NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — People wanted for non-violent crimes in Davidson County were offered a special opportunity at a second chance during the two-day Nashville "Safe Surrender" event.
People could clear up outstanding arrest warrants, including failure to appear in court, and walk free all within one day.
It's a collaboration between Metro Police, Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk and the faith community.
Nashville Safe Surrender runs Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, which will be transformed into courtrooms and offices for attorneys and clerks.
People lined the doors beginning at 3 a.m. and within the first hour, there were more than 50 people who turned themselves in as part of the event.
With the help of a public defender, most of the cases are expected to end right there if they're non-violent offenses. The District Attorney's Office said this most warrants this year come from disruptions in the court system because of COVID-19.
"Anytime you can be of help or of service to someone that can totally make a difference in their life... let's just be real, none of us are perfect. All of us have made mistakes, some of us got caught, some of us didn't... and these are just people... they just want a fresh start," said Pastor Michael Joyner. "Back into a free world with no warrants. Walking away from here... walking away from 2021, into 2022 free."
There were no guarantees that simply being here was enough to right her wrongs, but Portia Beene showed up anyway. It's been five years avoiding police at every corner and now she's surrounded, by people who want to help.
"We've all made mistakes, but if you wake up and you get another chance...there's your chance to make it right," Beene said.
So why now after all these years? Beene says this month makes it two years clean, so she finally eels prepared to request full custody of her kids. A couple hours later and the news came.
All three of her charges were dropped, including one out of Williamson County.
"I'm trying not to jump up and down and scream, but they've dismissed everything and I thought I was going to be one of the worst one's here," Beene said.
Nikki Ellis is the volunteer coordinator where she says they work to make this a one-stop shop.
"If there's a situation where they do have a warrant in another county, we will reach out to those counties to let them know that they are trying to resolve this issue and see what we can do," Ellis said.
What Beene and others realized is simply being here is a major step in itself. It's true, you could land in jail if the courts don't see it your way, but Beene had faith.
There is a chance the person could have to schedule a future court date if their case is complicated, but DA Glenn Funk said the fact that they came to surrender will be reflected on their file so they will still get leniency at future court dates. A judge may be willing to hear your case, even if you don't have an active warrant and just need clarity.