Program Lets Fugitives Surrender Safely in Church

September 23, 2007

Author: Ann Belser

Source: Pittsburg Post-Gazette

Over the last two years, thousands of fugitives in four states have lined up outside of churches, waiting for a chance to turn themselves in.

The program is called Fugitive Safe Surrender. For four days, a local church is turned into a full-fledged court, complete with judges, public defenders, prosecutors and identification equipment such as fingerprinting.

It's a program of the U.S. Marshals Service, which works with local law enforcement and the courts to take the desperation away from the process of catching criminals. Thomas Fitzgerald, the U.S. Marshal in Pittsburgh, said it may be open here in a year or two.

In the first five cities that tried Fugitive Safe Surrender, 4,000 people turned themselves in. That is continuing in a Memphis, Tenn., church where the safe surrender program opened this week. In the first two days, 560 people voluntarily stopped running from the law. When the doors opened the first morning, there was a line of 80 people waiting to come in.

The program was started in Cleveland by the U.S. Marshal there, Pete Elliott.