ACSO pursues grant for victim’s advocacy academy

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

By Lyndy Berryhill

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Adams County Sheriff’s Office deputies are hopeful they can soon offer other criminal justice agencies a place where victims can become more understood.

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Victims are often forgotten by the justice system as criminal proceedings sometimes linger on for years.

The sheriff’s office has applied for a grant that would allow the office to start an academy for victims’ advocacy in Natchez.

Another grant, which has already been received, helped establish a three-member Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), which just ended. The grant amount was approximately $175,000.

Adams County Sheriff’s Office grant writer Chakatria Johnson said the grant renewal could be used to develop a local and statewide victims advocacy academy that could help provide training to other agencies in the state.

It could allow judges, community service organizations, mental health providers and others to have a more knowledgeable base of what victims go through during the court process and the impact of interpersonal violence may have on victims.

Johnson said the CIT unit serves as a model for how Adams County has adapted the national training in crisis deescalation and victims’ advocacy to their service area.

Johnson said the training gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to imagine what a victim goes through in order to better understand their needs.

“It gives us that window to ask, are we really doing that in the best way?” Johnson said.

Johnson said the unit has addressed a major need in the community for victims’ advocacy.

“We have victims in the community who are not showing up for court … we don’t know why,” Johnson said.

Johnson said after assault, abuse and other crimes reported to law enforcement, many victims may not have any type of support system.

She said victims could be too afraid or intimidated to testify in court.

The presence of the CIT unit can be a comfort to victims, she said.

Johnson said officers often deal with only a small portion of what is sometimes a two-year court process or more for the victim.

Often, victims are unaware of what will be required of them and how long it will take for them to receive justice. The CIT unit can reach out to victims and check in on them, remind them of court dates as well as put them into contact with other advocacy groups that can help them get counseling or medical attention, if needed..

“These are things that we would have never been able to capture (without the CIT unit),” Johnson said.

The Adams County CIT unit has served more than 500 victims since August 2016.

Johnson said the sheriff’s office should know by the end of the month of they have received the grant to help fund the victims’ advocate academy.