U.S. Supreme Court Says Unhoused People Sleeping Outside Can Be Fined

(TheConservativeTimes.org) – The United States Supreme Court has ruled that cities in the West are able to criminalize homeless people who are sleeping outside even if they lack shelter.

Grants Pass, Oregon is a city that has, for years, prohibited sleeping and camping in public parks and streets. It also banned people from using a blanket, pillow, or cardboard box for protection from the elements.” The policies call for almost three hundred dollars in fines and criminal charges of up to thirty days in jail after multiple offenses.

The court ruled that this was not “cruel and unusual punishment” as stated by the eighth amendment to ban unhoused people from camping outside if they have nowhere else to go. This could be the start of more jurisdictions passing similar laws to ticket, fine, or jail those who are sleeping outdoors.

“Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So maybe the public policy responses are required to address it.” Justice Neil Gorsuch said. “A handful of federal judges cannot begin to ‘match’ the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding ‘how best to handle’ a pressing social question like homelessness.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued saying, “Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime. For some people, sleeping outside is their only option. Punishing people for their status is ‘cruel and unusual’.”

The case started with Debra Blake, a woman who was convicted of illegal camping in Oregon. Rents rose and there was only overnight shelter for adults in the area. The case ruled that Grant Pass couldn’t enforce a camping ban if it didn’t provide any shelter. This continued to be a law for many states including Alaska, Arizona, California, and many others. This was followed by the Oregon town bringing it to the Supreme Court, which reversed this law.

The National Homelessness Law Center said the decision was “profoundly disappointing.” “Arresting or fining people for trying to survive is expensive, counterproductive and cruel,” it said.

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