Some 120 suspects turned themselves in during the first four hours of Fugitive Safe Surrender in Phoenix, reports USA Today. The program, which ends Saturday, is an invitation from federal and state authorities who tell fugitives they may receive “favorable consideration” by turning themselves in at a makeshift center at a church. Doug Weiner, former Cleveland prosecutor and co-founder of Fugitive Safe Surrender, said the goal is to conduct programs nationwide. Plans already are underway for them in Indianapolis; Rochester, N.Y.; Akron, Ohio; and Richmond, Va.
David Gonzales, U.S. Marshal for Arizona, said the program gives suspects a chance to deal with criminal warrants at a neutral site, which cuts costs for the public and reduces the chance of a dangerous situation for law officers. Defendants who show up at the Phoenix church find public defenders to represent them and judges to conduct hearings. Often, when fugitives are caught in traffic stops or tracked down by agents, they face the humiliation of being handcuffed in front of family and the hassle of going straight to jail. In Safe Surrender, Gonzales said, most of those wanted for non-violent offenses will be processed within hours and released without going behind bars. The fugitives who turned themselves in yesterday were suspects in cases involving drunken driving, disorderly conduct, and failure to pay fines. A federal Office of Justice Programs grant for $600,000 is financing Fugitive Safe Surrender.