Skip to Main Content

Do Laws Banning Homeless Encampments Constitute “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”?

67.2% yes
32.8% no

The number of homeless people in the United States has risen in recent years. Some communities have faced increased crime and drug use in public areas with large homeless populations. Local governments have attempted to address these issues by passing laws that ban sleeping and camping on public property, with fines and even potentially jail time for repeat offenders. Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case after a lawsuit was filed in Oregon, alleging that one such local law there violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 

Those who argue that laws banning homeless encampments constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” claim that they outlaw something that people have no control over. They argue that homeless people tend not to have anywhere other than public areas to sleep in, and that it therefore is a violation of their constitutional rights to fine and jail them. They also argue that these types of laws will do nothing to fix the issue of homelessness.  

Those who argue that laws banning homeless encampments do not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” claim that they are a valid exercise of government power to address a concern in a community. They argue that homeless encampments pose health and crime dangers for both the homeless as well as people living nearby, and that the Eighth Amendment was not designed to protect a right to sleep in public. They argue that housing is available for homeless people in many communities, and that laws like these will press them to utilize the resources that non-profits and the government have to offer, rather than just continuing to be homeless. 

So, what do you think? Do Laws Banning Homeless Encampments Constitute “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”? Students can answer Yes, they do; No, they do not; or a nuanced answer in-between! Be sure to submit your answers by May 9th to be considered for this week’s competition. 


Note: Ideal Think the Vote responses include the following:      

  • Address the question asked in a thoughtful and meaningful manner     
  • Use cited facts and constitutional arguments when appropriate to support their answers      
  • Are expressed in cohesive sentences and are free of distracting spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors      
  • They address counterarguments and opposing concerns in a respectful manner      
  • They organize their answer in a manner that flows logically and reads clearly   


For this question, BRI will be giving away two $25 gift cards, one to each person providing the best defense of each side of the debate. Both students will also win BRI swag. Each student winner will also be entered for a chance to win a grand prize of a $1,000 cash scholarship. Additionally, the referring teachers for both students will each win a $25 gift card and BRI swag. 

This question will run from 4/25/24 to 5/9/24, so be sure to submit your answers in time to be considered for our prizes! 

(For rules/regulations click HERE) 


Reading materials

Recent debates