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Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Poverty and Delinquency

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 15, 2011


Tamar Birckhead recently posted her article, “Delinquent by Reason of Poverty” (forthcoming Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 38, 2012) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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This Article, written for the 12th Annual Access to Equal Justice Colloquium, explores the disproportionate representation of low-income children in the United States juvenile justice system. It examines the structural and institutional causes of this development, beginning with the most common points of entry into delinquency court — the child welfare system, public schools, retail stores, and neighborhood police presence. It introduces the concept of needs-based delinquency, a theory that challenges basic presuppositions about the method by which children are adjudicated delinquent. It argues that at each stage of the process — from intake through adjudication to disposition and probation — the court gives as much or more weight to the perceived “needs” of the child and her family than to the quality of the evidence against her or the ability of the state to prove its case. Typical features of the juvenile code, including the procedures for intake and diversion and the use of bench rather than jury trials, combine to shift the system’s emphasis from an evaluation of a child’s criminal responsibility to an assessment of a family’s social service needs. The standard of proof, therefore, is determined in large part by the socioeconomic class of the accused rather than the nature of the forum, an orientation that lowers the state’s burden for indigent juveniles while heightening it for affluent youth. The result is that in all but the most serious of cases, children from low-income homes do not have to be as “guilty” as those from families of means in order to enter and remain in the system, thereby widening the net of court intervention for poor children.

The Article establishes that the juvenile court’s traditional focus on the needs of destitute youth continues to be reflected in the system’s practices and procedures, despite the modern court’s shift in dispositional philosophy from rehabilitation to youth accountability and public safety. It argues that this emphasis on families’ needs when adjudicating delinquency has a disproportionate effect on low-income children, resulting in high rates of recidivism and perpetuating negative stereotypes based on class. It offers strategies for confronting and reversing this trend, including data collection that records the income-level of juveniles’ parents; initiatives that raise awareness of needs-based delinquency among police, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and agency personnel; diversion programs that reduce the high rate of juvenile court adjudications for minor offenses; cross-agency mental health treatment plans for children and adolescents; and the adoption of international juvenile justice models that are preventative and diversionary rather than penal and punitive. The Article challenges the view that in tight budgetary times, court involvement is the only way for poor children to access services. It concludes by calling for lawmakers and system players to end the practice of needs-based delinquency, with the goal of increasing fairness for all youth in the juvenile justice system.

Download the article for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Law | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situational Consequences of Poverty on Brains

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 9, 2010

Anne McIlroy wrote a piece for the Toronto Globe and Mail describing research by Dr. James Swain, who is using brain imaging techniques to study the effects of poverty on the brain.  Here are some excerpts.

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Over the past four decades, researchers have established how poverty shapes lives, that low socioeconomic status is associated with poor academic performance, poor mental and physical health and other negative outcomes. Swain is part of a new generation of neuroscientists investigating how poverty shapes the brain.

The University of Michigan researcher will use imaging technologies to compare the structure and function of brains of young adults from families with low socioeconomic status to those who are middle-class.

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He and other neuroscientists are building on preliminary evidence that suggests the chronic stress of living in an impoverished household, among other factors, can have an impact on the developing brain.

Studies suggest low socioeconomic status may affect several areas of the brain, including the circuitry involved in language, memory and in executive functions, a set of skills that help us focus on a problem and solve it.

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At Michigan, Swain will be looking at many different parts of the brain and the connections between regions.

His volunteers are 52 young adults that one of his colleagues, Gary Evans at Cornell University, has been tracking since they were in their mothers’ wombs. Half of them grew up in poverty, the other half in working or middle-class homes.

As early as next month, Swain will begin two days of brain imaging and tests for each volunteer. He will assess language skills and memory and study how their brains react to pictures of scary faces, and whether that reaction changes when they are stressed. (He’ll stress them by asking them to do mental arithmetic in front of strangers.)

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You can read the entire article here.   For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Inequality and the Unequal Situation of Mental and Physical Health,” The Interior Situation of Intergenerational Poverty,” Rich Brains, Poor Brains?,” Jeffrey Sachs on the Situation of Global Poverty,” “The Situation of Financial Risk-Taking,” “The Situation of Standardized Test Scores,”The Toll of Discrimination on Black Women,” The Physical Pains of Discrimination,” The Depressing Effects of Racial Discrimination,” and The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions.”

