Fugitive Safe Surrender in Washington DC – Radio Transcript

This Radio Program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/?p=55

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See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency

See www.dcsafesurrender.org for information on DC Safe Surrender in Washington, D.C.

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today we have a program that is, I think, extraordinarily interesting to virtually everybody, regardless of where they are within the country, but especially to people within the District of Columbia. We have a program called Fugitive Safe Surrender. Fugitive Safe Surrender has been going on now in a variety of cities throughout the country. There was a recent New York Times article on it that identified five cities and I think there’s been one more added to that showing 4,000 warrants served. The purpose of Fugitive Safe Surrender is to give people who have non-violent warrants, to give them an opportunity to surrender themselves safely within a faith based setting. In the terms of the program that were about to do, it’s going to be in a church in northwest Washington D.C. To talk about Fugitive Safe Surrender, what it means, what’s happened throughout the country, we have two people with us today. From the United States Marshal’s Office, we have Bernard Graham. Bernard is a supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal and we also have Nancy Ware. Nancy is the executive director of the D.C. criminal justice coordinating council and to Bernard and Nancy welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Nancy Ware: Thank you Len.

Bernard Graham: Thank you Len.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Throughout this program, I’m going to be giving out a couple numbers. One is a telephone number because there’s going to be a telephone answering system that will give you a variety of information about Fugitive Safe Surrender. The first is the telephone answering system. It’s 202-585-SAFE, safe. 202-585-SAFE. There’s also been a website setup to support this program. It is www.dcsafesurrender.org. Again, that’s www.dcsafesurrender.org. Bernard, we’re going start off with you. What is Fugitive Safe Surrender? Give me a little bit of the history.

Bernard Graham: Yes Len. Safe Surrender is an initiative that was originally thought of by United States Marshal Pete Elliot who is the marshal in northern Ohio and Pete had the, this idea for fugitives who were non-violent or wanted on misdemeanor crimes to safely surrender. In doing so, he thought that this would be a good idea for them to utilize the faith based community that being the churches and ministers. So, he put together this idea and proposed this and introduced this to congress and U.S. Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones introduced it.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so what does it do?

Bernard Graham: What it does Len, is it will create a safer environment for those individuals who are wanting for those crimes, those felonies, low level felonies, non-violent, and misdemeanor cases to safely surrender in a safe environment. It actually makes the streets safer by not having those individuals getting into a shootout type situation or creating any type of violent atmosphere where they’re trying to surrender. There are a number of individuals as we’ve seen from success of this program already in the cities that we’ve implemented this program over 4,000 individuals who have safely walked in and surrendered themselves, some of whom knew they were gonna be arrested and not released.

Leonard Sipes: The other thing I’m gonna do throughout this program beyond repeating the telephone number for the telephone answering system and the website is to talk about the specific criteria before we go over to Nancy Ware. Here’s the criteria for the Fugitive Safe Surrender program. Wanted for a non-violent offense, having no history of violence, no extensive criminal history, no domestic violence cases, and adult offenders only. Nancy Ware, executive director of the D.C. Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Now it’s a U.S. Marshal Service Program, but through the offices of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council you brought everybody together, all the participating agencies within the District of Columbia to form a coalition, if you will, a support group, to join hands with the United States Marshal’s Service to bring Fugitive Safe Surrender to the District of Columbia. Correct?

Nancy Ware: That’s correct Len. In order for this initiative to be successful here in Washington, it’s important to galvanize all of our resources here, so, we’ve pulled together all the critical law enforcement and public safety agencies to partner with our local faith based organization which is Bible Way Church on New Jersey Avenue Northwest, so that we could offer this initiative to the D.C. public. We want to encourage families and folks who have outstanding warrants to encourage their family members and themselves to bring themselves in and to use this as an opportunity to safely and effectively come to a location that is a wonderful setup where we’ll have court setup and we’ll have opportunities for them to meet with defense attorneys and,

Leonard Sipes: For free right?

