Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Boise Bans Park Benches

Those are the breaks....

"Boise’s ban on sleeping outside is called unconstitutional by US" by Emily Badger Washington Post   August 14, 2015

We all need sleep, which is a fact of life but also a legally important point. Last week, the Department of Justice argued as much in a statement of interest it filed in a relatively obscure case in Boise, Idaho, that could impact how cities regulate and punish homelessness.

Boise, like many cities — the number of which has swelled since the recession — has an ordinance banning sleeping or camping in public places. But such laws, the Justice Department says, effectively criminalize homelessness itself in situations in which people simply have nowhere else to sleep. From the Justice Department’s filing:

‘‘When adequate shelter space exists, individuals have a choice about whether or not to sleep in public. However, when adequate shelter space does not exist, there is no meaningful distinction between the status of being homeless and the conduct of sleeping in public. Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity — i.e., it must occur at some time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.’’

Such laws, the Justice Department argues, violate the Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment, making them unconstitutional. By weighing in on this case, the Justice Department’s first foray in two decades into this still-unsettled area of law, the federal government is warning cities far beyond Boise.

This is, of course, a Justice Department that also said torture is legal.

‘‘It’s huge,’’ says Eric Tars, a senior attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, which originally filed the lawsuit against Boise, alongside Idaho Legal Aid Services.

According to a NLCHP report last year that surveyed 187 cities between 2011 and 2014, 34 percent had citywide laws banning camping in public. Another 43 percent prohibited sleeping in vehicles, and 53 percent banned sitting or lying down in certain public places. All of these laws criminalize the kind of activities — sitting, resting, sleeping — that are arguably fundamental to human existence.

And they’ve criminalized that behavior in an environment where most cities have far more homeless than shelter beds. In 2014, the federal government estimates, there were about 153,000 unsheltered homeless on the street in the United States on any given night.

‘‘Homelessness is just becoming more visible in communities, and when homelessness becomes more visible, there’s more pressure on community leaders to do something about it,’’ Tars says. ‘‘And rather than actually examining what’s the best thing to do about homelessness, the knee-jerk response — as with so many other things in society — is ‘we’ll address this social issue with the criminal justice system.’ ’’

The Drug War!!


Related: City Council bans panhandling from motorists

Yeah, they usually have an attitude, but at least they don't hate them like in South Carolina, although it is not much better in a places like Florida or Arizona.