Posted in Distribution, Education, Environment, Neuroscience | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Legal Situation of the Underclass

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 19, 2009

A StoryDavid Ray Papke, has posted his recent paper, “Law, Legal Institutions, and the Criminalization of the Underclass” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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The contemporary underclass is defined not by race but rather by its weak or nonexistent ties to the labor market. Members of the underclass are more likely to be labeled as criminals than are any other members of society. The process is not a tightly coordinated conspiracy, but in various ways police, prosecutors, and jailers routinely deem members of the underclass to be nefarious lawbreakers. While in many cases underclass men and women have committed acts that justify this perception, the criminal justice system as a whole is too eager and too hasty to attach the criminal label to members of the underclass. What’s more, law and legal institutions contribute to an even broader process of criminalization, one which assumes the entire underclass is criminal. This criminalization of the underclass dooms members of the underclass to be outsiders in American life and becomes a central and powerful premise in the general framework of sociopolitical thought.

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To download the paper for free, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “A Situationist View of Criminal Prosecutors,” “Jennifer Eberhardt’s “Policing Racial Bias” – Video,”The Situation of Criminality – Abstract,” “Clarence Darrow on the Situation of Crime and Criminals,” “The Racial Situation of Criminal Juries and the Consequences,” “The Situation of “Justice” in Tulia Texas,” Jena 6 – Part I,” and “Jena 6 – Part II.”

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Law, Public Policy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Interior Situation of Intergenerational Poverty

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 5, 2009

Poverty Generations Stress - from Shavar's photostream, Flickr From The Economist, here are some excerpts of a summary of research exploring the interior situation of how poverty is passed from one generation to the next.

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That the children of the poor underachieve in later life, and thus remain poor themselves, is one of the enduring problems of society. . . . But nobody has truly understood what causes it. Until, perhaps, now.

The crucial breakthrough was made three years ago, when Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania showed that the working memories of children who have been raised in poverty have smaller capacities than those of middle-class children. Working memory is the ability to hold bits of information in the brain for current use—the digits of a phone number, for example. It is crucial for comprehending languages, for reading and for solving problems. Entry into the working memory is also a prerequisite for something to be learnt permanently as part of declarative memory—the stuff a person knows explicitly, like the dates of famous battles, rather than what he knows implicitly, like how to ride a bicycle.

Since Dr Farah’s discovery, Gary Evans and Michelle Schamberg of Cornell University have studied the phenomenon in more detail. As they report in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they have found that the reduced capacity of the memories of the poor is almost certainly the result of stress affecting the way that childish brains develop.

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For all six [measures of stress], a higher value indicates a more stressful life; and for all six, the values were higher, on average, in poor children than in those who were middle class. Moreover, because Dr Evans’s wider study had followed the participants from birth, the two researchers were able to estimate what proportion of each child’s life had been spent in poverty. . . .

The capacity of a 17-year-old’s working memory was also correlated with [stress levels]. Those who had spent their whole lives in poverty could hold an average of 8.5 items in their memory at any time. Those brought up in a middle-class family could manage 9.4, and those whose economic and social experiences had been mixed were in the middle.

. . . Dr Evans and Dr Schamberg . . . were able [statistically] . . . to remove the effect of [stress levels] on the relationship between poverty and memory discovered originally by Dr Farah. When they did so, that relationship disappeared. In other words, the diminution of memory in the poorer members of their study was entirely explained by stress, rather than by any more general aspect of poverty.

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That stress, and stress alone, is responsible for damaging the working memories of poor children thus looks like a strong hypothesis. It is also backed up by work done on both people and laboratory animals, which shows that stress changes the activity of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another in the brain. . . .

Children with stressed lives, then, find it harder to learn. Put pejoratively, they are stupider. It is not surprising that they do less well at school, end up poor as adults and often visit the same circumstances on their own children.

. . . . The main reason poor people are stressed is that they are at the bottom of the social heap as well as the financial one.

Sir Michael Marmot, of University College London, and his intellectual successors have shown repeatedly that people at the bottom of social hierarchies experience much more stress in their daily lives than those at the top—and suffer the consequences in their health. Even quite young children are socially sensitive beings and aware of such things.

