SCSJ Statements on Supreme Court OK’ing Punishment for Sleeping While Unhoused

Justice System Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 28, 2024) — In a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled penalizing unhoused people for sleeping outside when there is no available shelter does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment. 

Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s Justice System Reform team released the following statements about the opinion in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson:  

“Today’s opinion leaves the most vulnerable in our society with an impossible choice: stay awake or face arrest,” said Ian Courts, SCSJ’s Counsel for Justice System Reform. “For those with nowhere else to go, this is a cruel and unusual punishment — another coercive tool for those who want to look away from poverty instead of being their neighbor’s keeper.”  

“While the Court’s majority opinion is distressing, it is also not a call for further criminalization of the poor and unhoused,” said Jake Sussman, SCSJ’s Chief Counsel for Justice System Reform. “Our local and state governments can and must ensure that this misguided opinion does not do more harm than it threatens to do. It is wholly within the power of city councils, county commissions, and state legislatures to turn away from using the criminal legal system as a ‘tool’ in the policy toolbox to address these pressing issues.” 

SCSJ will continue to work to protect and defend the most vulnerable populations across the South to stop the criminalization of poverty. 


Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.