WASHINGTON, DC — Over 300 people with outstanding warrants for non-violent crimes voluntarily turned themselves over three weekends as part of the “DC Safe Surrender” program.
Because of the resources and coordination need to run the event, which is put on by the District of Columbia Court System, it has only been held twice before in 2011 and 2007.
"First step for a new beginning. First step for a second chance,” said Willie Jones, who was the first person who turned himself in at the 2007 event and has now become the de facto spokesperson for the program. "It’s no sense in staying out there with a warrant hanging over your head. If they catch you out there, you in trouble."
Jones added that his appearances in the media promoting the event prompted several people to turn themselves in.
"I wanted to be free, but I ain’t really realized the watching over my shoulder, the paranoia that really come behind being free,” said Jeremiah Porter, who said seeing Jones on the news is was inspired him to turn himself in. Porter said he had traffic and probation violations looming over him.
A total of 302 people turned themselves in during the 2016 program. Even though it has ended, Jones and court officials encourage those with outstanding warrants (there are roughly 12,000 of them in D.C.) to turn themselves in.
They can do so by going to room 4000 at the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse.
"They can say they’ve been motivated to do it by the Safe Surrender program. We will give them consideration for having chosen to walk in," said Judge Lynn Leibovitz, the presiding judge of the Criminal Division of D.C. Superior Court.
"That’s the key to this program. Instead of coming through the back door in the bullpen, you come in through the front door,” added Jones.
More details can be found here.