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Low-income suspects to get free rides to court under Minneapolis pilot

It's designed to reduce arrest warrants for failure to appear in court.

A new pilot program designed to reduce "failure to appear" offenses will see low-income suspects given free rides to court in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis City Council on Thursday accepted a $50,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to carry out the program through its City Attorney's Office.

Under the pilot, defendants charged with misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor crimes will be able to access free round-trip rides to court so they can make pretrial appearances provided their income is below a certain threshold.

Meanwhile, those charged with more serious crimes can get a free ride to attend meetings with public defenders.

The city says the goal of the program is to reduce the number of arrest warrants issued by the courts for failure to appear, and in turn reducing the use of city jails.

The pilot is projected to provide the funding for around 1,600 free rides until the money runs out.

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The Star Tribune reported in October, when the City Attorney's Office announced it had been offered the grant, that as well as helping defendants avoid additional charges, it will also mean less congested court schedules for city judges.

The City Attorney's Office says it has reduced the number of individuals being held in city jail cells on misdemeanor offenses by 53 percent since 2015.

Other measures helping this include a change in policy so that those accused of lower-level crimes who miss their first court appearance are offered an alternative date, rather than an arrest warrant being issued.

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