So, it may not be necessary to look any further than their place in the pecking order to explain what Dr Evans and Dr Schamberg have discovered in their research into the children of the poor. . . .

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To read the entire article, click here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Rich Brains, Poor Brains?,” Jeffrey Sachs on the Situation of Global Poverty,” “The Situation of Financial Risk-Taking,” “The Situation of Standardized Test Scores,” and “Infant Death Rates in Mississippi.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Distribution, Education, Emotions, Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jeffrey Sachs on the Situation of Global Poverty

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 24, 2009

j-sachsLast September, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, an economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, spoke to a packed hall at Harvard Law School in an address entitled “Representing the Voiceless: The Poor, The Excluded, and the Future.”   We cited an article summarizing his remarkable presentation and also posted an unofficial transcript of it (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V).

Today we excerpt portions of his op-ed on CNN.com concerning the upcoming G-20 Summit and how he believes the issue of global poverty should be addressed.

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The G-20 meeting in London, England, on April 2 will be watched by the entire world with urgency and with a yearning for hope, vision and programmatic clarity.

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The world’s 3 billion poor, especially the 1 billion poorest of the poor, are suffering powerful and destabilizing blows from the crisis, and these will get worse and threaten global security unless there is specific attention and action.

The G-20 cannot limit its focus to regulating the financial sector, reforming the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, avoiding protectionism and reciting the measures that individual countries are taking. This would leave the world gasping for direction and hope.

The G-20 must offer a vision that is big enough to quell global fears and action bold enough to protect the desperately poor while guiding the cooperative decision-making of the world’s economic authorities.

The G-20 must push forward based on real policy coordination. The world does not have a system of effective cooperation. The United States, for example, does not engage in comprehensive and deep coordination with other countries. The poor countries, with half the world’s population, and the poorest countries, with roughly one-fifth of the world’s population, have not been brought into the equation.

The G-20 package for stimulus should include:

First, fulfillment by all countries of stimulus measures already announced and a commitment to undertake new joint stimulus measures, especially priority public outlays on infrastructure, the social safety net and sustainable energy, as may be needed during the coming years.

Second, establishment of a high-level G-20 coordination group, backed especially by China, the European Union, Japan and the United States, to work full-time on coordinating monetary, fiscal and financial policies for stimulus and long-term recovery. Such cooperative macroeconomic programming does not now exist.

Third, increased currency support extended from the world’s five major central banks (the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the People’s Bank of China) for emerging market economies facing the loss of loans from international banks (e.g. Eastern Europe). The Fed’s currency swap lines to Brazil, Mexico, Korea and Singapore last fall played an important stabilizing role. The other central banks can and should do more, as can the Fed vis-à-vis other countries.

Fourth, a G-20 commitment to gradual and orderly currency readjustments to help rebalance the world’s financial and trade flows. The Asian currencies should gradually appreciate against the euro, which in turn should appreciate gradually against the dollar. Squabbling about bilateral rates between the dollar and Chinese renmenbi should be put to rest.

G-20 actions for the poor should include:

First, establishment of an urgent special food security program, which would make grants to low-income, food-deficit countries (including Africa, Haiti, Afghanistan and elsewhere) to ensure that impoverished farmers can get the basic input they need (such as fertilizer and high-yield seeds) to grow more food.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero have joined to propose this new program and have mobilized backing from about a dozen countries.

The United States’ contribution should be at least $200 million per year over five years ($1 billion total), matching Spain, the largest donor country, and sending a powerful message of solidarity from the United States to the world. The hunger crisis is now afflicting 1 billion people and contributing to the deaths of millions of children each year.

Second, full funding of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is facing a critical and potentially devastating cash shortfall during 2009-11.

An incremental U.S. contribution of $350 million in 2009 would close the most urgent cash-flow gap and put the United States in the clear lead of protecting the Global Fund and championing the fight against the three pandemic diseases.

Third, special urgent long-term financing of clean energy investments in the poor countries, especially solar, geothermal, wind and hydro, as a direct stimulus to the supplier countries (including the United States), a development boost for the recipient countries (notably in Africa and Central Asia) and a major spur to climate control and success in negotiations this year.

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To read the rest of the piece, click here.

Posted in Law, Politics, Public Policy | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

 
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