New Jersey Blocks ‘Safe Surrender’ Program At Church

Federal officials are bemoaning a decision by New Jersey’s chief justice to bar the use of a church in criminal proceedings.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie attacked New Jersey Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz in mid-July for refusing to participate in a program called “Fugitive Safe Surrender,” which would have allowed fugitives in Camden to turn themselves in at Antioch Baptist Church.

Christie accused Poritz of barring the program “by relying on incorrect legal technicalities,” reported The Philadelphia Inquirer.

A spokeswoman for the New Jersey Supreme Court, Winnie Comfort, told the newspaper, “There are concerns about having court procedures taking place in any religious facility.”

The newspaper reported that federal officials are seeking to spread the program, which started in Cleveland, to other cities. The U.S. marshal for New Jersey claimed that “no religious service” occurred during the fugitive programs and that officials were seeking to use church facilities and “their networking.”

Comfort maintained that courts must remain neutral.

“One of the important things about being in a courtroom is that it provides a forum put forth by neither the prosecution nor the defense,” she said.