Criminalizing Poverty?

I was taken aback when I realized the picture from this week’s ARTICLE was taken in the USA, not the third world. It is Joshua Tree, CA. A couple with their 3 children (ages 11-14) was arrested last week for a form of child abuse when police found they were living in this wooden box. The children weren’t physically abused and didn’t seem malnourished. Still, apparently, the conditions they were living in were criminal. That said, the authorities did admit that the family has been beset by extreme poverty. Neighbors living close by stated that the family was only guilty of being poor.

Not to worry, however, as the parents were being held in the county jail unable to make the $300,000 bond. The children were taken from the dwelling and placed in foster care. To me, this article is challenging. I personally wouldn’t want to live under these conditions; however, are they criminal? Maybe. Maybe not?


12 responses to “Criminalizing Poverty?”

  1. Kazmarae Tyson says:

    What a tragedy to happen to a family and it is crazy that this picture is from this country in California. I come to struggle to decide if these conditions were criminal. However, I believe that the family could not help their situation and did not ask to be poor. They need help, not to be charged. Yes, those conditions are terrible and the children should not have been living there and they also were not enrolled into any public school. But there was no evidence of any abandonment or physical abuse so it does seem that the family is loving and just did not what to face what ended up becoming their nightmare anyway. They are only guilty of being poor like the friend from the article says. I do questioned those friendships though, like why did they not offer help if they were “friends” or did they truly not know the conditions of which the family was living through.

  2. Heejung Moon says:

    It is definitely shocking that the picture was taken in U.S, and it is upsetting to hear that parents of three children got arrested for child abuse. I am not trying to say that the environment in the picture is okay for children to live in, but I do think that parents should not be considered as criminals. According to the article the children did not have any obvious injuries nor showed sign or malnutrition. Even the neighbors said children of this family were always polite, well-dressed, clean and looked happy. Their only problem was poverty. They were homeless. Maybe they did not know where to get help. Poverty should not considered as crime. It is something that should be helped with. Also, in my opinion, parents might have been scared of asking for help from the officials because they knew about the possibility of their children being taken away from them for many reasons. The family need help, not a blame.

  3. Trish Sorenson says:

    I do not see this as criminal behavior at all, from what the article states. These parents are doing their best with very little means. Being poor is not a crime, so why would they be arrested for child abuse. The children were fed, “sheltered,” and not physically harmed. It was either the parents give up their children because they were poor or make do with what they had. I do not think it would be right that the parents would be forced to give up their children just because they were poor. Poverty is a huge issue that effects many families. 1 in 5 children are living below the poverty line in the United States. It is a problem that needs more attention and policy change.

  4. Zachary Jahnke says:

    I feel so bad for the parents getting charged with child abuse since they never hurt theirs kids in any way. There are so many scenarios that could have happens of why this family is living in these terrible conditions. Such as going bankrupt and losing both of their jobs and this is the only way they can live. I’m sure that these parents are trying the best they can to support these children. Poverty is definitely a big issue in the United States but no parents should be charged with child abuse just for living in poverty. I hope the charges are dropped and wish the best for the parents to be reunited with their children.

  5. Hali Nichols says:

    I don’t think is should be criminal child abuse. These parents were providing for their children in the best ways they could. They were not neglecting the children, they were not malnourished and there does not seem to be any signs of physical abuse. The parents should not be charged with child abuse for being poor. Arresting them is just going to make matters worse. Living in poverty is not a criminal act. The family needs help, not legal fees that will worsen their situation and having their children taken away. I do wonder why the family friends didn’t step in to help the family find resources or do anything about the children not being enrolled in school.

  6. Rachel Ellis says:

    I do not think this should be seen as child abuse. For one the cost of living in California is very expensive. If the children did not have any bruises or seem to be starving law enforcement should be trying to help the family instead taking the children away. I think by the police arresting them and giving them a bail amount that they cannot pay is not going to help the situation it will just make matters worse. The children has some form of shelter and was fed so maybe helping the family with resources would have been better.

