The Criminalization of Poverty: How to Break the Cycle Through Policy Reform in Maryland

The Criminalization of Poverty: How to Break the Cycle Through Policy Reform in Maryland

Residents of Maryland who lack economic opportunities, especially people of color, often find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty and criminalization simply because they lack the financial resources to meet the demands of the law, a report from the Job Opportunities Task Force finds. The report, The Criminalization of Poverty: How to Break the Cycle Through Policy Reform in Maryland (104 pages, PDF), found that poor people of color are at greater risk of becoming caught up in the criminal justice than whites as a result of racial profiling, civil asset forfeiture, motor vehicle laws, and the collection of child support and civil debts. And once in the system, they are disproportionately impacted for the worse by cash bail requirements, fines, and other fees — including, in many jurisdictions, having to pay for their own incarceration, probation, and parole supervision. Having a criminal record as a result of being arrested — even if the individual is immediately released and never convicted of a crime — also poses serious barriers to employment, securing public assistance and housing, and gaining admission to institutions of higher education. Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the report calls on Maryland to enforce laws that protect against racial profiling, abolish civil asset forfeiture, and eliminate driver’s license suspension as a penalty for non-payment of fines; limit the use of cash bail and fees and implement robust pre-trial services; expand the statewide "Ban the Box" law, as well as correctional education, job training, and education; and opt out of the felony drug ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

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