Criminalizing Violates Human Rights

Page 27: Criminalizing homelessness violates basic human rights as well as treaties that our country has signed and ratified. In 2012, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed, in a major joint report, Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness. The agencies noted that, in addition to raising constitutional issues, criminalization of homelessness may “violate international human rights law, specifically the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” Since then, the USICH has repeatedly addressed criminalization as not only a domestic civil rights violation, but as a human rights violation.

Page 30: Criminalization measures waste limited state and local resources.70 Rather than addressing the causes of homelessness and helping people escape life on the streets, criminalization “creates a costly revolving door that circulates individuals experiencing homelessness from the street to the criminal justice system and back.”71 A growing body of research comparing the cost of homelessness to the cost of providing housing to homeless people consistently shows that housing, rather than jailing, homeless people is the much more successful and cost-effective option.

No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in US Cities (PDF), July 2014, The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP)

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