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Criminalization of Poverty

In 2013, Adel Edwards pleaded guilty to burning leaves in his South Georgia yard without a permit. Mr. Edwards, whose sole source of income was food stamps, was fined $500; money he did not have. When he was sentenced to a year of private probation, the amount he owed ballooned to $1,028. Because he couldn’t pay, Mr. Edwards was sent to jail. In the United States — particularly in the Deep South —  poverty is often treated as a criminal offense.

Making money off of people under the thumb of the criminal legal system is systemic in the United States, particularly in the Deep South. The first iteration was the infamous convict-leasing system of the Jim Crow era, under which incarcerated people were forced to work in deplorable conditions for the profit of private contractors. That tradition continues today with the privatization of prisons, prison healthcare, probation, and with the efforts of the state to fund the criminal legal system off the backs of poor people.

SCHR has long prioritized ending wealth-based detention and control by exposing private probation extortion, illegal fines and fees, money bail schemes, and other practices that criminalize people simply for experiencing poverty. The interests of businesses do not conform to the interests of justice, and those who suffer the difference are the incarcerated, the sick, and the poor.