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Cedric Hendricks: This is Cedric Hendricks for DC Public Safety. With us today is Mr. Willie Jones, and were talking with Mr. Jones about DC Safe Surrender. Mr. Jones, you were a participant in Safe Surrender when it was first done in 2007. How did that come to take place?
Willie Jones: I had an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear and I heard about the program and I thought I would check it out and get involved.
Cedric Hendricks: And what happened after you came down. What was the experience?
Willie Jones: Well, it was a very good experience. I came in, they got rid of the warrant and got me out right away.
Cedric Hendricks: And how has your life changed since that day?
Willie Jones: My life has elevated so much. I got a District Government job. I got my family back; a lot of things; just, my life has progressed so much.
Cedric Hendricks: Well, now DC Safe Surrender is taking place again and what words would you share with others who are out in the community now with outstanding warrants?
Willie Jones: I would encourage them to do the right thing. Turn yourself in. The decision you make today affects your tomorrow. If you make a good decision today, you’ll have a good tomorrow. If you make a bad decision today, you’ll have a bad tomorrow. I would say to the people out there now, do the right thing, do it now. I did it.
Cedric Hendricks: And to family members out there who have a loved one who they know has an outstanding warrant, is there a message that you would offer them?
Willie Jones: I would tell them to encourage them, come with them, support them, give them the strength and let them know that’s the right thing to do. That’s the same way my family did with me.
Cedric Hendricks: Now when Safe Surrender took place back in 2007, it was at Bible Way Church and this time it’s taking place at the DC Superior Court House. Does that matter in how this should be considered by an individual with an outstanding warrant?
Willie Jones: Well let me give you a different outlook now because the last time it was at the church. This time it’s at the courthouse. And a lot of people think because there’s cells there, it’s the courthouse, just the courthouse itself makes them think. But I would encourage anyone that I know, I’m involved with this Safe Surrender program, I wouldn’t mislead anyone to do anything that I didn’t think would benefit them.
Cedric Hendricks: And I think you are right. I think it’s important to point out that in 2007, there were 530 individuals that came in and surrendered and 98% of them walked out the same day.
Willie Jones: Yes they did and I was one of the first one. And I was processed in and out in 15 minutes. So like I said at first, I encourage anyone if you’ve got an outstanding warrant, on the 13th of August, on the 20th of August and the 27th, come on down and make the right decision.
Cedric Hendricks: Now let’s just say a bit about what happened. When you saw a Judge there, that matter you had pending wasn’t squashed all together, but you got another date to come back. What went on after that?
Willie Jones: When I came in, I saw the Judge; he said “you’ve got a failure to appear warrant; I’m going to get rid of the warrant and give you another court date and I’m quite sure you’ll be there.” I said, “Yes Sir” because it’s like a second chance. They just give you a chance to do the right thing.
Cedric Hendricks: Now you talked about how your failure to appear was inspired to some degree by you sitting in that Judge’s courtroom and seeing folks getting sent away. And that’s what gave you some concern about your fate might be and led you to fail to appear.
Willie Jones: Yes. I saw a guy that I grew up with that was in the courtroom in front of me. And the Judge said, “Yes”. He told the Judge, “I’ve done everything you’ve told me to do”. And she said, “Yes you did, but your past; your history; made me the decision to give you 60 months”. And I got up and left.
Cedric Hendricks: And then after having left, and then coming and surrendering in the Safe Surrender event, you were back in front of a Judge with your history, some would say, having been made worse by the failure to appear. But you didn’t get the outcome that that other individual got. What happened with you when you finally were sentenced?
Willie Jones: I got 18 months probation and she said that since I did turn myself in, it made a difference.
Cedric Hendricks: Well, all right. That’s really what it’s all about. You know, giving people I guess the benefit of them having come in and surrendered and coming away with it all with a positive opportunity to do the right thing.
Willie Jones: That’s right. Definitively. Yes.
Cedric Hendricks: We’ll we’ve been talking with Mr. Willie Jones, who was the first person to surrender back in 2007 when Safe Surrender took place and we appreciate you coming out and speaking in support of this DC Safe Surrender. Thank you Mr. Jones.
Willie Jones: Thank you Mr. Cedric.