WHAT WOULD YOU DO? The Criminal Justice System
After taking in some of our course content, especially during these last two weeks, I hope that you have a grasp of one of the ways that you can slide into the criminal justice system without trying. For instance, these two examples are just a couple.
In San Diego, police arrested a pregnant Alexis Leftridge as she slept in her tent and jailed her for several days. Leftridge became homeless after losing her nursing job in 2014 — without money for rent, she was evicted. To get out of jail, she agreed to an order to stay away from the area, but now she has so many stay away orders, she is unsure where she can go. She has a baby now, so she has a shelter bed (priority because of infant), but the shelter is within her stay away order so even a walk outside may bring an arrest.
In Houston, Texas, Spencer Stevens became homeless in 2015 after losing his job as a forklift operator. He has congestive heart failure, which prevents him from taking another manual labor job. Living under the highway median, he cooks meals on his griddle. He may be arrested for living under the bridge and for cooking. Houston has made it illegal to block a sidewalk, stand on a roadway median, sleep on public property or in a makeshift shelter, or have a heating device in public.
Even in paradise …most evenings, Aguirre Dick rides his bike about three miles from the streets of Waikiki in Honolulu to the slopes of a volcano, where he sleeps. If he doesn’t make that trek, he could be arrested. A 2014 law made it illegal to sit or lie down on the public sidewalks in Waikiki. Those without homes, like Aguirre, live in constant fear of being pushed into the criminal justice system simply because they are too poor to own or rent lodging.
Is the problem too big? What to do? Should the criminal justice system refuse to be a part of this? How would that happen?
Don’t think in bad weather places, we don’t have homeless who will commit petty crime to come in out of the cold for a few days.
Is this who we are? But is there a way out?
First, think about the situation from a different perspective. If you were homeless, what would you do all day? Where would you shower? Brush your teeth?
About the homeless people you have read about here: What questions would you like to ask? Do you think homelessness will ever disappear in the U.S.? Why or why not?
Next, give me some program that you could start in the fictional community of Knod to improve the lives of some of those who are homeless, whether with shelter or just making life on the street more bearable. Tell me your program idea; how it helps specifically; how will you roll it out; how will you attract folks; how it saves money or at least doesn’t cost a lot (you can say it reduces some other expense, or take it from another line item in the Knod budget); keep in mind the problems of many homeless – addiction, mental health crisis, etc.
2 page, double-spaced, 12-pica, one-inch margins.
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