Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Dorothy Moses Schulz
The term vagrant has been used for centuries to describe any individual who is deemed undesirable and likely to engage in criminal behavior. The term has included vagabonds, beggars, tramps, hoboes, jugglers, gypsies, prostitutes, runaways, the unemployed, and any idle strangers unable to explain their presence in a particular place. The term carries the presumption that criminal conduct could be anticipated from such persons and that by identifying and controlling them, charity workers could prevent misuse of public welfare funds, and law enforcement authorities could prevent criminal behavior. Laws in Great Britain, from which laws in the United States developed, continue to refer to “vagrants,” but terminology has been more fluid in the United States. By the 1870s, vagrancy laws were often called “tramp acts” and were aimed at those who used the railroads to cross the country without paying for their rides. Between the 1940s and the 1970s, the ...