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As of Recently, Collective Punishment in the United States is Legal, According to a Court Ruling
A National Rent-To-Own vehicle went missing in Granite City, Illinois, just after 5 a.m. on June 9. After stopping the car, officers found a woman and her boyfriend inside. Them. Both were charged.
It was a typical crime in a St. Louis-area steel town.
In the following days, things became weird. Debi Brumit lived in Granite City with her long-time spouse, Andy Simpson, and two young grandkids. Themselves. Their landlord wanted to retain them. Debi and her landlord got a police letter days after her daughter took the vehicle. Debi and Andy were evicted despite the landlord’s wishes because they knew a criminal.
Not Debi. Andy neither. The baby. Baby neither. No van thieves.
Regardless. Nobody’s innocence mattered to the cops. Granite City said, “Go!”
Welcome to “crime-free housing’s” cartoonishly wicked universe. These benign-sounding laws are destructive. Under Granite Municipal’s rule, police ordered private landlords to remove whole families if a household member or guest committed a criminal in city bounds.
Debi’s daughter lived elsewhere. Debi checked her daughter into the hospital for substance addiction treatment that weekend. Granite City wasn’t picky about collective punishment.
In 2019, a family was evicted because one member kicked an officer during a church picnic. The city evicted another family after one member shoplifted at Walmart. A drunk driver initiated another case. Police even evicted a lady because her child’s father was arrested with drugs and regularly cared for him at her house.
Granite City issued almost 300 eviction orders between 2014 and 2019. Many evictions were predicated on offenses that didn’t happen in the properties.
Debi and Andy avoided foreclosure. My business, the Institute for Justice, got a temporary restraining order against Granite City. In the months that followed, the city changed its most absurd laws.
Police pressured private landlords to remove whole families if a family member or guest committed a crime in city limits.
Why should 2022 care? Granite City defended its previous legislation, for one. In Debi and Andy’s case, the court concluded in September that Granite City’s forced evictions are fine.
Guilt-by-association? The court viewed it as “crime deterrence and prevention.” A rule forcing family-wide evictions was “remarkable in its breadth and reach,” the court said early in the case, but curbing collective punishment wasn’t their job.
Debi and Andy will appeal, but their unjust and unneeded hardship highlights how crime-free-housing regulations threaten thousands more tenants nationwide. Read more: A Golden Retriever Who is ‘jealous’ of a Newborn Baby Has Left the Internet in Shambles
Low-income Black and Hispanic populations are hit hardest by these policies. Leading scholar: “crime-free housing regulations have Jim Crow repercussions” Since 2019, the DOJ has sued Hesperia, California, for a crime-free housing code that was racially discriminatory in design and effect. In June 2022, Faribault, Minnesota, settled a lawsuit challenging its racially prejudiced crime-free housing program.
These laws persist despite legal challenges. DeKalb, Illinois, may go from a “three-strikes” to a “one-strike” ordinance. In Sunbury, Pennsylvania, officials have committed to reinstating legislation making it unlawful to rent if convicted of a narcotics offense.
Illinois, Minnesota, and California have crime-free housing rules. We should care, and Debi and Andy are fighting to make sure what happened to them never happens again. Read more: Umer and Jannat Mirza Engage: Is It true or not?
Sam Gedge is a lawyer in Arlington, Va. Debi Brumit and Andy Simpson are suing Granite City.
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