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At the root of vagrancy laws is the term vagrant, or vagabond. A vagrant or vagabond is any person who can work but is unemployed, homeless, or poor; who begs for handouts; and who has no real reason for hanging around in an area.

The first law regulating vagrancy was recorded in 1349 in the United Kingdom. This law was designed to build a much-needed workforce following the Black Death plague. If an individual was capable of laboring but was found to be unemployed, idle, and just existing in life, this act would be considered a crime that would allow the authorities to take the person into custody and ultimately place him or her in a labor work camp.

Vagrancy laws in the United States were created ...

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