Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Role of RWA

10/01/1996

RWA serves as the focal point for many services and coordination activities, and participates in everything that it does not run directly. The basic domestic violence services for the area are run by RWA with eight staff, and include a 24-hour crisis line, support groups, and a system of safe homes; there is also a transitional housing program within the local housing authority where some women find housing after leaving their batterers and before they are able to support themselves in independent situations. Currently, RWA also has 21 volunteer advocates who staff the crisis line during non-office hours and perform other support and advocacy duties. RWA will be with a woman during every step of the process of ending or getting away from the violence, if that is what she wants or needs. They will go through the civil and criminal justice system procedures, help her apply for financial assistance, try to connect her with any other resources she needs, and find her emergency housing if necessary. RWA maintains a system of safe houses which can accommodate women and their children for short periods of time to assure their safety. (When extended shelter stays are necessary, women are referred to Duluth.)

RWA also contracts for the educators for the RIP batterers' education classes and an RWA staff person monitors attendance (i.e., compliance with court orders) and acts upon failure to comply by informing probation (for criminal cases) or filing an order to show cause why the offender should be held in contempt of court for violating the conditions imposed by the court in civil matters.

Range Intervention Project (RIP). In addition to its direct services to women and its intermediary role with batterers' intervention, RWA is the main "connection" for everything happening on the Range having to do with domestic violence, as is described elsewhere in this summary. A major vehicle for this involvement is the Range Intervention Project (RIP), which has as its goal streamlining all aspects of the criminal justice system dealing with domestic violence so that they hold offenders accountable and also do what is necessary to protect the woman's safety (and that of her children if present). RIP, and the agencies associated with it, have worked to establish practices that help case processing and also help victims. These include: with law enforcement—developing protocols specifying criteria for arrest and which evidence to collect, procedures and policies for contacting an advocate when an arrest is made (most law enforcement agencies do this), making sure that victims receive information about available services and their rights, and working to get all law enforcement agencies to adopt a mandatory arrest policy (all now do have this policy); for the courts and probation—developing a system for contacting judges on the weekend if needed, developing criteria and procedures for pre-trial and pre-sentence investigations carried out by probation officers; developing policies to order all offenders to batterers' intervention groups as part of sentence; developing procedures for monitoring compliance with court orders and reporting back to the courts or to probation (for both civil and criminal orders). The various prosecutors in Range communities are the biggest stumbling block in the local criminal justice response to domestic violence. Now that RIP has completed the law enforcement protocol and seen it adopted by most of the law enforcement units on the Range, it is turning its attention to creating a parallel protocol for prosecutors which it hopes to see adopted by all of the local prosecution offices.