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When “Compassion” is Contempt

Washington State legislators might soon legalize homeless encampments on streets, sidewalks, and parks. Originally published at City Journal

The Washington legislature is one step closer to legalizing homeless encampments statewide. Last week, Democratic lawmakers passed through committee legislation, introduced by Representative Mia Gregerson, that would usurp the authority of city governments and legalize camping in all “plazas, courtyards, parking lots, sidewalks, public transportation facilities, public buildings, shopping centers, parks, [and] natural and wildlife areas” throughout the state.

If passed, the bill, inspired in part by the work of Seattle University professor Sara Rankin, who claims to “advance the civil, constitutional, and human rights of visibly poor people” through “the repeal of laws that criminalize homelessness and poverty,” would represent the most significant extension of “survival crime” theory into American law. Survival-crime theory has been percolating through academic journals since the late 1980s. In a widely circulated paper, Rankin argues that the “intersectionality of poverty and homelessness” forces marginalized individuals to commit crimes to ensure their basic survival; therefore, state and local governments should abolish prohibitions against public camping, drug consumption, and low-level property crime.

Continue Reading at City Journal

Christopher Rufo

Former Director, Center on Wealth & Poverty
Christopher Rufo is former director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He has directed four documentaries for PBS, Netflix, and international television, including his latest film, America Lost, that tells the story of three "forgotten American cities.” Christopher is currently a contributing editor of City Journal, where he covers poverty, homelessness, addiction, crime, and other afflictions. Christopher is a magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow, and has appeared on NPR, CNN, ABC, CBS, HLN, and FOX News.