Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has issued a unique proposal for persons in the county wanted on family court bench warrants. Lott has sent out more than 12-hundred letters encouraging fugitives listed on Family court bench warrants to take advantage of “surrender days.” When a persons turns themselves in they go directly before a Family Court judge instead of being sent to jail to wait for a hearing. The two remaining surrender days are today and Thursday. Monday was also designated a surrender day. Lott says the program is in its third year and has been very successful.”There is no way we can lose on this. We can save a lot of money by sending letters out and giving people the opportunity to come in. It really saves a lot of manpower and money. It was almost a no-brainer to do something like this.”
Lott says he knows of no other county in the state offering this program. Lott said he read about a similar program used in a county in a state out in the Midwest.
Lott says in the first two years of the program they have averaged about 100 fugitives turning themselves in during the three day period.. Lott says that’s 100 persons they did not have to use taxpayer money to track down. “Our main focus has been on Family Court bench warrants. These are where a parent hasn’t paid the money to their child. To us that’s a terrible crime because the kids are the ones who suffer. Even if the ex-spouses can’t get along when they don’t pay the money it’s the child that suffers.”
Lott says the program would not be a success with the cooperation of the family court and its judges and the clerks of court. Lott says anytime is a good time for family court fugitives to turn themselves into the Richland County Sheriff’s Office. ” We try to encourage them to come during these three days, but if they calls us and can’t come in during these three days and make arrangements to come in at a later time that’s fine as long as they show that they are working with us and trying to do the right thing. We will work with them.”