Breaking Barriers: Concrete Tools for Working with People in Poverty

by Michael Roosevelt

“Poverty rose among all races and ethnic groups, but stood at higher levels for blacks and Hispanics. The number of Hispanics in poverty increased from 23.2 percent to 25.3 percent; for blacks it increased from 24.7 percent to 25.8 percent. The number of whites in poverty rose from 8.6 percent to 9.4 percent.” (National Public Radio, 2010)

The reality of the growing wealth gap and persistent poverty is both the personal story of Dr. Donna Beegle and the research she shared during her Annual Conference workshop in Breaking Barriers: Concrete Tools for Working with People in Poverty. Dr. Beegle knows what she is talking about, having grown up in poverty and completing her GED at age 26. Her having lived in and studied poverty makes her strategies for how the justice system can improve the way it works with people in poverty all the more compelling.

To improve communication between the justice system and poor people, she recommends that information coming from the court be provided orally and face-to-face to people living in poverty. Interpersonally, court professionals must demonstrate the belief that people in poverty have potential. Moreover, she encourages judges and court personnel to learn more about poverty (see link and read pages 2-8: PDF).

Although the speaker did not make the suggestion, it might be a good idea to include the topic of poverty at a future Annual Conference. What do you think?