

This is the New World Order’s New America… with a prison on every block and most public monies directed at one armed gendarme or another. Prison Camp, USA style where control = liberty!


I was struggling with the concept of fining homeless people and then putting them in incredibly expensive prisons as a revenue generating strategy. It did not make sense to me until you offered the likely explanation, Siouxrose11. Thank you for reminding me that you can never be too cynical if you want to understand our political system!


You and Ms Dolan nailed it. Thank you and Common Dreams!


Don’t forget criminalizing those who give food to the poor and indigent in public.


How do you explain the fact that these local ordinances are not created nor enforced by the 1%?


The 0.01% have their enabler class, the local elite, politicians, bureaucrats, police/prison and judicial system operatives that create and perpetuate the systemic assault against the poor. The laws follow basic templates distributed widely by orgs like ALEC.


You utterly failed to mention the shift to more regressive forms of taxation, from property and incomes taxes to sales taxes and usage fees. These changes are more harmful to the poor than anything that you mentioned.



It’s been a crime to be poor in this country for as long as I can recall. Let’s say 50 years to be kind to myself, only the penalty for this condition has worsened over that time, right along in concert with expanding prisons while closing schools, it’s pretty clear what the intent of government is concerning poverty. When exactly has it not been so in the U.S.?


Thanks for the nice comments and additional observations. There are so many ways in which poor people are profiled and criminalized in this country. Our report, The Poor Get Prison, just looks at 6. That choice is somewhat arbitrary, though we were trying to give as broad a picture as we could in a concise report. But regressive taxation as mentioned by spotlessmcpartlandttax, giving relief and resources to the homeless and mentioned by ccerr, other templates and ALEC models…all of these and more are, sadly, all part of this growing phenomena. The total picture is frightening. For me, it makes me wonder how we can call ourselves a decent society…please keep comments coming with more stories, experiences, data and other ways of criminalizing the poor. The more we can force this into public consciousness, the harder it will be to sweep it under the rug…


Many more of us are entering the ranks of the poor. Harassment and discrimination by police is nothing new. America is becoming more and more unequal with the wealthy being able to affect legislation at all levels of government due to their ever increasing donations. Unless things are dramatically changed the so-called middle class are going to find themselves falling off the economic ladder and having their lives turned around by the ruling class.


I think you are right. It’s always been a crime to be homeless or poor in the US. After we got our first job, most of us were able to repress the memories of youth poverty and then too busy trying to keep the wolf from the door to read sites like CD who outlined it.

It became a crisis with Clinton’s NAFTA which off-shored most of American’s jobs in favor of cheap non-union labor (slaves) in China and India.