  7. Jonathan MacMartin says:

    I do not believe these parents should be charged with child abuse. These children did not to appear to be physically abused, malnourished, or emotionally neglected. This leaves law enforcement agencies with only a few options when charging these parents with child abuse. From what I can gather in the article it appears that the law enforcement officials are going to claim child abuse due to educational neglect. Compulsory education is the law in every state and not sending your child to school comes with consequences. Whether the parents could afford to send their children to school should be considered in such cases. These parents most likely cannot afford to drive their children to school or pay for any of the associated expenses of enrolling them in classes. If this is a money problem, then they need to be helped, not punished. They need some form of assistance that can enable their children to get an education. Slapping a parent with a huge fine for their child’s truancies does not help anyone. If they already couldn’t afford to send their kids to school then fining them will just worsen their situation. These parents may even serve time and have their children taken away because of these charges. Those kids will then be forced into the system where they will deal with a whole new set of problems related to being in foster care or being adopted. If parents need help sending their children to school we should be providing them with this help. We shouldn’t lock them up simply because they are too poor to send their kids to school.

  8. Kaleigh Cleaveland says:

    Knowing that people live in these conditions due to extreme poverty is kind of hard to swallow. In a country such as the USA, it is sad to know that people have to endure such living conditions. Due to claim of being extremely impoverished and as long as the children were not malnourished or abused, I don’t believe this is criminal, at least to the extent of placing the parents on $300,000 bond. With the foster care system initiated for the children, it is plausible to consider aiding the parents in job skills and finding them help in that sense in order to get out of these conditions, over claiming this as criminal. While I see this as the case, it is partly due to the children’s ages; if it was a newborn child or young children in general, conditions may be perceived as more severe.

  9. Gina Gorman says:

    Fear of having their family separated if they ask for help is a common fear that homeless people do unfortunately have and the fact that these parents are sitting in jail right now is precisely why they have this fear. Their friends said that they only thing they are guilty of is being poor but being poor isn’t a crime. They also said that the children were happy, healthy, and clean and according to this article they were not malnourished or abused, therefore, I don’t understand why they can be charged with felony child abuse. Even there were signs of neglect, there is only exception when it comes to neglect and that is poverty. All I have to say is shame on the family and friends of this family for not encouraging and/or advocating for them to seek/get assistance with food, housing, education, healthcare, etc. How they went unnoticed by authorities for four years is beyond me.

  10. Gracie Blechl says:

    This is striking. Speaking from experience, growing up poor is a very real struggle that most people overlook. The best thing for me was having my family by my side and knowing that I’m not alone. Extreme poverty stricken families would most likely agree that you need someone to lean on when you’re literally dirt poor. If the children didn’t show signs of being malnourished and they weren’t being abused, arresting the parents is not the right decision. Even though this isn’t directly the local authorities “problem” per say, there should’ve been a desire to investigate into this families situation more and try to help them get into a shelter or another program to help the family as a whole and keep them all together. I feel as though the authorities didn’t have the time or didn’t want to waste their time so they put the 2 parents in jail because it was easier. Now the kids are in foster care and the parents are in jail with still money which is hard to hear.

  11. Maddie Vavrik says:

    No one wants to see anyone living in those kind of conditions and it is unfortunate it is that way for this family. Yes, the children may not be living in the best place, but from what the article said they seemed healthy, were not abused, and generally well taken care of by their parents considering how they are living. I do not think this is criminal behavior, there really isn’t much else that they can do when they have no money and by arresting them, sending them to jail, placing them on a high bond, is just wrong for all the money they don’t have. I feel like I have seen a lot of police officers find homeless people and try to help them out, whether that’s bringing them food, water, blankets, pillows, even clothes. The officer should have referred them to some sort of homeless shelter or at least gave an effort to help this family because it is something out of their control.

  12. Cherish Haynes says:

    Wow. This was a great article to read. I believe that they are not criminals, they were trying to do everything in their power to protect their children from being taken away. I agree this is not the correct living environment to be living in but sometimes a person has to do what they feel is best. I do believe that they should of seemed some type of W2 or assistance from the government when they immediately lost their home. Then they wouldn’t be in this situation that they are in now. I do believe that if they were to get release from jail and received some assistance from the government and had assistance with getting a home they would be excellent parents. If friends or family saying the children are clean, smart and well mannered then the parents must be doing something correctly. There is a million parents out here abusing their children, not feeding them and living in crack houses but you don’t see authorities reaching out to capture them. I don’t think they should be charged as being criminals, they are homeless and they need help. They were afraid to reach out because of this exact reasoning, the officer should of been trying to help them instead of placing them in jail.

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