Amnesty day at Denver Juvenile Court will give grown-up kids a chance to clear their name

He knows if you've been naughty. He knows if you've been nice. And now Denver County Juvenile Court Judge Kerry Hada is giving bad kids a chance to get on the court's good side with a post-Christmas present: On February 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Hada is running an amnesty program that will allow anyone with an outstanding juvenile warrant to come to his courtroom at 1450 Cherokee Street, pay a small fine and have their record wiped clean.

"People think, 'This is some sort of scam. The second I step in the court, I'm going to jail!'" says court administrator Matt McConville. "It's not. They're not."

There are a few conditions, however. First, the warrant has to be out of Division 191-J, and it has to be for a ticket. Juveniles can get tickets for offenses such as curfew violations, possession of graffiti materials and getting into fights at school. Some of these offenses may sound minor, but outstanding warrants can prevent people from getting a driver's license, McConville says.

Second, the warrant has to be more than a year old. Even people who are now 25 and got a ticket when they were sixteen can come to court, but those under eighteen have to bring a parent or guardian.

And third, everyone will have to pay a minimum $30 fee, as well as $46 in court costs. For people who can't afford the court costs, a bus provided by Denver Parks and Recreation will be standing by, ready to transport them to a Salvation Army food bank. There they can work off their fines by sorting cans of donated food for a couple of hours.

It's been more than a decade since the court tried something like this, McConville says, and he hopes it's more successful than last time, when the amnesty day was held on a Saturday and suffered from low attendance. He figures the program, known as RAP It Up (RAP stands for Restore Accountability Program), has several things going for it this time, including that Tuesday, February 16, is a vacation day for Denver Public Schools.

The court's motivation? To clear its docket of an estimated 10,000 outstanding juvenile cases, McConville says: "The court wants to do justice. If we can get people in instead of having to arrest them, that's a good thing."

Scene and herd: The crowd at Monday's MLK Day Marade included Jason Bosch, founder and director of ArgusFest, who's taken to referring to the annual march/parade as the "charade" because of the number of participants who do not hold fast to King's creed. Bosh himself is about to step up his commitment — more than 2,000 miles' worth.

He's just back from New Orleans, where he attended a planning meeting for the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign's upcoming March to Fulfill the Dream (www.economichumanrights.org), slated to leave New Orleans on April 4, the day MLK Jr. was assassinated, and arrive in Detroit on June 22, the first day of the 2010 U.S. Social Forum; there will be satellite events across the country. "Few people know that when King was assassinated in 1968, he and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were organizing a poor people's march from Mississippi to D.C.," Bosch says. "The march went forward a month later without King."

This one won't go on without Bosch: He's in charge of the route. "We're a ragtag bunch of people, and I'm in charge of a lot of things," he admits. "I think it's going to be an incredibly historic event. The disparity between rich and poor is beyond what anybody imagined." But he'll have plenty of time — and space — to document it on the twelve-week, 2,300-mile trek.

 
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