Being Poor in America is Officially a Crime: 1 Day Late on Rent Can Land You in Jail

by Yvette Carnell

If you are behind on your rent in Arkansas, then your landlord can go to court and get a warrant issued for your arrest. This is part of Prison Blacksan ongoing trend intended to criminalize being poor in America, thus strengthening the poverty trap.

Alternet recently reported on an incident where a couple one month behind on rent were dragged from their home by police officers:

One evening this past August, Angela and Steve received a knock on the door. The couple opened it to see two police officers standing outside.

“One of them said, ‘We have a warrant for y’all’s arrest. … The next thing I remember is my husband dragging me from the kitchen. I had fainted,” Angela recalled, according to Human Rights Watch.

Their crime? The couple was unable to afford their $585 rent payment that month.

And this is not an isolated incident. In July of this past year, the New York Times reported about people who were being locked up for minor probation offenses if they could not afford to  pay the fee, and how private probation companies were making millions off this arrangement. One woman mentioned in the Times story, Ms. Ray, had been locked up for 40 days and had accrued $3, 170 in fees, all assessed by a private probation company. Ms. Ray’s offense was driving without a license.

Also, Salon   recently followed up with another report on how people who cannot pay fines for minor traffic violations are being jailed.

Immigrants  have always wanted to come to America because climbing out of poverty, although never a certainly, has always been a possibility in this country. But now, with school pipelines to prison and imprisonment as punishment for minor infractions, such as traffic violations and late rent payments, lawmakers and administrators are designing a system which ensures that fewer people are able to escape the poverty trap. If this weren’t all happening at once, I’d call it a coincidence, but this isn’t happenstance.  Can’t be. This is a concerted effort to stymie the upward flow of the American Horde.

More and more, America’s class designations and arrangements are being made to look like that of a third world country. I don’t know what that means for the future, not exactly, but I think it’s safe to say that this grand American Experiment is officially over.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill and campaign staffer turned writer. She is currently an editor and contributor to Yourblackworld. You can reach Yvette via Twitter @YvetteDC or on Facebook.



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  1. On en veux encore !!! chez moi je vous met dans mes favoris, a bientot.

  2. Du travail d orfevre, merci pour ce bon plaisir.

  3. In spite of what many of you seem to think, the rest of the world is not responsible for your misfortune. Nobody is punishing you for being poor. People sometimes fall on hard times. Thank God for people who come to their aid, but to say that they’re being treated unfairly is ridiculous. If my home goes into foreclosure as a result of my losing my job, that doesn’t give me the right to blame somebody else. It’s my responsibility to do the next best thing. It is neither the government’s or anyone else’s responsiblity to fix it. Thank God I was smart enough to get an education that allows me some flexibility and gives me an increased chance to be successful, but had I not done that, I can’t hold the world accountable for my failure to plan and my lack of wisdom in not keeping myself informed about the changing work world. Get a grip, preople. You alone are responsible for your well-being.

  4. Ms. Carnell, you do understand that the offenses mentioned in your article are chargeable offenses, don’t you? I certainly empathize with people who are having a difficult time financially. As a Christian, I take that a step further and make regular contributions to help people who suddenly find themselves in unfortunate circumstances. However, there are very clear laws on imprisonment for not paying court-ordered fines and for ignoring an ordinance to vacate your dwelling for nonpayment.To ignore those laws and simply “hope for the best” is not a wise move and will likely compound the problem. When we live long enough, we find out that things will happen that are completely out of our control. However, to say that those who are given the task of enforcing the laws are prejudice or unjust is not being fair to them either. Also, landlords own property for the purpose of receiving monies. When those funds are not paid, they are at a deficit. I have seen quite a few landlords who worked with tenants who had a prior history of paying on time and being good tenants.

    All in all, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s unfair. While as a Christian, I believe I am my Brother’s Keeper, not everyone feels that way and they certainly are responsible for other peoples’ plight in life.

  5. This is the corporatization of America in full effect, whereby everything & everyone will become a commodity to be profited from for the greed & exploitation of a few elites. These multinational corporations control all mainstream media, own all our politicians & influence our elections w its dollars (courtesy of Citizens United passed by The Supreme Court) & is the major reason why we remain at perpetual war for profit! This system of unfettered capitalism/corporatism has been experimented w. n other countries since the 70s overseas, now it’s come home to America. It will only get worse as this unchecked system becomes more emboldened!

  6. Yup, time to go back to Africa.