Category Archives: Criminalization of Poverty

New Report: “Get To Work or Go To Jail: Workplace Rights Under Threat”

New Report: Noah Zatz, Tia Koonse, Theresa Zhen, Lucero Herrera, Han Lu, Steven Shafer, and Blake Valenta, Get To Work or Go To Jail: Workplace Rights Under Threat (2016).

New Article: “In Louisiana, The Poor Lack Legal Defense”

New Article: Campbell Robertson, “In Louisiana, The Poor Lack Legal Defense” – The New York Times

New Article: “After Incarceration, What Next?”

New Article: “After Incarceration, What Next?” – The American Prospect

New Article: “Court Fees Create ‘Endless Cycle Of Debt’ For Poor”

New Article: “Court Fees Create ‘Endless Circle Of Debt’ For Poor” – The Crime Report

New Article: “State Bans on Debtors’ Prisons and Criminal Justice Debt”

New Article: State Bans on Debtors’ Prisons and Criminal Justice Debt, 129 Harv. L. Rev. 1024 (February 10, 2016).

New Article: “Charging The Poor: Criminal Justice Debt & Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons”

New Article: Neil L. Sobol, “Charging the Poor: Criminal Justice Debt & Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons,” 75 Maryland L. Rev. (Forthcoming).

New Article: “Misdemeanor Criminalization”

New Article: Alexandra Natapoff, Misdemeanor Criminalization, 68 Vand. L.Rev. 155 (2015).

A Jotwell review of the article by Angela Harris can be found here.

New Article: “Unequal Assistance of Counsel”

New Article: Peter A. Joy, Unequal Assistance of Counsel, Kansas J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 2015.  Abstract below:

There is now, and has always been, a double standard when it comes to the criminal justice system in the United States. The system is stacked against you if you are a person of color or are poor, and is doubly unjust if you are both a person of color and poor. The potential counterweight to such a system, a lawyer by one’s side, is unequal as well. In reality, the right to counsel is a right to the unequal assistance of counsel in the United States. 

The unequal treatment based on the color of one’s skin is reflected by the racial disparity throughout the criminal justice system in which minority racial groups are involved in the criminal justice system as suspects and defendants at rates greater than their proportion of the general population. This is illustrated by the “driving while black” phenomenon in which law enforcement officers initiate traffic stops against persons of color and subject them to searches at a higher rate than whites, even though law enforcement is more likely to find contraband on white drivers than persons of color.

The Sixth Amendment promises the effective assistance of counsel to every person accused of a crime where incarceration is a possible punishment. This guarantee suggests that everyone, rich and poor, is equal before the law. But the reality of the criminal justice system is much different for the majority of those charged with crimes. If one does not have the financial means to hire effective counsel, or is poor and not lucky enough to have a well-funded, effective public defender or appointed counsel, the defendant’s right to counsel is unequal. This disparity is driven largely by the wealth of the accused and falls most harshly on people of color, who are twice as likely as whites to live in poverty and are accused of crimes at rates much higher than their proportion of the population. As a result, class and race are largely determinative of the lawyer, and often the amount of justice one receives.

This article explores how unequal assistance of counsel contributes to unequal justice. The article begins with a brief overview of racial disparities in the ways laws are enforced. The initial step in the criminal justice system, whether the police stop someone, can lead to arrest, charges, and the need for a lawyer. Next, it analyzes the systemic barriers to effective assistance of counsel at the state level, which is driven largely by excessive caseloads and an ineffective assistance of counsel standard that tolerates bad lawyering. It concludes with strategies for achieving more effective assistance of counsel, which emphasize the ethical imperative to provide meaningful assistance of counsel, the importance of data collection by public defender systems, and systemic litigation that positions assistance of counsel claims prior to trials.

Wash Post Editorial: Cruel and unusual [Criminalization of homelessness] – The Washington Post

Cruel and unusual – The Washington Post.

New Article: “The New American Debtors’ Prisons”

New Article: Christopher D. Hampson, The New American Debtors’ Prisons, SSRN 2015.  Abstract below:

Debtors’ prisons are back, in the form of imprisonment for nonpayment of criminal fines, fees, and costs. While the new debtors’ prisons are not historically or doctrinally continuous with the old, recent developments in criminal law suggest that some parts of them offend the same functional and moral principles that compelled the abolition of the old debtors’ prisons. Legal actors may therefore plausibly interpret the constitutional and statutory texts that abolished the old debtors’ prisons to constitute checks on the new — or a new abolitionist movement might deploy new constitutional texts. While the criminal law literature is starting to grapple with the question of debtors’ prisons, this piece engages with the metaphor head-on and asks how the old ban on debtors’ prisons should be reinterpreted for a new era of mass incarceration.