Missouri “Too Many Targets” Save The State’s Homeless From Jail

exterior view of Missouri Supreme Court Building
Mo-supreme-court photo by Americasroof is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Deed
Missouri Supreme Court building in Jefferson City, where advocates successfully petitioned for the rights of people who are homeless.

The rest of the world slowly adapts to the idea that homeless people are not all depraved junkies, but mostly people who can’t afford homes. Not in Missouri, however, which stubbornly pledges allegiance to the theory of drug-fueled crazies as ‘criminally responsible unhoused.’ That thinking continues to paint targets on the backs of the people who cannot afford housing.

Accordingly, Missouri recently passed a law that all drug-fueled crazies (a.k.a. unhoused) would be criminalized and jailed for their crimes if they dared to camp on state land.

But people who are unhoused in Missouri have been saved by the bell — in point of fact, by many, many bells. It turns out that a law targeting so many individuals is itself against Missouri law. Criminalization of single unhoused persons has been struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court because of the existence of too many other proposed unhoused ‘criminals’.

It would be nicest if the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a state perception that poverty can so easily be equated with mental illness. But even a reprieve for all the wrong reasons is better than some permanent legal status that so blatantly criminalizes poverty. And any legal change that reduces America’s shameful status as — per capita — the most incarcerated nation in the world1.

Read more at The Hill: Law against homelessness struck down in Missouri


  1. Here are current year statistics in an interactive map from the World Population Review: Incarceration Rate