Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS) is lending its name to an alliance of academics, lawyers and practitioners from the voluntary sector who have come together to address the question, “Is it a crime to be poor?”
The alliance aims to raise awareness, address MPs and advocate for changes to the law, which currently underpins a direct link between poverty and incarceration. For instance, few people know that non-payment of the Council Tax or the TV licence can result in incarceration. But owing money is not a crime: magistrates should not send anyone to prison because they owe money on their TV licence. The reason that many are sent to prison is often because the magistrates have made a number of serious errors. For example, the means enquiry which should take place to establish a debtor’s financial resources, income and outgoings has been perfunctory or inadequate.
The alliance will stage its first one-day event on 8th July at the University of Birmingham.