Colorado Springs Vs. Panhandlers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — An ACLU investigation claimed the city mistreated people who are out on the streets asking for money.

It said all levels of city officials, cops, prosecutors and judges, were discriminating against panhandlers. The ACLU claimed they’re not following two laws permitting people to passively sit or stand with a sign. The city said they only ticket people who are aggressively panhandling. The investigation claimed hundreds of people are being discriminated against with tickets and even jail time as punishment.

Joe Bishop said he sees discrimination from some, but not all cops.

“And then you get people like that screaming at you, ‘get a job,’ or something like that.  I’m trying, that’s why I need a little help with gas,” said Bishop.

He hasn’t gotten a ticket yet, but some aren’t so lucky.

“I know of people that’s got like four tickets and she’s in jail right now,” said Bishop.

What is the purpose of writing people tickets that in all likelihood won’t be able to pay?

“To try and deter them from the conduct we’re trying to deter them from.  The fact of the matter is, people shouldn’t have to avoid people in the street who are panhandling,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

The ACLU investigation showed over 900 hundred tickets were written to people panhandling to traffic since 2013.

“Over 90 percent were issued to persons who were merely holding a sign, so that’s a lot of situations that may have been issued to people who were not violating the terms of the ordinance,” said the ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein.

The city said that’s not true and that they’re trying to improve homeless issues.

“We’ve reached a consensus to move toward a campus concept where all the services are provided in pretty much the same place,” said Suthers.

The ACLU wants them to fix this problem first.

“We urge the city to rethink how the criminal justice system is interacting with residence who are experiencing poverty,” said Silverstein.

The city said they will launch their own investigation into the ACLU claim, but they don’t anticipate finding information to support what the ACLU said the city did.

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