Attorney General Paula Dow invited me to join her on a tour of the Fugitive Safe Surrender site this year in Somerset at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens. After learning the background of the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, I eagerly accepted her invitation. Fugitive Safe Surrender is not an amnesty program for offenders, but it is a program that offers favorable consideration from the court because these people are "owning up" to the offense they have committed. Most of these non-violent offenders will receive probation or reduced fines, instead of facing incarceration. What I found very impressive was that these individuals, most of the time, are able to surrender themselves and attend a court hearing all in the same day! They surrendered at the First Baptist Church and later that day were escorted to a school down the street that was set up as a courthouse.
I heard some touching stories from a few of the offenders while they waited for their number to be called in the church. One in particular sticks with me.... A man and his niece had flown in all the way from Colorado, just to attend Fugitive Safe Surrender. His grandmother in New Jersey had heard about the program through her church and called her grandson, asking him to return home to NJ to clear his name. This man had been on the run from outstanding New Jersey warrants in his name since the 1980s and hadn't been home since then. Because of this program, he received his judgment, paid his fines, and is now able to come back and see his family without worry of incarceration. This program gave him a second chance to make it right. All of the people surrendering that I met that day as I walked through the church aisles were incredibly thankful. They were so appreciative for this second chance they had been given, both for them, and their families. There is a multitude of planning that goes into a day like this and numerous employees in the law enforcement and judicial system that are involved. My sincerest thanks go out to all of them for being a part of this. If you want more information on this program, please visit their website at http://www.fssnj.com/.