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A new Strafford County program helps people resolve old arrest warrants

Flickr Creative Commons

The Strafford County Sheriff's Office has launched a new program to help people clear their outstanding warrants. These include warrants from the superior court and electronic bench warrants that failed to appear in court.

Sheriff Mark Brave said people often miss court dates that would resolve old warrants for a number of reasons. He said people forget to go, don’t have the money to get there, don’t have childcare, or even miss the bus.

“They are not bad people; it’s just that life happens,” he said.

People then live in fear of encountering the police and let fines accumulate with the idea of not going to jail.

Usually, all the person needs to solve their problem is a new court date, according to Brave. These outstanding warrants aren’t always related to a violent crime; they can be something simple as a traffic violation, a neighbor dispute, or, in some situations, more serious cases like domestic violence. There are 436 outstanding arrest warrants in Strafford County.

“They can get to the end solution faster, which is freedom, and not having that dark cloud over their heads,” said Brave.

Often, if a person with a warrant gets pulled over by the police, they are immediately held in jail. If that happens on a Friday afternoon, the chances of seeing a judge are low, and they may have to spend the weekend in jail.

Resolving old warrants can make a difference in people's lives, Brave said. “Some lose their jobs for a weekend in jail, and we want to avoid that.”

The sheriff's office will be open each Thursday until January of 2023 with a bail commissioner in place to solve these issues.

Brave said it will be a safe space where people should feel free to come without fearing the unknown.

“With law enforcement reform, we need to start thinking about it outside the box regarding how to assist the people we serve a little better,” he said. “It’s going to take time.”

People can also go to ask questions about their warrants without explaining their reasons or asking if they can be arrested or not. The service is free of charge, and people can come to ask general questions without disclosing their identity.

On the first day of the program, the office assisted 10 people, but they expect more to show up in the next few weeks.

For those who can not make it on Thursdays, the program will also be open the other days of the week, though it may take a little longer because the office will have to call in a bail commissioner. Brave said people will not be arrested if they go, emphasizing that this program is not a trick.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.

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