Resource centers are being placed in courthouses of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit to help crime victims navigate the legal system.
“People are at a loss, they don’t know who to turn to and they are very frustrated. They don’t know who to call,” Superior Court Judge Kristina Cook Connelly said.
“If (crime victims) are battling a horrible loss, the last thing they need to feel is that they are battling the entire judicial system,” Judge Connelly said. “They are not, but it can feel that way sometimes.”
District Attorney Herbert “Buzz” Franklin’s office paid to have the resource centers placed in the courthouses of Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties.
The information centers are being unveiled during a series of small ceremonies at each courthouse this week, in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is observed April 13-19.
The courthouse kiosks have brochures with information on how to contact social service organizations such as the Family Crisis Center.
“Hopefully this will make it a little easier for our victims to navigate through the system,” Mr. Franklin said. “That’s where our efforts need to be.”
The district attorney’s office also has a victim and witness assistance program that helped more than 1,500 people last year, Mr. Franklin said, adding the requests for crime victim assistance continue to grow.
In addition to the courthouse information centers, patrol officers throughout the judicial circuit’s four counties are being equipped with domestic violence resource sheets. The fliers may be given to those who might need them, and they provide information on how crime victims may seek restraining orders, swear out warrants or find temporary shelter.
The nonprofit organization Four Points is providing the fliers with a grant awarded by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
Four Points Executive Director Melissa Gifford said better equipping officers helps both the victims and police.
“It allows officers also to get back on the road quicker,” she said. “Instead of standing there explaining all this to a victim, (the officer) can very nicely say, ‘You just experienced a trauma, and you won’t remember what I’m saying anyway. Here it all is written down.’”