UPDATED 12.13.2010 by Julie Montanaro
A U.S. Marshals Service Spokesman says 163 people turned themselves in at a four-day Safe Surrender program in Tallahassee.
According to Marty West: Between December 8th and December 11th, 163 people turned themselves in at Bethel AME Church. 15 had felony warrants and were arrested. The rest had misdemeanor warrants and were released after being adjudicated, fined or assigned a new court date.
West says marshals were able to clear 168 misdemeanor warrants and 25 felony warrants. Some folks had multiple warrants, he pointed out.
West says 40 people also came to surrender only to find that there weren't any warrants out for their arrest.
Tallahassee, FL -
A Tallahassee church turns into a courthouse for the next few days, giving people with outstanding warrants the chance to turn themselves in. U.S. Marshals say people with non-violent outstanding warrants can safely go to Bethel A.M.E. Church and turn themselves in, instead always having to look over their shoulder.
Ja-condria Gibson sits in front of a Leon County judge to answer to an outstanding warrant.
She actually turned herself in Wednesday because she failed to complete a diversion program.
Gibson showed up to Fugitive Safe Surrender.
The U.S. Marshals allows anyone with outstanding misdemeanor and non-violent felony warrants to turn themselves in.
All they have to do is walk into Bethel A.M.E. Church on Orange Avenue in Tallahassee.
Gibson says, "It was better than going to the jailhouse and turning myself in. So, I just decided to come here and it was easy; better than handcuffs. They just gave me another court date and I'm Scott free."
Those surrendering come in and fill out paperwork, sit down with a public defender, and then go before the judge.
There are mini courtrooms with complete staff set up inside the building.
Most cases are settled with some type of adjudication, fine, or setting of a future court date.
Dennis Williamson, a U.S. Marshal, says, "If during the holidays they get stop for running a red light and having a warrant on them, then they're going to end up going to jail. This is a way they can take care of their warrants and go back and get their life in order."
By 3:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, marshals say more than 30 people had turned themselves in, and most do get to leave and go home.
Fugitive Safe Surrender will be at Bethel A.M.E. Church through Saturday.
The church is only used for the facility. The U.S. Marshal's Office is hosting the event in partnership with authorities from Leon County, City of Tallahassee, Wakulla County, and Gadsden County and volunteers.
This is the first time marshals have hosted Fugitive Safe Surrender in Florida. They say more than 27,000 people thus far across the country have taken advantage of it since it started in 2005 in Cleveland, Ohio.