NEWARK – Fugitives hiding from the law in New Jersey will soon have the opportunity to surrender safely at a neutral location, take responsibility for their crimes and receive favorable consideration from the court.
The initiative, called Fugitive Safe Surrender, will operate from Wednesday, Nov. 4 through Saturday, Nov. 7 at Bethany Baptist Church, 275 W. Market Street, Newark. Individuals will be able to turn themselves in at the church from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the four days. Their cases will be adjudicated at temporary courtrooms in the nearby Priory building.
U.S. Marshal James Plousis and New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram said Fugitive Safe Surrender represents an unprecedented, multi-agency collaboration in Essex and Union counties. An estimated 3,000 fugitives are expected to turn themselves in. (A total of 2,245 turned themselves in at New Jersey’s first Fugitive Safe Surrender, held November 2008 in Camden).
The event is made possible through a partnership led by the U.S. Marshals Service and Office of the Attorney General, and more than 50 agencies and organizations at the federal, state, county, municipal, community-based and faith-based levels.
Plousis and Milgram joined Essex County Prosecutor Paula T. Dow, Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow, the Rev. Dr. M. William Howard Jr. and Deacon Edward Cosby of Bethany Baptist Church, and other leaders to announce the launch of this important initiative at a press event Monday.
“Fugitive Safe Surrender is not an amnesty program, but there will be favorable consideration for individuals who turn themselves in and accept responsibility for their crimes,” Attorney General Anne Milgram said. “Those with no history of violence who are wanted for a non-violent offense and who do not have extensive criminal records are likely to be processed and released the same day they surrender, and take the first step toward community re-entry.”
“Fugitive apprehensions are among the most dangerous missions for any law enforcement agency,” U.S. Marshal James Plousis said. “There is always the risk that police officers or the fugitives themselves will be injured or killed. By surrendering safely, thousands of fugitives will free themselves and their families from that risk. They will also save untold taxpayer dollars, and free up law enforcement and the courts to take on other matters.”
“We are opening our church to those who have committed crimes because we believe they deserve a second chance to stop living in hiding and start building productive lives,” Deacon Edward Cosby said. “We also believe the road to a second chance includes taking responsibility for what one has done. If you are living in hiding, come in and take advantage of this opportunity to get your life back on track.”
Fugitive Safe Surrender is open to US citizens or legal residents who are wanted for non-violent felony or misdemeanor warrants in New Jersey, and who have no prior history of violence. Such individuals will be able to meet with a public defender, and with county and municipal court officials, to reenter the court system.
“Nov. 4th through 7th is a perfect window of opportunity for fugitives to take responsibility for their prior crimes,” said Essex County Prosecutor Paula T. Dow. “Fugitives should take advantage of this limited occasion by safely surrendering and in return face leniency from the justice system.”
Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow said there are no doubt hundreds of people who lose sleep each night because they know they are wanted. “Taking advantage of this program could mean a clear mind and a fresh start,” he said.
“New Community Corporation is pleased to participate in the Fugitive Safe Surrender Program by offering St. Joseph Plaza, our headquarters, as the official judicial processing site for those who turn themselves in to authorities,” said Joseph Matara, chief operating officer for New Community.
“Our organization has a long history in the city of providing comprehensive services in areas including housing, job training, social services, health and education. Along with these issues, public safety and the criminal justice system also affect an inordinate percentage of the people we serve. For this reason, New Community Corporation fully supports and commends the effort to provide a vehicle for those wishing to take full responsibility for their actions, thus not only helping to improve their own lives but the community at large.”
Representatives of local social services agencies will also be present at Fugitive Safe Surrender, to give the former fugitives information on local services such as employment assistance, health care, housing and drug rehabilitation.
The US Marshals Service’s Fugitive Safe Surrender program was launched in Cleveland in 2005. Since then, 20,812 fugitives have surrendered and had their cases resolved in 15 cities. (Numbers are not yet available for the 16th initiative, held in Chester, Pennsylvania from Sept. 30 through Oct. 3, 2009).
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