Senate subcommittee grapples with fugitive issue in Philadelphia

    A Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime met again in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Politicians and officials grappled with ways of addressing the state and local fugitives crisis, which was highlighted in a recent series in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    A Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime met again in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Politicians and officials grappled with ways of addressing the state and local fugitives crisis, which was highlighted in a recent series in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Listen:
    [audio:100119LFCOURT.mp3]

    Philadelphia’s new District Attorney Seth Williams laid out the numbers for subcommittee Chairman Senator Arlen Specter, who was once Philadelphia’s district attorney.

    Williams: I believe the main reason there are so many fugitives on the streets, is the bail system in Philadelphia is broken. There are nearly 50,000 fugitives in the city of Philadelphia. Each year about 1 out of 3 defendants fails to show up for at least one court hearing. There are barely more than 50 court officers to catch these fugitives. And over the last 30 years fugitives owe the city approximately 1 billion in forfeited bail.

    Williams discussed ways to improve the system, like Operation Safe Surrender in which fugitives can surrender in a community setting with the support of family and friends. At a Safe Surrender event at a South Philadelphia Church in the fall of 2008, more than 1,200 people with outstanding warrants turned themselves in.

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