In Maryland, state and local policies place financial burdens on those who can least afford it. It’s a system that causes unnecessary arrests, criminal charges and the imprisonment of poor people, according to a new Casey-funded study and report.

“Currently in Maryland, justice is only served to those who can pay for it,” according to The Criminalization of Poverty. Authored by the Baltimore-based nonprofit, Job Opportunities Task Force, the report calls for replacing “existing policies and practices that disproportionately criminalize the poor, especially people of color, with those that ensure equity, fairness and justice for all.”

The Criminalization of Poverty arrives three years after the uprising that grew from Freddie Gray’s death. In addition to documenting how residents in low-income communities are criminalized, the report also outlines the far-reaching consequences of having a criminal record and identifies four ways that low-income individuals — particularly people of color — run a greater risk of entering the criminal justice system.

These pathways are:

  • Racial profiling: the practice of targeting people for suspicion of crime based on their race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.
  • Civil asset forfeiture: actions where police seize assets and property if they suspect it has been involved in criminal activity — even if the owner is innocent.
  • Motor vehicle laws: policies that make the cost of owning and maintaining a car — as well as penalties for noncompliance — disproportionately high for low-income individuals.
  • Collection of child support and civil debts: a process that includes harsh enforcement measures — including incarceration — when noncustodial parents are unable to pay. Such measures can serve as barriers to employment and further the impoverishment and criminalization of poor parents.

Read the full article about the criminalization of poverty at The Annie E. Casey Foundation.