Let’s say you’ve been issued a bunch of traffic tickets that you never got around to paying. Where would you rather end up? Regular court or “homeless court”?

“Homeless court” is an idea cooked up by lawyers and judges in California that allows people who run up tickets, arrest warrants, and even citations for small-scale crimes to never, ever have to pay the fines or go to jail–as long as they’re homeless. Check into a shelter, and a raft of attorneys and social workers will get those infractions just washed away. The theory is that you can’t afford to pay the fines anyway, so why bother levying them? And it’s cruel to send people to jail.

Call me a gal with a heart of stone, but why should homeless people get a better deal from the criminal justice system than I would? Isn’t justice supposed to be blind? If I had a bunch of traffic tickets I’d flipped off until the fines snowballed, it wouldn’t be easy for me to pay them, either, what with all my bills. Why can’t I get a free pass from the justice system, too?

And some of those offenses for which you can win a get-out-of-jail card if you’re homeless aren’t activities I’d like to encourage. Here’s a report from the California Bar Journal:

“Homeless people often wind up with numerous citations for so-called ‘quality of life’ offenses — illegal camping, for example, or urinating in public, advocates say. Left unresolved, the citations snowball into warrants and costly fines that a homeless person could never pay.

“Such unresolved legal problems can keep a homeless person from getting a job, housing, a driver’s license and, in some cases, public benefits. ‘It kind of ends up being a glass ceiling for the ones in recovery,’ said Superior Court Judge Skip Staley, a homeless court judge in Kern County.”

I say tough tomatoes. Why should someone who uses parks and public sidewalks as a lavatory get to collect a welfare check at taxpayer expense? And doesn’t any “recovery” process from whatever problems you might have involve facing up to the fact that you’ve done something wrong and should pay the price for it? 

Here’s how homeless court works:

“The process begins with referrals from shelters and treatment programs. A court clerk searches the defendants’ records for active cases. Negotiations take place. And proposed agreements are set. [A public defender] then briefs the participants on the process. No one will go to jail, they are told. Then, in court, the judge praises each participant for his or her accomplishments and, roughly 90 percent of the time, dismisses the case.”

I should be so lucky.

There’s more:

“Advocates say homeless courts make economic sense as well. “It makes sense because every one of these clients isn’t a person who’s out there picking up small cases and failing to appear on warrants,’ [another judge] said. ’That?s an expense for all of us.’

“Others point to jail costs. In San Diego, for example, a day in jail will cut $50 off of an unpaid fine, Binder says. But it also costs the system up to $90 to keep that person in jail and $400 or more if mental health services are required.”

In other words, running a criminal justice system is expensive, so let?s not even bother. Think how much it costs to keep murderers in prison for life, and how much we could save if we processed them through homeless court, too.

Ah, liberal-nomics.