Supreme Court says city’s homeless camping ban not ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment

Supreme Court says city’s homeless camping ban not ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment
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(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that an Oregon city’s ordinance to bar anyone without a permanent residency from sleeping outside does not amount to “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

The 6-3 opinion was authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch. The court’s three liberal justices dissented.

“Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it,” Gorsuch wrote. “At bottom, the question this case presents is whether the Eighth Amendment grants federal judges primary responsibility for assessing those causes and devising those responses. It does not.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, argued the ordinance punishes homeless people with nowhere else to go based on status.

“It is possible to acknowledge and balance the issues facing local governments, the humanity and dignity of homeless people, and our constitutional principles,” Sotomayor wrote. “Instead, the majority focuses almost exclusively on the needs of local governments and leaves the most vulnerable in our society with an impossible choice: Either stay awake or be arrested.”

“The Constitution provides a baseline of rights for all Americans rich and poor, housed and unhoused,” Sotomayor said.

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