Nancy Ware: All for free and to bring their family members to join us in offering an opportunity for them to surrender.

Leonard Sipes: There’s even going to be childcare and there’s also going to be referrals to social service agencies, correct?

Nancy Ware: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And I’m gonna be going over basics throughout the program. When and where it’s gonna be: at the Bible Way Church, 1100 New Jersey Avenue Northwest, Washington D.C. which is at the intersection of New York and New Jersey Avenues. It’s pretty convenient to the convention center subway stop and there’s a couple bus lines, the 96 bus that runs up New Jersey Avenue, the P6 bus from downtown. It’s a convenient way to get to the Bible Way Church. It’s going to be on Thursday through Saturday, November 1st to November 3rd and the hours of operation are going to be from 9:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the evening okay. So we’re going to repeat the criteria, we’re going to repeat the locations, we’re gonna repeat the telephone number and we’re gonna repeat the website for everybody so they can get the information their looking for. Now that we’ve gone through that rather elaborate setup by my clock on my apple computer that we’re recording this on, it’s now 6 minutes and 45 seconds just in terms of doing the introduction. Let’s talk about Fugitive Safe Surrender from the heart. When this program was first introduced to me and when I first was told that we’re going to be doing Fugitive Safe Surrender, my first sense was why in the name in good heavens would people wanted on criminal warrants surrender. Why would they do that, they have plenty of opportunity to walk into any police station they want to and that’s sort of the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds that I’ve had conversations with. Why would people voluntarily surrender? Anybody want to give that a whirl?

Nancy Ware: Well, we’ve been doing a lot of work Len in Washington D.C. to help people reintegrate back into the community successfully if they’ve had criminal records and this is part of that effort of reentry and reintegration into the D.C. community effectively. We want all our citizens to have opportunities as much as possible and to give them an opportunity to take advantage of these initiatives that we’ve put in place. We’ve been very, very fortunate to be able to partner with the Bible Way Church. The pastor, Apostle James Silver who’s the Bishop there, has been a wonderful advocate of this initiative and he will be partnering with other faith based leaders throughout the D.C. area to open their arms to folks who have warrants and who are tired of running. You know, often times there’s situations where someone as you mentioned earlier, gets stopped by a police officer and the situation can escalate unnecessarily just because that person has an outstanding warrant or thinks they have an outstanding warrant and in the past we’ve had a number of sting operations and clean sweeps to bring all these warrants in and we got together and said you know, we really want to give folks a chance to come in peacefully so their family members don’t have to be traumatized, children don’t have to be traumatized, they don’t have to continue to look over their shoulders or worry about somebody kicking their door down to collect them for a warrant. We want to give them a place that they can come that’s safe and secure where people have open arms to greet them, to bring them in, to help them.

Leonard Sipes: Now, I’m a former police officer and I have served warrants and it’s exactly that. I mean, it is, you’re at that door at 3:00 in the morning and if it’s a felony warrant you’re gonna go in. It’s a dangerous situation, the kids are often there; other family members are often there. Also, what strikes me is a couple things when I was a police officer I remember pulling over a car one night and all it was a simple traffic stop and baboom, I’ve got a person with a warrant and that person’s struggling and I’m saying what’s going on here, you know this is a traffic stop for speeding, why am I involved in this struggle. There are endless reasons as to why to do Fugitive Safe Surrender, but it seems to be that this simply from an efficacy point of view, simply from an effectiveness point of view, we’re gonna get more offenders or the other Fugitive Safe Surrender cities obtain more offenders if you were wanted on warrants in a couple days then you would in a year. When I went out for a warrant service, I had a list of warrants; you know 12 to 15 warrants. If I came back with one or two that night, I considered it a productive night. For lots of different reasons for the safety of police officers, for the safety of those of us who work within the criminal justice system, from a standpoint of citizen safety, from a standpoint of police officer safety and from the standpoint that a lot of offenders through our focus groups tell us that they are looking for an opportunity to safely surrender. They want this, their families want it, their kids want it, for a lot of different reasons it strikes me that this is a very powerful program. Bernard.

