WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to the Attorney General, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to support the Fugitive Safe Surrender (FSS) program and encourage local governments and law enforcement agencies to operate locally-based FSS Programs. The program allows individuals wanted for non-violent felony or misdemeanor crimes to voluntarily surrender to the law in a safe and non-violent environment. Brown today asked the DOJ to clarify that funds through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG) can be used for the FSS program.
“While Fugitive Safe Surrender has been successful throughout the nation, too many law enforcement agencies that want to participate cannot find the resources,” Brown said. “That’s why it’s so critical that local and state governments know there is federal funding to support these life-saving efforts. This program not only helps protect families, neighborhoods, and law enforcement, it offers a second chance and a fresh start.”
Initially administered by DOJ, FSS no longer receives federal funding. State and local governments can, however, secure funding through DOJ’s Byrne JAG to sponsor FSS events. In Brown’s letter, he called on DOJ to ensure local law enforcement and government bodies are alerted to these resources and to clarify language to make explicit FSS programs’ eligibility for Byrne JAG grants.
The FSS program – which reduces risk to law enforcement officers who pursue fugitives, to the neighborhoods in which they hide, and to the fugitives themselves – offers an opportunity for individuals who have warrants for non-violent offenses to have their cases adjudicated in a safe, non-violent manner.
Brown has been a long-time proponent of the FSS program, which was developed by Cleveland-based U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott. The program was conceived following the shooting death of Cleveland Patrolman Wayne Leon, who was killed during a traffic stop with a wanted fugitive. After the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that federal funding for the FSS program was slashed in 2011, Brown sent a letter to the Director of the U.S. Marshals Service, Stacia Hylton, urging her to reinstate FSS. In the letter, Brown contended that FSS was an innovative and effective program that should be preserved and enhanced, rather than eliminated.
Brown visited the first-ever Juvenile FSS event at the Juvenile Justice Center in Cleveland, held in September 2014. In Sept. 2010, Brown visited an FSS site at the historic Mt. Zion Church in Oakwood. During the four-day event, more than 7,400 people voluntarily surrendered—a record turnout for the program. Over the life of the program, nearly 35,000 individuals have voluntarily surrendered nationwide.
January 12, 2015
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
United States Attorney General
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder:
Thank you for your steadfast commitment to this country and stewardship of the Department of Justice, especially your efforts for promoting equality before the law. I write to encourage the Bureau of Justice Assistance to incorporate explicit language making clear that funds obtain through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG) can be used by local governments and law enforcement agencies to operate locally-based Fugitive Safe Surrender (FSS) Programs.
FSS programs allow individuals with non-violent felonies and misdemeanors to voluntarily surrender to law enforcement in less threatening environments. The result is beneficial to the individuals and the community. FSS can help individuals take steps to account for their past actions – enabling them to take personal responsibility while charting a new course in their lives – while having their cases resolved. For the community, safety is enhanced, costs of apprehension are reduced, and another individual begins the process of contributing to their community.
In 2005, the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS) began FSS as a pilot program in Cleveland, Ohio. Due to the program’s success, the USMS expanded the program to include nineteen additional cities across the country. From 2006-2010, local communities had federal support in their efforts to both resolve pending law enforcement matters and help reintegrate in community members with outstanding warrants back into the community.
In 2010, I visited the program in Cleveland, where more than 7,400 fugitives surrendered themselves over a four day period. Although the program had achieved tremendous success, the USMS stopped its involvement with FSS in 2011. Since then, the number of communities engaging in Fugitive Safe Surrender has shrunk dramatically even though the need for and value of the program remains. In Ohio, FSS programs are currently run through the state Attorney General’s office. Summit County, Ohio, hosted FSS in June 2014 and 1,500 people surrendered clearing over 3,600 warrants over four days. This past September in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, I attended the first ever Juvenile Safe Surrender program, which targeted juvenile offenders.
State and local governments that want to host FSS have had to scrounge to find money to sponsor the program. Too often, they are unsure of or unaware that DOJ grant programs could support local FSS efforts. Therefore, I ask that the DOJ clarify that Byrne JAG funds can be used to support state or local FSS efforts.
United States Senate
CC: Denise E. O’Donnell, Director
Bureau of Justice Assistance
U.S. Department of Justice