Last month I wrote a diary at GOS, Criminalization of the Poor regarding an increasing trend in many urban areas in arresting homeless people for minor infractions in order to get them off the streets and into the penal system. Barbara Ehrenreich has addressed the same issue in an op-ed in today’s NYT with Is It Now a Crime to Be Poor?
Ehrenreich raises the point that, “I’d be content with a consensus that, if we can’t afford to truly help the poor, neither can we afford to go on tormenting them.” It seems very clear now that even if the nation’s economy is reaching a plateau in certain sectors, it will be a long and painful road for many in finding their own equilibrium or comfort zone with the basics of employment, shelter and life’s other necessities. We as a nation must make sure that we do not become increasingly authoritarian with those who have the least among us. We should avoid turning our safety nets into dragnets.