Washington, D.C., is one of the latest cities to try the Fugitive Safe Surrender idea, says the Washington Post. For the first three days of November, people wanted in nonviolent felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic crimes can turn themselves in at a local church, probably without being arrested. It is not an amnesty program. Charges won’t disappear from records. Authorities said most participants’ warrants will be quashed and new court dates set before people are sent on their way. Officials said they will provide “favorable consideration” to those who come forward.
The goals are to clear thousands of warrants and give defendants without long criminal histories a chance to set things straight. “We see it as an opportunity to de-escalate violence,” said Nancy Ware, director of the D.C. Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Of the 28,000 outstanding warrants in Washington, more than half are misdemeanors for failure to appear for court dates or other violations. No one looks for people, because resources are tight. The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, which monitors 15,000 ex-offenders, has nearly 2,700 of the warrants. Paul Quander, who heads the agency, said the program offers an opportunity to avoid dangerous situations. It’s preferable to stings in which people are lured under false pretenses, such as free football tickets, he said. In November, 1,200 people gave themselves up in a simlar program in Phoenix. Since August 2005, nearly 4,000 have surrendered in Indianapolis, Cleveland, Nashville and other cities.