In 2020, The Community Voice has launched a solutions journalism project titled The Criminalization of Poverty.


The criminal justice system produces harsher outcomes for poor defendants simply due to their poverty.

By disproportionately burdening poor people with financial sanctions, and by jailing people who lack the means to pay, many jurisdictions have created a two-tiered system of criminal justice – one system that works ok, if not well, for those who can afford to pay the fines and fees, and another system that’s broken and excessively punishes those who don’t have the funds to make their way through the system relatively unscathed.

For a person with the means to pay it, a speeding ticket is little more than a minor inconvenience and an arrest can be little more than a night in jail.  However, for the poor, paying a fine can lead to suspended license or more, and an arrest can turn into months in jail, and the devastation of their life.

During this series, The Community Voice will look at numerous ways in which the criminal justice system negatively impacts the poor, with particular attention paid to:

Fees and fines,

Cash bail, and

Driver’s license suspensions

While our focus will be on the criminalization of poverty, we are well aware that these policies also lead to stark racial disparities in the criminal justice system.


When it comes to the criminal justice system, it does not have to be business as usual.

A number of states, counties and municipalities are implementing creative new laws, policies and procedures that are reducing the disproportionately negative impact of the criminal justice system on the poor.

What are the systems as they exist regionally (Kansas and Missouri)?

What ideas and solutions are actively driving down the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on the poor?

What’s being done regionally to address these issues.

Where are there success stories, and what do they look like, in other parts of the country.

These are the questions The Criminalization of Poverty series will answer via months of well-researched, award-winning solutions journalism.

Our goal is to be an impetus for positive action and change on this issue.  By shining a light on alternatives that work, we hope to motivate individuals to help bring about change in the way they can:  lobbying, sharing, talking it up, organizing, voting, and other positive direct action.


Your donation of any amount

The work of solutions journalism carries significant cost.  To seek out and fully understand unconventional and sometimes complex solutions often takes a plane ticket and immersive, in-person explorations in other regionally and in other parts of the country.

Your donation will help us fund this important solutions journalism program.


Inside our jails or sitting at home because they can’t drive to work, are people who are trapped by a system that’s punishing them because they’re poor. Help us find solutions that work.


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