Is it a crime to be poor?

We are working with partners on the theme: Is it a crime to be poor?

The aim of this strand of work is 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
  • Many are sent to prison for poverty-driven behaviour, such as 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 
  • Tara Casey, APPEAL
  • Professor Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Juste Abramovaite, University of Birmingham
  • Martine Lignon, Prisoners' Advice Service
  • Sorana Vieru, Women in Prison
  • Steve Lee, Crisis
  • Sam Genen

If you would like to be kept informed about the initiative, go to the official ICP website.