Criminalizing poverty is alive and well in New Hampshire. We represent a 24-year-old man who is homeless and spent 33 days in jail simply for walking in a park. Yes, you heard that right.
In May 2014, Jeff Pendleton was hauled off to jail for walking along a public foot path in the park adjacent to the Nashua public library. Jeff was arrested for criminal trespass in violation of a verbal “no trespass” order he received a month earlier. This order banned him from the library and the adjacent park, including its walkways, green space, and benches. His bail was $100 but he did not have the money so he had to spend the next 33 days in jail. After his release, the NHCLU secured the dismissal of the criminal charge.
Parks are protected places under the First Amendment. They are places for the public—the poor and affluent alike—to congregate and enjoy. Jeff had every right to be in the walkway in that park. Moreover, the verbal “no trespass” order violated his due process rights because it denied him the opportunity to challenge the order. The NHCLU has sought civil relief for these constitutional violations.
Using law enforcement to target the poor dehumanizes these members of our community and ostracizes them from the services they need most to get out of poverty. New Hampshire can’t shut its eyes to poverty or sweep it out of sight. The NHCLU will continue to fight for the constitutional rights of the poor and homeless.