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Encyclopedia of Homelessness

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Encyclopedia of Homelessness

David Levinson

Pub. date: 2004 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412952569 | Print ISBN: 9780761927518 | Online ISBN: 9781412952569 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.

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Criminal Activity and Policing

Pamela J. Fischer

Society historically has associated criminal activity with homelessness. As early as the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, observers such as Jack London and Nels Anderson provided vivid accounts of the lawlessness of hoboes, tramps, and bums. The numerous arrests of chronically alcoholic men living on American skid rows made criminal activity a major characteristic of homelessness until the decriminalization of public drunkenness. As substantial numbers of apparently mentally ill people began to spread throughout U.S. cities during the late 1970s, researchers’ interest in criminal activity was displaced by investigations of deinstitutionalization as the primary cause of homelessness. During the past decade, researchers have become more interested in examining criminal activity among homeless populations as reports have emerged about substantial and possibly increasing proportions of jail inmates with histories of homelessness and mental illness. Criminalization of mental illness due to deinstitutionalization and criminalization of homelessness due to gentrification aroused interest ...

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