Bernard Graham: Yes Len that’s correct. One of the things that I think that is so important is that you really touched on it just a moment ago is that even for the police officers, we are looking for that safe environment as well. We are not looking for confrontation, we are not trying to get in, definitely not trying making sure that none of the innocent bystanders are harmed in any way and in the D.C. area, of course, we’ve had those types of incidents happen in the past.

Leonard Sipes: And all over the country.

Bernard Graham: All over the country especially. This again opens the door not only for the offender, but also for the police, for the citizens it makes it safer for everyone involved and it also opens up a level of trust back with the faith based community which I believe is extremely important and we are again as Nancy stated earlier so indebted and so grateful that Bible Way has extended this open arm invitation for us.

Leonard Sipes: 202-585-SAFE is the telephone number that we’ve setup for a telephone answering system. 202-585-SAFE. The website we’ve also setup for the Safe Surrender program in Washington D.C. is www.dcsafesurrender.org. But this question goes to either one of you. Have we really answered the question precisely as to why an individual wants to surrender? When I first heard about this program, I’m going why; I mean they can turn themselves in at any time. You know, why would an individual surrender on the criteria that we mentioned before. Why would an individual voluntarily surrender?

Nancy Ware: Well, many of our agencies and CSOSA in particular have done focus groups with ex-offenders and folks who are out on probation and parole just to get a sense of what are their concerns and what are the kinds of things that would encourage someone to use this initiative constructively and what we hear is that people who have outstanding warrants are at constant risk of being confronted by law enforcement in a way that puts their family in jeopardy and puts them in jeopardy. It often affects their ability to get jobs. If they are moving around and trying to figure out exactly how to get their lives back in order, this is a situation that is usually compromised by the fact that they have these outstanding warrants and sometimes it’s not a difficult thing to resolve, it just means that they have to have a mechanism to resolve them in a safe and secure environment and so I think that many family members will be encouraging their loved ones who have warrants to participate in this initiative so that they can get their lives back on track and they don’t have to live in fear or constantly concerned about someone stopping them, pulling over, coming to their door, kicking down their doors, harming they or their children or their loved ones. And so this is a great way to give them an opportunity to come to a church environment or a faith based environment that’s a lovely environment where they’ll have all the supports that they need to safely surrender.

Leonard Sipes: Now, we’re gonna talk about this whole concept of favorable consideration because we have debated this amongst ourselves in terms of what is favorable consideration. I can tell you that the track record in most of the Fugitive Safe Surrender sites throughout the country, Bernard I think this question is gonna go to you because you represent the larger Marshal system here. The vast majority of offenders who have walked in and walked out. Now what does that mean? They either get a new court date to resolve those issues or they sometimes get adjudication on the spot in terms of say they’re there and they simply say fine, it’s time served if you will and it doesn’t go any further than that, it’s ended right then and there and they put the person say on probation and so the person walks out that day. In the focus groups that we did, that was the key issue that was brought up that was the key issue throughout the country when I spoke to people who have went through the program at Indianapolis, they said the principle issue was this concept of favorable consideration that in all probability depending upon the criteria, and I’m gonna repeat the criteria after the question, that they have a pretty good chance of walking that day.

Bernard Graham: That’s correct Len. You will receive what we have deemed and termed as favorable consideration and in every city most of the individuals will walk out on that day. Again, some of these individuals who are surrendering in some of these cities are aware that their crimes that they have been charged with are crimes of violence and that they will not be released, but they are still looking for a safe environment to surrender. They are just not wanting to stay on the lamb so to speak or on the run. They are looking for an environment that they can turn themselves in; they can do away with these charges. In most instances, the family members are very instrumental in getting them to surrender.

