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Cheating WelfarePublic Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty$
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Kaaryn S. Gustafson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814732311

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814732311.001.0001

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The Criminalization of Poverty

The Criminalization of Poverty

(p.51) 3 The Criminalization of Poverty
Cheating Welfare

Kaaryn S. Gustafson

NYU Press

This chapter examines the increasing criminalization of the welfare system and welfare recipients. In particular, it considers the growing overlap between the welfare system and the criminal justice system and how welfare recipients get entangled in law's expansive punitive power. It first discusses the welfare system as a tool of law enforcement, citing the fugitive felon prohibitions, Operation Talon, and the drug felony lifetime ban as examples. It then explains how numerous sections of the federal welfare reform legislation of 1996, along with many of the laws and policies implemented by the states, embrace both the goals and the methods of the criminal justice system. It also explores programs that have been implemented to prevent welfare cheating and to police the poor more generally, along with welfare policies in California and welfare fraud investigations carried out in the state. The chapter concludes with an overview of nationwide trends in the criminalization of poverty and especially welfare cheating.

Keywords:   poverty, welfare system, welfare recipients, criminal justice system, law enforcement, welfare reform, welfare cheating, welfare policies, California, welfare fraud

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