The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a September 2018 ruling that cities cannot prosecute people for sleeping on the street if they are homeless. Doing so is defined as “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is illegal under the U.S. Constitution.
The original ruling, which came from the 9th Circuit, stems from a lawsuit filed by six homeless people living in Boise, Idaho. The group sued over a local law that allowed police to ticket individuals for sleeping or camping on sidewalks and in parks.
In its ruling, the 9th panel was careful to specify that it was not asking Boise to construct shelters for its 5,000 homeless or unilaterally allow sleeping in all public areas at all times. Rather, the 9th ruled it improper to throw people in jail for sleeping in public areas based on the false premise that they had other options.
“Just as the state may not criminalize the state of being homeless in public spaces, the state may not criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless – namely sitting, lying, or sleeping on the streets,” wrote Judge Marsha Berzon.
Author’s Note: Unfortunately there will always be people who fail and lose their homes, but being poor is not a crime.
Editor’s Note: We have written about this before. As much as I am in favor of people earning their keep, this is not always possible. Calling it a crime is stupid and cruel.