For a four-day period, anyone wanted on a warrant in Cuyahoga County can turn themselves in peacefully and safely at Mt. Zion Church in Oakwood Village.
In exchange for their voluntary surrender, the person is given "favorable consideration" by the courts.
"It would show me that the person is taking responsibility for their conduct, bringing themselves to justice," says Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court Judge Joan Synenberg. "I would certainly give favorable consideration to that offender."
Since it began in Cleveland in 2005, Fugitive Safe Surrender has spread nationwide. More than 25,000 people have turned themselves in at churches in 18 cities, and have gotten the chance to turn their lives around on the spot.
"I'm encouraging people to take advantage of Fugitive Safe Surrender," says Stanley Miller, Executive Director of the Cleveland Chapter of the NAACP, which back Fugitive Safe Surrender. "Call your pastor and explain what you want to do. They will give you the information and you can turn yourself in."
The doors of Mt. Zion Church in Oakwood Village will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Wednesday, September 22 through Saturday, September 25. When a wanted person surrenders, he or she will be appointed a lawyer, and will usually be able to clear up their case right on the spot.
In essence, the entire Justice Center is transported for that period to Mt. Zion Church. Lawyers, prosecutors, judges, court personnel, and agencies to support the fugitive after he or she surrenders will all be on hand.
Mt. Zion pastor, Dr. Larry L. Macon, Sr., says his entire staff will be there to support surrendering fugitives and their families in their decision to stop running, stop looking over their shoulder all day, every day.
"This gives people the opportunity to show a judge by coming forward and turning themselves in that they are ready to take that first step," says Judge Synenberg. "If they show they are ready to take responsibility, then certainly I think that would result in favorable consideration from the court."
Fugitive Safe Surrender was originated by Peter J. Elliott, U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio. He found that desperate people often commit desperate acts, and that giving them an alternative to a life on the run would protect law enforcement and the community.
"There are two parts of Fugitive Safe Surrender," Marshal Elliott told WKYC. "First is the four day period to come through the doors of the church and peacefully and voluntarily surrender."
"On days five, six, seven, and eight, teams of U.S. Marshals, Deputy Sheriffs, and Cleveland police officers are going to be coming out as a team after all those individuals who did not turn themselves in," warns Marshal Elliott.
Anyone interested in more information about Fugitive Safe Surrender, which takes place September 22-25 at Mt. Zion Church in Oakwood Village, can call 1-877-647-8773 now.