Why the ACLU Is Defending Boulder's Homeless

June 29 2010, 10:19 AM
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado intends to appeal what is a fairly routine case in Boulder. David Madison, who is homeless, was cited for sleeping on public property in a sleeping bag (via The Associated Press). "If our client had just slept in his clothes, he might have gotten hypothermia, but he would not have been found guilty," says Mark Walta, the attorney on the case, which goes to the heart of the city's homeless problem. Boulder bans camping in public spaces, but the homeless shelter houses just 160 people, less than a quarter of the estimated homeless population. The Daily Camera points out Madison had been turned away from a packed shelter in November before receiving his ticket. Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado, says the appeal is based in part on the view that Boulder's ordinance, which carries a $100 fine, violates the U.S. Constitution: "Some courts around the country have issued rulings that it's cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to enforce no-sleeping and no-camping ordinances against the homeless people when the shelters are full and the homeless people have no choice but to violate the law."