Should You Punish the Poor?

The Washington Post recently had an interesting story about an opinion of the Supreme Court of Italy.  It begins:

Who can blame a homeless man for stealing a small amount of food from a grocery store? Certainly not Italy’s Supreme Court.

Five years ago, Ukrainian national Roman Ostriakov was homeless in Genoa when he was caught stealing cheese and sausage worth less than $5, the Telegraph reports. He was fined $115 and sentenced to six months in jail in 2015, a sentence that he appealed. On Monday, the Italian Supreme Court ruled in his favor.

“The condition of the accused and the circumstances in which he obtained the merchandise show that he had taken the little amount of food he needed to overcome his immediate and essential requirement for nourishment,” it ruled. “People should not be punished if, forced by need, they steal small quantities of food in order to meet the basic requirement of feeding themselves.”

The Italian newspaper La Stampa praised the verdict in a front-page editorial.

“The court’s decision reminds us all that in a civilised country no one should be allowed to die of hunger,” it read.

Corriere Della Sera noted in an opinion piece that statistics show the ranks of Italy’s poor grow by 615 people daily and that it was “unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality,” the BBC reports. The piece also took issue with how long the judicial system took to arrive at its final decision.


The full story is available here.

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