NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s a chance to clear the slate ahead of the holiday season and new year for those accused of non-violent offenses. Davidson County’s Safe Surrender program will take place next week.
“The main thing it does is help people that have outstanding warrants know they can come to a neutral site, not a court setting,” said Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Steve Dozier.
A Nashville church will transform into a courtroom and offices as individuals who have outstanding warrants against them in Davidson County will be allowed to safely surrender to law enforcement.
But, it’s not just police who will be at the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, there will also be defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges available to review cases.
“Oftentimes it gives people, especially over the holiday season, peace of mind that they don’t have to worry about being stopped by the police and taken to jail on Christmas Eve, say,” added Judge Dozier.
Turning up for the event will allow them to have free representation from lawyers who will review their cases with prosecutors and judges and the possibility of having charges dismissed or even given favorable consideration.
“It looks good to a judge to come to this church, where maybe you feel more comfortable than coming to court to turn themselves and that’s just a favorable factor for the court to consider,” he said.
Many individuals, depending on the warrant, will be released that day on a pre-trial bond and given a new court date.
“So, at that court hearing when I say favorable consideration, Okay, Mr. Defendant, you’ve turned yourself in; you’re here in court; it appears now you’re ready to do what you’re supposed to on probation, so maybe, the court reinstates him to that probation rather than locking him up,” Judge Dozier added.
While the event is geared toward nonviolent offenses, other types of cases can be heard, including juvenile court cases.
“Anybody can come turn themselves in, or come and check to see if they have outstanding warrants.” Judge Dozier continued, “If you have an outstanding warrant for not complying with child support that can be dealt with as well.”
Counselors, clergy, and translators will also be on hand to assist. Plus, there will even be opportunities to find a job.
“I gotta give a shout out to Pastor Harris, the senior pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church. They work with police to make it as friendly as possible. They have volunteers there to walk these people through this process,” he said.
Those who wish to surrender can go to the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church Friday, Dec. 2 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Saturday, Dec. 3, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The church is located at 2021 Herman Street.
This will be the second year in a row for the Safe Surrender program. Last year, 193 individuals went to the church. Surprisingly, Judge Dozier said only about 70 of them had warrants out against them.
“That, I think, would give them the peace of mind too, to not have to run from the police or worry about being arrested when they didn’t even have warrants to be processed on,” Judge Dozier said.
Previously, Nashville hosted a Safe Surrender event in 2015, when 86 individuals surrendered. Prior to that, in 2007, Nashville joined the U.S. Marshal’s Service to host a four-day event, and more than 560 persons peacefully surrendered.
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Anyone with questions about the program can call 615-256-SAFE. Metro Police said it cannot give information about the status of a warrant over the phone.