Does the Criminal Justice System Criminalise Poverty?

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.