You don’t have to wait until Sunday for your (minor) sins to be forgiven this week: This Saturday, a Bushwick church is hosting the borough’s 4th ever “Begin Again” event, which provides locals with an opportunity to resolve any outstanding low-level “quality of life” summonses they might have on their legal records.
The summons warrant adjudication initiative, hosted by the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson in partnership with the Office of Court Administration, the Legal Aid Society and the NYPD, both helps the city “clear the staggering backlog of warrants in the New York City summons court system” and allow those who have long been worried about the potential consequences of dealing with a summons to put their minds at ease.
For those who might worry about the possibility of ending up with more legal woes as a result of coming in to the event, the DA’s office promises that “individuals who appear for Begin Again will first consult with on-site attorneys from the Legal Aid Society to make sure only eligible summons warrants are heard. All participants will then enter a makeshift courtroom, where a judge will be on hand to address the outstanding summons and bench warrants that resulted from the failure to respond to summonses for a multitude of low-level offenses, including walking a dog without a leash or being in a park after closing.”
The event has been widely praised by local politicians including Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez, whose support for the program comes from the demonstrated fact that “Too many young people and people of color are unfairly ensnared in the legal system because of outstanding warrants and summonses related to minor infractions,” and City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal.
According to the DA’s office, more than a million open summons warrants are currently in the legal system citywide, and the consequences of this can be far reaching for individuals, affecting everything from applying for citizenship to securing employment to obtaining public housing.
Past Begin Again events held in Clinton Hill, East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant have all received accolades from city officials; none of the 2,396 Begin Again participants who attended events in 2015 were arrested, and all received consultation with attorneys.
Begin Again takes place on Saturday, June 11, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; St. Thomas Episcopal Church is located at 1405 Bushwick Avenue, at the corner of Cooper Street.