Criminalization and Social inequality Essay
Criminalization and Social inequality Essay

Criminalization and Social inequality Essay

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  • Pages: 3 (1391 words)
  • Published: December 27, 2021
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Social scientist has given extensive attention to the relationship that binds criminalization and social inequality. Though in most instances, more attention has been given to one significant aspect of their relationships while neglecting the other. Some theories have been formulated such as the anomie theory that emphasizes the deviant behavior and structural inequalities but lacks detailed information about how social reality issues are being made (Gustafson, 2009). Most recently, new development has been linked to the concept of social inequalities and criminalization of various social inequality issues like poverty, homelessness, and some gender disparities. This essay, therefore, expounds the criminalization of poverty in most nations of the world.

The criminalization of poverty is a global social inequality that involves mistreatment and preconception faced by many people in thriving from tough economic circumstances that are mainly influenced by instances of racism and several other forms of discrimination. This phenomenon can present itself in many forms that include excessive use of power by authorities that results in excessive fines charged for petty criminal offenses, creation of policies and laws that are inclined to one section of people in the society mainly aimed at mistreating homeless people in the name of “cleansing the streets.” Furthermore, in its obscene intentions, the regulation intend to victimize the poor and homeless through arbitrary surveillance, physical violence or an extent of murder and also subjecting them to unlawful arrests in one of the most sinister forms (Gustafson, 2009). For further exploration of the concept of criminalization of poverty, so


me examples will be drawn from real happenings of social inequality in countries of the world such as those experienced by people in Brazil.

Marginalization and criminalization of persons caught by poverty have been present in Brazil since the country’s inception. In early stages of development of the nation, slave labor was highly utilized drawing its immense slave from various countries of the world. Importation of these laborers was estimated to be roughly ten times more than the United States. In this case, a small number of individuals and major land owners that were mostly of the white origin absolved much territory and powers. The county’s history revolved around the military division that its mandate was to repress and subjugate the poor while guarding the elite thus ridding off any form of minority uprising. Later, when Brazil abolished and incorporated released slaves into another obnoxious situation of disadvantage and poverty (Gustafson, 2009). This lead to new settings of impoverished settlements that finally developed into favelas. With this in mind, social inequalities did not stop there. Creation of government policies had an immense effect on them that included neglect to repression which maintained their poverty status until the present times.

On recent times, the concept of criminalization of poverty has entered into new dimensions. While the wealthy personalities in the society engaged in rather uncivilized activities, the blacks and the poor are the ones who faced multiple risks instead for doing much less or nothing. For instance, in recent times, the poor who mostly comprise of the blacks who had no significant involvement in any criminal activity were detained in buses on claims

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that they were carrying guns and being suspected of potential crimes in South Zone of Rio. This actions against such social inequalities of the Brazilian minority has been termed to be illegal by Judges though they still view the subject of such victimization to be guilty until proven guilty. Also, the concept of criminalization has been extended further to events of job searches by the youth due to the view by most employers that links poor individuals to crimes. This case has been evident from well-known employers who unfavorably look to job seekers with origin from favelas in Brazil. This enraged social issue, in the long run, affects residents of favela that may cause great harm to the general society thus initiating instances of stigmas that may advance into crimes.

Furthermore, in America Poor people especially those of certain color face greater risk of being fined, incarnated and even arrested. Minor things like a broken taillight, minor drug offense, sidewalk sitting, sleeping in a car park or unpaid parking ticket may result in lifetime jail. As affirmed by Kaaryn Gustafson a professor at the University of California-Irvine, in the early 1960s and 1970s intersection of income, race and gender bias were at play (Oxhorn, 2003). Single black mothers were targeted as lazy, criminals and promiscuous welfare cheats. In this era, poverty was treated as a criminal offense.

Moreover, as with other forms of criminalization, black men, women, and youth are mostly targeted and affected by the creation of obstacles. According to the case studies done in three states of California the women in section 8 housing are more than the whites. There are various causes which led to the criminalization of the poor in the society. This includes; the rise of criminal fees (Oxhorn, 2003). The costs imposed by courts, fines, fees, and restitution. The increased costs have inflicted more effect to the poor rather than the rich. The poor are unable to pay the high sum of money thus their status led to their victimization.

The barriers to employment and public service also perpetuated high arrest and convictions of the poor. Upon releasing of previously detained or convicted individuals, it is hard to get reentry into the society. Most of them were not allowed to vote or serve on a jury (Oxhorn, 2003). As affirmed by Daniels, a college graduate, after being released on a bail of $50 his record was not cleared and he underwent difficulties when applying for a new job. The poverty level of these individuals has been taken as a tool for criminalizing.

It is evident from the U.S history of poverty criminalization that those people of low status in the society face a lot of criminal offense. In America, there are major norms which criminalize the homeless or the poor. First, prohibit begging. By National Coalition for the Homeless, there is an increasing trend of criminalizing in the US (Aulette, 1987). Many states have outlawed activities such as sleeping, sitting, eating and begging in public spaces. These measures have created a more adverse living environment for the homeless. Since they depend majorly on people’s support, the law inhibits

them. Failure to abide by this law the offender is drawn to jail where they are fined or incarcerated. Secondly, the selective enforcement of the law and selective criteria of the law. In America, there are some laws which intimidate the homeless (Oxhorn, 2003). Setting strict rules against sitting, eating and lying in sidewalks along the road is a criminal offense against the homeless.


After the consideration of the two countries regarding the criminal injustices against the homeless and poor, it is, therefore, evident that there is n issue of unfairness. Since they are also humans, they need to eat and sleep, but the lack of money forces them into begging. But the administrative law against begging in public places makes their case more inhuman. They deserve the right to be considered, treated with fairness in courts. In the act of employment, the crime history of an individual should not be of much consideration. Furthermore, I believe through justice in courts systems and special consideration of the poor in court cases; there will be more peace and security will be buffered. Racial discrimination should be avoided especially in America. People should not be charged by their race, ethnicity, and religion. Poverty should not be used as a tool for the criminalization of the underprivileged in the society. However, from criminalization and social inequality, poverty has been the major factor of criminalization activities. The authorities’ have used the advantage of the homeless factor to victimize the poor in the society in the form of criminalization.


  1. Aulette, A. (1987). Police harassment of the homeless: The political purpose of the criminalization of homelessness. Humanity and Society, 11(2), 244.
  2. Gustafson, K. (2009). The criminalization of poverty. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 643-716.
  3. Ortiz, A. T., & Briggs, L. (2003). The Culture of Poverty, Crack Babies, and Welfare Cheats: The Making of the" Healthy White Baby Crisis". Social Text, 21(3), 39-57.
  4. Oxhorn, P. (2003). Social inequality, civil society, and the limits of citizenship in Latin America. What Justice? Whose Justice? Fighting for Fairness in Latin America, 35-63.
  5. Virgo, S. (1990). The criminalization of poverty. Pacifica Radio Archive.