Via the LA Times:
Los Angeles’ policy of arresting homeless people for sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks as “an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter” violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and punishment, a federal appeals court ruled today.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, decided in favor of six homeless persons, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The suit challenged the city’s practice of arresting persons for violating a municipal ordinance, which states that “no person shall sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or public way.”
The appeals court ruled that the manner in which the city has enforced the ordinance has criminalized “the status of homelessness by making it a crime to be homeless,” and thereby violated the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
City officials had no immediate comment on the ruling, but it appeared that the decision could have significant ramifications for the city’s policy on the burgeoning problem of homelessness.
In her ruling, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw said that Los Angeles’ Skid Row has the highest concentration of homeless individuals in the United States. She said that about 11,000 to 12,000 homeless people live in Skid Row, a 50-block area, bounded by Third, Seventh, Main and Alameda Streets.
“Because there is substantial and undisputed evidence that the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles far exceeds the number of available shelter beds at all times, including on the night” the plaintiffs were arrested or cited, “Los Angeles has encroached upon” the plaintiffs’ 8th Amendment protections “by criminalizing the unavoidable act of sitting, lying or sleeping at night while being involuntarily homeless,” Wardlaw wrote.
Hat tip: AJ Strata
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