According to a 2013 analysis by Lynn Foster, a law professor at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, over 2,000 Arkansans per year are prosecuted as criminals for not meeting rent deadlines. Of these, Foster found, a plurality were low-income black women.
“This is really the worst of what we call the ‘criminalization of poverty,’” says Amy Johnson, the executive director of Arkansas Access to Justice and an expert on landlord-tenant policies in the state. “You see it elsewhere, with debtors’ prisons – people sentenced to jail only because they can’t afford to pay fees,” as well as the quality-of-life policing used in some cities, by which the homeless are arrested for loitering in the street.
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