Carli Ross


Thousands of people across the country suffer from homelessness. Instead of funding more shelters or dealing with the lack of subsidized housing, cities have chosen to rely on the criminal justice system to regulate homeless behavior. Homeless individuals are being punished with fines and potential jail time for sleeping, sitting, gathering, and camping in public. Not only does this practice contribute to the homelessness crisis in the United States, but it also creates an additional obstacle for homeless individuals. Additionally, relying on the criminal justice system is more costly than helping homeless individuals find a permanent shelter. The Ninth Circuit recently decided that ordinances prohibiting sleeping or camping in public when there is no other shelter option is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. On its face, this decision looks beneficial to those who were once punished for sleeping in public. However, in reality, the effects are not as beneficial as one may think. The Ninth Circuit did not repeal the ordinances altogether. By specifying that these ordinances were only unconstitutional when there are no other shelter options, the Ninth Circuit still condoned their enforcement. Extremely narrow rulings, like the one above, do not stop cities from relying on the criminal justice system when it comes to regulating homeless behavior. Continued enforcement of such ordinances, no matter what the restrictions, punishes people for conducting life-sustaining behaviors. This practice is unconstitutional, as it violates the rights granted under the Eighth Amendment.