Here’s some good news! Over the last five years, San Francisco’s Presiding Judge John Stewart and his colleagues have dismissed more than 66,000 arrest warrants for quality-of-life crimes, such as sleeping on the sidewalk.
His logic? People living in poverty do not deserve to be put in jail just because they’re too poor to pay a fine.
The crimes, which also include peeing on sidewalks and being drunk in public, are infractions punishable only by fines. Typically when someone is cited for a violation, they’re expected to pay fines of $200 or more. But since most of the offenders are homeless, they usually fail to show up in court, which is punishable up to five nights in prison. Instead of issuing the arrest warrants for failure to show up in court, the judge and his colleagues have dismissed thousands.
SF judges are reportedly being being encouraged to cite treatment and rehabilitation options rather than fines. Although court officials have been receiving criticism for dismissing the crimes.
According to the San Francisco Gate, Martin Halloran, head of the police union, told Chronicle columnists that the court was “sending a message that there is no accountability for what you have done, and the laws on the books can be violated with no repercussions. I don’t think it’s what the public wants.”
Judge Stewart told SF Gate that though the people have a right to be upset, he and his colleagues do not plan on enforcing punishment against the homeless population, saying “it’s the right thing to do.”
Let’s say it agin… “it’s the right thing to do.”