Leonard Sipes: I saw that in Indianapolis and by the way for the listeners on our website, we have tape of people who we interviewed in Indianapolis who talked about why they surrendered and in many cases their families were right there and I talked to one mother who basically said that she told her son that he’s going today whether he likes it or not and they came together as a team, but she brought him down with the idea that you’re living in my house, we’re getting this done and over with right now. You cannot continue to do what it is that you’re doing. So, let me give the criteria one more time. Wanted for a non-violent offense, have no history of violence, no extensive criminal history, no domestic violence cases, and adult offenders only. And again, all of this information is on our telephone answering system and on our website just in case you are not picking it up now. But we know, however, that individuals who don’t fit this criteria do end up surrendering because they’re looking for a safe place to surrender.

Bernard Graham: That’s correct Len. They’re still looking for that safe environment. They really want to end this run, this hunt, they’re looking to really get on with their lives and for us, even in law enforcement, we view this as really a “second chance”, a re-entry type initiative. Where you can put that charge behind you, you can move on with your life, you can get on as Nancy stated earlier, you can get on and find that job, you can start to go to those family reunions and those things and reintegrate yourself back even with your family, with the community and become a productive citizen again not looking over your shoulders.

Leonard Sipes: Because again the focus groups that we did, you know they were saying in essence that he or she but the vast majority of these cases are hes, often times don’t feel they can go to get the job training or don’t feel that they can get the job, or they separate themselves from regular society because they believe they have a warrant so they separate themselves and they just don’t participate in the things that we want them to participate in. We want them to get a job, we want them to go for substance abuse counseling, we want them to get job training, we want them to be full and productive members of society. The other thing the focus groups tell us is that if you don’t have access to regular society, you’re gonna continue committing crimes. So, if we pull a couple hundred offenders into this program, we make this city of Washington D.C. and the entire metropolitan area safer. Nancy Ware.

Nancy Ware: Well, and also as your listeners will find if they go onto the website, we did get testimony from some of the folks who were, took advantage of this initiative in other cities and you know I think they walked in very nervous and not completely trusting of the process, but when they came out they were so relieved to have this off their record, to be able to move forward, to be able to work with the required personnel to deal with whatever the outcomes of their warrant situation were. So, we’ve been very pleased with what we’ve seen around the country from the other sites and D.C. is very excited about offering this to our citizens here in Washington.

Leonard Sipes: I think that comes to the heart and soul of the matter and either one of you can answer this question. Why should people involved in the lifestyle as we refer to it, why should people involved in criminality trust us? I mean why should they trust us? Isn’t that the heart and soul behind this whole campaign because what we’re saying is that if you meet the criteria that I mentioned and I’ll mention one more time before the end of the program, if you meet that criteria and you come to the Bible Way Church at 1100 New Jersey Avenue in Northwest Washington D.C. at the intersection of New York Avenue on the days that we mentioned November 1st to Saturday, November 3rd, hours of operation from 9 to 5, you’re in essence trusting us or the mother of the offender or the grandmother of the offender or the friends of the offender, it’s a trust factor. In one focus group that we spoke to that was the principle issue. They said by the way how are you going to get us to trust you, you guys within the criminal justice system?

Nancy Ware: Well, I think you touched on it. I think that the essence here of garnering and encouraging that trust is the fact that we are partnering with other faith based leadership within the city and that we’ve set this up in one of D.C.’s large church facilities which is Bible Way. It is a beautiful facility and many people who are residents of D.C. are familiar with this particular location and this church that has been extremely active in the community throughout the history of Washington, so we are very pleased to have this kind of partnership. We think that our other faith based leaders who will also be speaking on the Fugitive Safe Surrender initiative here in D.C. will also be encouraging their congregations to participate and we want that kind of message to go out to our citizens here and their families and folks who are worried about warrants so that they’ll know that we are sincerely anxious to provide an opportunity for them to use this as a trust factor with the D.C. law enforcement and public safety agencies so that we can show them that we can be trusted in this initiative and that this is something that we think will benefit not just public safety for the city, but also encourage folks who need to reintegrate back into the community and be able to become active participants and citizens of Washington D.C. To put all that negative stuff behind them.

