Is it a crime to be poor?

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

We are working with partners to plan an event next year on the theme: Is it a crime to be poor?

The aim would be to share knowledge and research, and to discuss how we, as academics, practitioners and penal reformers can act to end this endemic abuse of the criminal justice system.

There are many examples of ways in which the criminal justice system criminalises poverty.These include:

  • Hundreds of people are sentenced each year for begging and sleeping rough. Crisis is now campaigning to repeal the Vagrancy Act (which goes back to 1824)
  • We still have imprisonment for council tax debt, and both APPEAL and Chris Daw QC are campaigning to end this in England, following the example of Wales
  • There are many others sent to prison, like the mother who shoplifted baby formula and nappies
  • Parents whose children have special educational needs who were too fearful to go to school are prosecuted under our cruel and discriminatory truancy law


  • Rona Epstein, Coventry University
  • Naima Sakande, APPEAL 
  • Dr Monish Bhatia, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Professor Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, University of Birmingham
  • Martine Lignon, Prisoners' Advice Service
  • Fran Morgan, Square Peg, also representing Beth (Not Fine In School)
  • Fionnuala Ratcliffe, Transform Justice

If you would like to be kept informed about the initiative and the date of the event next year, please email: