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Criminality and Homeless Men: An Empirical Assessment

NCJ Number
Social Problems Volume: 36 Issue: 5 Dated: (December 1989) Pages: 532-549
D A Snow; S G Baker; L Anderson
Date Published
18 pages
This paper examines the relationship between criminality and homelessness by tracking a random sample of homeless males through the police department records of a large Southwestern city over a 27-month period.
When compared with data on criminality in the general population of males within the city over the same period, these data show that while the homeless have a higher overall arrest rate, the majority of offenses for which they are arrested are for public intoxication, followed by theft/shoplifting, violation of city ordinances, and burglary. The findings also suggest that criminality among homeless men varies with time on the streets and contact with the mental health system. Drawing on ethnographic data, these findings are explained in part in terms of criminalization, stigmatization, and adaptational processes. The findings challenge the depiction of homeless men as serious predatory criminals, and suggest a number of theoretical and policy implications. 7 tables, 55 references. (Author abstract)


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