Record-Breaking Numbers During the 5th Fugitive Safe Surrender New Jersey Reflect Clear Need for Programming for Ex-Offenders

Top Quote Resolving Outstanding Warrants for Non-Violent Offenders Can Afford a New Lease on Life. End Quote
  • Newark, NJ (1888PressRelease) January 15, 2014 - A record-breaking total of individuals wanted by New Jersey law enforcement agencies recently turned themselves in during the fifth Fugitive Safe Surrender New Jersey (FSSNJ). Most of the nearly 5,000 individuals who surrendered are wanted for non-violent felony and municipal warrants.

    "The sheer number of individuals - almost all of them non-violent offenders - turning themselves in during FSSNJ reflects the overwhelming need for programs like these," said Gina DeVito, Esq., managing attorney of Volunteer Lawyers for Justice's Newark Reentry Legal Services (ReLeSe). Based in Newark, ReLeSe helps low-income Essex County residents with criminal records address the civil legal barriers that serve as obstacles to their successful community reintegration. Through ReLeSe's driver's license clinic and direct representation, ReLeSe and its volunteer attorneys assist clients with driver's license restoration and resolution of long out-standing municipal matters. ReLeSe also provides assistance with modification of child support orders and the expungement of criminal records.

    "Our ReLeSe program has some direct parallels with FSSNJ in that we are assisting ex-offenders with legal matters. Time and time again, we have seen first-hand how resolving an outstanding warrant affords a new lease on life. Very often, it paves the way for driver's license restoration and meaningful employment, which serve as two essential pieces of community reintegration," added DeVito. During FSSNJ, DeVito and Karen Robinson, Esq., coordinating attorney of ReLeSe, provided free legal aid and information on VLJ's ReLeSe. The non-profit is in continuous need of volunteer attorneys for its programming.

    While not an amnesty program, FSSNJ enables participants to work with a judge, prosecutor and public defender to seek favorable consideration. Including this year's total, more than 18,000 individuals have surrendered during FSSNJ events. The recent surrender location was Evangelismos Church in Jersey City. After turning themselves in at the church, participants were taken to the Jersey City Armory across the street for the processing of their cases.

    A state-wide 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, VLJ works to ensure fair and equal treatment within the legal system. In addition to ReLeSe, VLJ's programs include free legal counsel and advice; educational seminars on various legal matters such as consumer law, bankruptcy, family law, and special education; and direct representation for at-risk individuals facing critical civil legal issues.

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