Fugitive Safe Surrender Program receives recognition: MSASS violence prevention experts contribute to its success
Fleeing an arrest warrant is a dangerous decision – for the fugitive, for the community and for safety forces. But Case Western Reserve University researchers in the field of violence prevention have studied the outcomes for people with outstanding arrest warrants, who participate in the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, and what they’ve found is a safer alternative for everyone.
On Friday, Nov. 4, at a reception in Columbus, the Ohio State Bar Foundation will recognize the efforts of the Fugitive Safety Surrender program with the “Outstanding Program Award” for 2010.
“Over the years, I’ve found the surrender program works,” says Daniel Flannery, the Dr. Semi J. and Ruth Begun Professor and director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention at the social work school.
Started by the U.S. Marshals Service, Fugitive Safe Surrender, now funded privately by the Miller Foundation with support from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, offers individuals with felony and misdemeanor warrants the ability to turn themselves in and have their cases adjudicated in a safe and non-violent environment. Multi-day surrender “events” take place in major cities around the country, and Cleveland, in particular, has had great success with the program. In fall 2010, a national record of 7,431 people surrendered in Cleveland.
Flannery notes that less than two percent of people are taken into custody during a surrender event. The other 90 percent receive court dates or can settle with fines. Of those who still need to go to court, about 92 percent do appear for their court date.
The impact, says Flannery, is that the low-level warrants are cleared from the system, allowing police to concentrate on more violent offenders at large in the community.
The Fugitive Safe Surrender program has operated 23 times in 21 cities, and Flannery’s research group has been on the ground at each event, collecting and analyzing data from the participants. The collaboration began with the program’s inception in 2005 at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church on Woodland Avenue in Cleveland, where 838 individuals surrendered.
“The Fugitive Safe Surrender is a major community effort,” says Flannery. Police, prosecutors and even judges work with individuals facing a range of charges – from missed court dates to murder. Some find that they were never wanted for arrest at all and that they’ve needlessly lived in fear for years.
One of the reasons the events are held over several days, Flannery says, is that word spreads quickly that surrendering is OK. Those who might have been afraid to surrender, decide to come forward.
“With an outstanding warrant, people cannot get a driver’s license, apply for jobs, enroll in school or participate in activities that require background checks,” Flannery explains. “People always feel like they are living life looking over their shoulder.”