On Saturday, May 12, ACLU of Minnesota, NAACP, and UJAMAA Place coordinated a warrant resolution event with Ramsey County. During the event, 147 warrants were cleared and 50 other people met with a hearing officer to begin the process of getting their license back. The event was life-changing for many of the people who attended.
Living with a warrant can mean living with fear every day. One individual described it as being “scared to attend work and class.” Having an outstanding warrant can prevent you from getting housing, a job or just moving forward in life.
That’s why the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and UJAMAA Place joined forces to work with Ramsey County District Court to host a Warrant Resolution Day. People could have their warrants cleared and underlying offenses resolved in a matter of hours without being arrested.
On Saturday, May 12, at the High School for Recording Arts, over 200 people showed up to clear a warrant or driving-related tickets. We were able to help clear 147 warrants, and 50 other people met with a hearing officer to begin the process of getting their license back (which is often revoked after multiple driving offenses). The event was so popular that the court couldn’t serve everyone who showed up, so they created special times in the following weeks for people to go into court to get the same opportunity that was offered on Saturday.
The event felt markedly different than a typical courtroom experience. There was a kids’ play area with toys, and volunteers were there to support parents meeting with judges. There was free food all day and a DJ playing music outside to welcome folks. We wanted people to feel safe at this event. It was scary for many of them to show up because they had to trust the system to keep its word and not arrest anyone.
What our volunteers repeatedly heard was that this event meant so much to the participants. It was a huge relief so they could finally breathe.
“I had two warrants. I knew about only one of them. It just caused stress knowing I had to stay away from the police. I second-guessed the event at first. But after going through with it, I’m glad I came. Thank you!”
What is unique about this event is that it is a collaboration between the court and community partners like the ACLU and the NAACP. When Ramsey County held an event on their own in 2015, a total of 52 people showed up. Working together, we saw that number quadruple.
This is only the first step in instituting more meaningful reform. Ramsey County wants to continue to figure out ways to make it easier for people to resolve their warrants without going to jail. We will continue to work with them to make sure that changes made will benefit people in the community.
*This event was grant-funded by the United Way.