The phenomenon of low-income individuals being charged fines and fees – and thrown in jail if they can’t afford to pay – first drew serious national attention in Ferguson, Missouri, following the tragic death of Michael Brown in 2015. However, as lawyer Peter Edelman explores in his new book, Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America, Ferguson was just the tip of the iceberg. In 43 states, people can be charged for exercising their constitutional right to a public defender. 44 states charge individuals for the costs of their own probation or parole, which can include fees for electronic bracelets, drug testing, alcohol monitoring, driving classes, home supervision, and more. Furthermore, due to the existence of Charles Dickens-era vagrancy laws in many cities, homeless people can be thrown in jail for merely sleeping on the sidewalk.
Join the Center for American Progress and the American Constitution Society for a conversation with Peter Edelman about the many ways that being poor is a crime in America and how we can change that.
Neera Tanden , President and CEO of the Center for American Progress
Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society
Peter Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy; Faculty Director, Center on Poverty and Inequality, Georgetown Law School
Steve Bright, Harvey Karp Visiting Lecturer in Law, Yale Law School
A light lunch will be served at 11:30am.
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