CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Anyone on misdemeanor probation here but with an outstanding warrant for not paying fines is getting a chance to make it right without going back to jail.
The Bradley County Misdemeanor Probation office is offering amnesty Feb. 6-10.
Amnesty does not apply to felony crimes nor to new warrants people on misdemeanor probation may get during the week set aside, officials said.
"It's an opportunity for people on probation with outstanding warrants to get in touch with their parole officer and make an arrangement for a payment," said Rich Kienlen, county misdemeanor probations director. "It will keep them from going to jail."
People taking advantage of amnesty week should call their parole officers, not turn themselves in at the jail, Kienlen said.
There are about 1,500 outstanding misdemeanor warrants in Bradley County, he said.
"Probably 98 percent are for technical reasons," Kienlen said. "We are asking law enforcement not to seek them out during this time. If there are new warrants, however, that's a different chain of events.
"We think this is a win for everybody," Kienlen said.
He said people taking advantage of amnesty week avoid jail, and that reduces the caseload in his office. It also helps defendants catch up with their fines, restores them to good standing with the courts and puts some money in county coffers, he said.
"I am always about the people," Circuit Court Clerk Gayla Miller said. "I want to give everybody a chance. And when people see we are trying to help them, it is very rewarding."
Sometimes people have outstanding warrants because they lost a job or had a baby and can't afford the fine, she said. Amnesty week helps people to get on their feet again, Miller said.
Miller said her office typically sees a spike in payments in February and March when people are receiving their income tax refunds.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...