Study examines fugitives’ behavior in surrendering

Kristen Traynor

A recent conference in Washington, D.C., featured a Kent State study on why fugitives decide to surrender.

The study, presented June 26 and 27, focused on the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, which allows people wanted for non-violent felony or misdemeanor offenses to voluntarily surrender in a safe and neutral setting. The program, started in August 2005, is run through the U.S. Marshals Service, which conducts fugitive investigations for the federal government.

Daniel Flannery, the principal investigator and a professor of justice studies, conducted the study with Eric Jefferis, assistant professor of justice studies and Jeff Kretschmar, project director at the Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

Many people turn themselves in so they can support their families because people on the run are often limited to committing illegal acts to earn money, Jefferis said.

He said people on the run are often wary of turning themselves in because they’re afraid of a sting operation.

“People are inclined to turn themselves in somewhere safe,” Jefferis said.

He said he was astounded by the number of people who are willing to turn themselves in for a chance to start over. More than 6,000 people turned themselves in as part of the program in Detroit.

Fugitives can turn themselves in at churches as part of the program, and Jefferis said the whole judicial process takes place within the church.

Kretschmar said that when the fugitives come in, they are checked for their warrant statuses, fingerprinted and photographed, and they usually get to go home at the end of the day.

He said researchers handed out a survey to the fugitives in nine cities asking what they thought would happen to them that day, why they turned themselves in and what they thought the warrants were for.

“They don’t have to fill it out if they don’t want to,” Kretschmar said.

He said the researchers also collected data from local law enforcement agencies to find information such as what the people were charged with, what the warrants were for and the dates the offenses occurred.

Jefferis said the justice studies department has a long-standing relationship with U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot and got involved in the program through him. The team went to cities across the country, collecting data from the processing of fugitives to the resolutions of the cases. Akron and Cleveland were two cities involved in the study. More than 800 fugitives came forward in Cleveland, and more than 1,000 did so in Akron.

Contact principal reporter Kristen Traynor at [email protected].