Leonard Sipes: It is so interesting because in essence we’re saying hi, we’re the criminal justice system, trust us. You know we are dealing with folks who don’t trust A. the government and B. the criminal justice system. We’re working now with people who are doing a radio ad for us from the Maryland, D.C., Delaware Broadcasters Association. We’re in partnership with them in terms of getting the radio ad out and it is just an amazing concept. When I first sat down with very creative Emmy award winning people who had done public service ads and the broadcaster’s association does this sort of thing for lots of different groups. When I first sat down with them, the first thing they identified, the first thing everybody identifies is you’re gonna ask offenders who are wanted on warrants to trust you, to trust us. And the Bible Way Church and the other members of the faith based community both Muslim and Christian and Jewish coming together and basically saying yes you can trust us. Surrender or participate and get this behind you and in all probability according to what we’ve seen in other Safe Surrender cities, you’re gonna walk that day. Not everybody. If you’ve got a violent crime, but if you meet the criteria you’re probably going to walk out that day. Bernard.

Bernard Graham: That’s correct Len. That was very correct on that. From what we’ve seen in other cities around the country and from what we’re anticipating in the Washington D.C. area, that should be the case. One of the things when you’re talking about trust, I could only go back in my mind and I keep seeing Bible Way, Bible Way and again with the trust factor that is why we are, we’ve involved the church and we’ve partnered with them. We are really asking you and we are hoping that as we have seen in other cities that individuals will trust the faith based community. The church has been long standing here and as Nancy stated, this church is not new, not that there’s anything wrong with new churches, but this church is,

Leonard Sipes: It’s an institution.

Bernard Graham: Right. They’re an institution in D.C. and in the metropolitan area of Washington D.C. They have been active in the community. They are very well known and we’re hoping that because of that, that will send a message as it has in other cities that this is legitimate and that this is an opportunity for you to walk in and to start anew.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s why we’re so appreciative of Apostle James Silver. The person at Bible Way Church, the head person, and he is an institution in the Washington D.C.

Nancy Ware: He is the Bishop, yes.

Leonard Sipes: He is the Bishop and Nancy you said that a little while ago and in essence what he is saying is that he’s pledging his own personal word that the program will work as created. Right Nancy?

Nancy Ware: Right and again we are learning lessons from other sites around the country where folks we’re a little distrustful at first of this initiative in other sites and other locations in other cities. But what we’ve found was after the first few people came in the front door and everybody spread the word, there was a deluge of folks, loads of people who came in and took advantage of Fugitive Safe Surrender in other cities and we expect that the same will be true here. We’re attempting to build the trust and the partnership with our community here in Washington D.C. and we know that crime can’t be deterred and we can’t expect that we’re gonna make a headway with crime unless we have those kinds of partnerships so we have to forge these relationships and we have to do what we need to do to show our citizens that we can be trusted as law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Leonard Sipes: You know what’s interesting is you go all the way back to the President’s Commission on Crime and the criminal justice back in the 1960s where they were talking about the fact that the criminal justice system has to come together to form a partnership and to work on a cooperative basis. Now, the average person listening to this program doesn’t care about that. But it is rather unusual of those of us who have been in the criminal justice system that this is a cooperative effort with the U.S. Marshal Service, with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, with the Metropolitan Police Department, with the Courts, with the Parole Commission, with Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency who I represent. This has been just an across the board partnership with lots of agencies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Am I leaving anybody out? The Attorney General’s Office, Pre-Trial Services, D.C. Corrections Department, it’s just a partnership of everybody coming together and working together because this is in the interest of virtually everyone touching the criminal justice system. This is of interest to virtually within the District. It’s gonna make the District safer I believe. People outside of society are going to commit fewer crimes. They’re gonna come back in to a faith based initiative. They’re gonna come back in and become part of legitimate society and stop committing crimes. The chances are much greater that they will end their criminality.

