This book examines the history, social construction, and lived experience of welfare in the United States and how welfare use has resulted in the criminalization of poverty. Today's welfare system treats those who use public benefits, or who even apply for benefits, as latent criminals. Changes in public attitudes and government practices have led to the so-called criminalization of poverty. Hence, many welfare policies are primarily intended to deter welfare use, to guard against misuse, and to punish welfare cheating. Despite this criminalization of the welfare system, poor families continue breaking the rules of welfare receipt and continue hiding information from welfare officials. This book analyzes the welfare system from two vantage points: from the policy level and from the perspective of those who use public benefits. It explores the construction of welfare fraud and the ways that welfare recipients cheat the welfare system as well as the ways that the existing system is at odds with the welfare of families as well as the welfare of society.
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