Tennessee counties have an opportunity to improve safety for crime victims when they appear in court to support charges against perpetrators. The Office of Criminal Justice Programs (OCJP) is working to help community leaders access grants to create or renovate courtroom safe spaces. The funds are available through the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which is funded through fines imposed in federal courts.
"Tennessee judicial officials have been eager to provide safe spaces for victims to make sure there's a secure place away from those who are charged with crimes," OCJP Director Jennifer Brinkman said. "We want to avoid putting victims in vulnerable situations where they could be victimized again or in fear of moving forward with prosecution."
OCJP worked with the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference (TNDAGC) to access VOCA funds for this purpose.
"Because so many courthouses throughout Tennessee still lack safe spaces, our most vulnerable victims, like children and domestic violence survivors, are in danger of being re-victimized by their abusers," TNDAGC Executive Director Guy R. Jones said. "Every Tennessee courthouse needs a safe space and these grants can help make that happen."
The TNDAGC was created by the General Assembly in 1961 to provide for a more prompt and efficient administration of justice in the courts of this state.
A total of $300,000 is available and could be accessed by counties to create or update safe, trauma informed spaces or waiting rooms for victims of crime to wait for court processes or meet with the prosecutor, victim witness coordinator and other individuals assisting the victim of crime with his/her case.
Since the grants became available earlier this year, nine courthouses have received funding: Campbell, Claiborne, Madison, Morgan, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Union and White Counties. Counties can access the grant application here: https://Bit.ly/TNcourthouse.
OCJP functions as a strategic planning agency that secures, distributes and manages federal and state grant funds for Tennessee. While collaborating with other public and non-profit agencies, OCJP utilizes these grant monies to support innovative projects statewide in efforts to reduce criminal activity, provide services for victims of crime and promote overall enhancement of the criminal justice system in Tennessee