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Amnesty for minor offenses in Craighead County to be granted again despite lawsuit

The Justice Complex, Jonesboro. Taken by KASU Photojournalim-Graphics Designer Intern Cynthia Barnhill
Cynthia Barnhill / KASU Photojournalim-Graphics Designer Intern

The Craighead County District Court is again offering amnesty for some minor offenses, which comes amid a lawsuit filed by a company who has managed the county's probation program for over 20 years.

Arkansas Public Media reported that the Justice Network filed a lawsuit against the county and district Judges David Bowling and Tommy Fowler.  The Memphis-based company claimed that they lost revenue because of the program.

Some critics of the company said they were profiting from the poor by charging high fees, assigning probation, and issuing arrest warrants for minor offenses. Former District Judge Keith Blackman told Arkansas Public Media that the penalties served by the company were fair. 

Bowling and Fowler first offered the amnesty program in 2017.  KAIT-TV reported that nearly 3,000 arrest warrants were eliminated at the time.  The case is now in the hands of an appeals court after previously being dismissed by a federal judge. 

Those who wish to participate in the amnesty program are required to register by noon on March 21 at the district court office.  Only the first 250 people to signup who have warrants for non-payment of fines or community service will be eligible.  Those who received amnesty in 2017 are ineligible.

The amnesty programs will be held in Lake City on March 22, and in Jonesboro on March 23 and 30th beginning at 9:30 am each day.  Officials are also asking people participating in the program to bring canned food to be donated to local shelters.

Correction 3/19/18:  A correction was made to reflect that the program is eligible for offenders of some minor offenses.  Only people with warrants for non-payment of fines and missed community service hours are eligible.