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99 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 643 (2008-2009)
The Criminalization of Poverty

handle is hein.journals/jclc99 and id is 649 raw text is: 0091-4169/09/9903-0643
THE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW & CRIMINOLOGY                       Vol. 99, No. 3
Copyright 0 2009 by Northwestern University, School of Law     Printed in U.SA.
CRIMINAL LAW
THE CRIMINALIZATION OF POVERTY
KAARYN GUSTAFSON*
The welfare system and the criminal justice system in the United States
are becoming ever more tightly interwoven. Scholars, however, have not
yet examined the processes involved in these developments and what these
developments mean for both the welfare system and for criminal
jurisprudence. Many people, including welfare recipients, treat the welfare
and criminal justice systems as analytically distinct. As a practical matter,
however, the systems now work in tandem.
This Article maps the criminalization of welfare. First, this Article
describes the social construction of welfare fraud, tracing how welfare
queens and welfare cheating came to be the targets of much governmental
attention and resources. The Article then describes the various ways that
criminal justice goals and strategies have become embedded in the welfare
system, as well as the ways that the welfare system has become a tool of law
enforcement. Next, the Article examines the treatment of welfare recipients
in the courts, where the poor have been relegated to an inferior status of
rights-bearing citizenship, a status on par with parolees and probationers.
In the end, the Article encourages more careful policy analysis of these
criminalizing practices, proposes a de-coupling of the economic security
and crime control functions of the state, and offers recommendations for
ensuring the constitutional rights of welfare recipients.   Specifically,
administrative and criminal procedures must adapt to the transformations
* Associate Professor, University of Connecticut School of Law. Many thanks to the
following people for their comments and criticisms: Mario Barnes, Jon Bauer, Frank Rudy
Cooper, Zanita Fenton, Todd Femow, Michael Fischl, Alexandra Lahav, Leslie Levin, Eric
Miller, Len Orland, and Jim Stark. Even more thanks to several research assistants: Sri
Chalasani, Elizabeth Martinez, and Tovah Ross. Sincere thanks also to research librarian
Lee Sims. This Article benefited from discussion at the Association of American Law
Schools 2008 Annual Meeting's Workshop on Gender and Class, and from generous
comments from my colleagues during a University of Connecticut Law Faculty Workshop.

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