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Wealth & Poverty Review Crimes of Survival

A new trend in criminal-justice reform rationalizes stealing. Originally published at City Journal

The latest fad in criminal-justice activism is the concept of “survival crime.” 

The theory holds that the homeless, the poor, and people of color commit property crimes and low-level infractions in order to secure their basic survival. Any enforcement of these laws is thus a violation of their basic human rights and should be relaxed—that is, local governments should stop enforcing any laws that “criminalize homelessness” and “criminalize poverty.”

Survival crime theory is the flipside of Broken Windows theory. They deal with the same class of offenses—mainly property crime, drug possession, and public nuisances—in precisely the opposite way. Broken Windows theory argues that everyone is responsible for their own behavior and that, if we permit low-level crimes, it will lead to a general breakdown in law and order. Survival-crime theory, by contrast, argues that local governments should decriminalize these offenses because vulnerable individuals have been compelled by social conditions to commit them.

Continue Reading at City Journal

Christopher Rufo

Former Director, Center on Wealth & Poverty
Christopher Rufo is former director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He has directed four documentaries for PBS, Netflix, and international television, including his latest film, America Lost, that tells the story of three "forgotten American cities.” Christopher is currently a contributing editor of City Journal, where he covers poverty, homelessness, addiction, crime, and other afflictions. Christopher is a magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow, and has appeared on NPR, CNN, ABC, CBS, HLN, and FOX News.