The following statement can be attributed to Deborah Richardson, ACLU of Colorado Executive Director:

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ticketing or arresting people who are unhoused for sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go does not violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This decision imperils the lives, safety, and dignity of people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

“Addressing homelessness through tickets, arrests and incarceration is inhumane and ineffectual. As housing costs in Colorado continue to rise, state and local governments have a duty to explore, implement and steward solutions that address the root causes of homelessness. This includes expanding access to affordable housing, expanding tenant protections, and preventing evictions, among other policies.

“Make no mistake: this ruling is not the end of our efforts. We will remain steadfast in our advocacy for the rights of unhoused Colorado residents. We expect the Colorado courts to come to the correct conclusion under our state Constitution: jailing people for sleeping outside when they have no other choice is cruel and unusual punishment.”

Grants Pass v. Johnson concerned an Oregon town that passed ordinances barring people from sleeping outside in public using a blanket, pillow, or a cardboard sheet to lie on. In 2023, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that criminally punishing unhoused people violates the Eighth Amendment if there are no other public areas or appropriate shelters where those individuals can sleep.

The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU affiliates in 18 states submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Grants Pass v. Johnson, arguing that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments does not allow cities to issue fines or arrest people for sleeping outside in public when they have no access to adequate shelter.