Nancy Ware: It’s a first step.

Leonard Sipes: It’s a first step Nancy.

Nancy Ware: This is a first step for many people and it’s a very important step that will allow them to move forward with their lives.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, I’m gonna do a summary of everything that we talked about today and you guys need to correct me. What is the criteria for participating in Fugitive Safe Surrender? There are five criteria.

1. Wanted for a non-violent offense.
2. Have no history of violence.
3. No extensive criminal history.
4. No domestic violence cases.
5. Adult offenders only.

The contact point for general public inquiries is going to be a telephone answering system, 202-585-SAFE, SAFE. 202-585-SAFE. I really encourage people to go on that website and listen to the people from Indianapolis who did surrender and why they surrendered because the one response on the part of one young woman who I interview was wahoo, it’s over, it’s done with. I mean she was filled with joy that not only was she walking out that day, but that her two year process of being on the lamb for a violation of probation warrant had ended.

Nancy Ware: It’s relief.

Leonard Sipes: It’s relief, that’s right absolute relief. So it’s www.dcsafesurrender.org. Now, again this is going to be where and when. It’s going to be at the Bible Way Church. It’s gonna be at the intersection of New York and New Jersey Avenues in Northwest Washington D.C. It’s real convenient from downtown. It’s real convenient from Union Station. It’s real convenient from the closest subway stop which is convention center. The hours and the days are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We’re talking about November 1st to November 3rd, the hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Every single day. Okay, we are at our limit, do we have any followup comments? Nancy, congratulations on pulling this whole coalition together and brining that sense of great partnership. D.C. does have good partnership. I come from the Maryland criminal justice system. I’ve seen the fussing and fighting in Maryland and particularly Baltimore. You know, in D.C. there is a lot of cooperation and it’s because of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Nancy Ware: Well thank you Len. We’re very excited about this initiative. We want to thank the U.S. Marshal Service for their leadership, not just locally but nationally in this effort and we definitely want to thank CSOSA for the leadership in helping us to administer this. It’s been a very, it is continues to be a very ambitious effort and it’s taking all of our partners to make sure that it happens and it happens correctly. We want to encourage our citizens to tell your families and your friends to do the right thing and do it now.

Leonard Sipes: That’s the slogan of the campaign and I completely forgot to mention the slogan for the campaign. Do the right thing right now. Do the right thing right now. Bernard, I think congratulations does go the U.S. Marshal Service. This is a national program of the United States Marshal Service. I remember that movie that came out a little while ago, U.S. Marshal and this whole process of chasing down the bad guys and in this case people, with the criteria that I mentioned are going to come by the hundreds, and they’re gonna come in and they’re gonna peacefully surrender and they’re gonna make it the city safer, the metropolitan area safer and this is all through an initiative, a national initiative of the U.S. Marshal Service.

Bernard Graham: Thank you Len and in taking some of that credit, I think we will be remiss as U.S. Marshal Service if we did not remind everyone and really send our thanks to all of the partnering agencies and I cannot remember if we mentioned MPD, the Metropolitan Police Department

Leonard Sipes: Oh, absolutely, the Metropolitan Police Department is very involved in this.

Bernard Graham: All of the partners, we could not have done this in the D.C. metro area without a few of the special partners. Number 1 being Bible Way, naturally, and Apostle Silver, but also the CJCC and CSOSA. We could not have even put this initiative together. So, I particularly want to thank all of the partners involved, but particularly those individuals and those organizations who really were the glue behind this total initiative on behalf of U.S. Marshals. Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: 202-585-SAFE is the telephone number. 202-585-SAFE. The web address is www.dcsafesurrender.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, my name is Leonard Sipes, have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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