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Sleep deprivation

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Last week, a judge ruled against a homeless man in his lawsuit against Orlando's camping ordinance, which prohibits sleeping outdoors on public property. James Joel, who was arrested last spring while sleeping on a downtown sidewalk, contended that the ordinance allows for people to be arrested simply because they are homeless, violating equal protection. But on Oct. 26, U.S. District Judge Anne Conway ruled that "Sleeping outdoors in a public place is not a fundamental constitutional right," and that the law furthers legitimate governmental interests. As for Joel's argument that the ordinance was really aimed at homeless people (a downtown broker catching a nap on a park bench would not be arrested), Conway said, "Joel has not presented any evidence supporting his contention that the ordinance was enacted to 'target' the homeless or that it is enforced in that manner." Yet an analysis by UCF psychology professor Randy Fisher of 243 arrests between 1995 and 1997 showed that the law was applied to the homeless almost exclusively.


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