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Domestic Violence Task Force Report

Report from Mississippi’s Domestic Violence Task Force per Senate Bill 2631

Click here Domestic Violence Task Force Report to open Report in a PDF

Domestic Violence Task Force Report

Page 1

In 1997, then State Auditor Phil Bryant conducted a
Performance Audit on Domestic Violence with the following
four objectives:

* Review statewide policies related to domestic violence;

* Review policies and procedures of the Mississippi State
Department of Health related to the administration of
funds awarded to domestic violence shelters;

* Review policies and procedures of the Division of
Public Safety Planning, Mississippi Department of
Public Safety, related to the administration of funds
awarded to domestic violence shelters, directly and
passed through units of local government; and,

* Review policies and procedures of the Mississippi
Department of Economic and Community Development
related to the administration of funds awarded to
domestic violence shelters.

Findings from this audit included indication of
fragmentation and lack of coordination and collaboration.
The report stated, “This fragmentation is primarily due to
various sources of federal funding targeting different
populations that may include victims of domestic
violence…There is little communication between these
agencies regarding funding of domestic violence related
projects and use of funds by recipients.”

A second finding was a lack of a statewide policy to address
the problem of domestic violence and the indication that
different state agencies are taking different paths that do not
create a single vision for the state. The recommendation of
the audit included the formulation of a statewide strategic
plan with clearly defined goals, policies, and priorities to
guide individual agency plans.

Victim advocates
across the state
have seen little
indication of
change since the
State Auditor
conducted a
performance
audit on domestic
violence in 1997.

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page 2

The third finding addressed the lack of data on incidences of
domestic violence, which could be corrected by a
recommended statewide mechanism to collect and monitor
reliable data from all related agencies.

The fourth finding centered on the lack of required training
for law enforcement. The audit suggests that the Board of
Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training should
evaluate its current curriculum and make efforts toward
training officers.

Victim advocates across the state have monitored this
process since the audit of 1997 and seen little indication of
change. Therefore, a group of these advocates requested
further review of these issues.

Seven Areas Addressed by the Task Force

As a result of that request, the Legislature passed during its
2013 Regular Session and Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate
Bill 2631, which created the Domestic Violence Task Force.
Senate Bill 2631 requires the task force to provide
recommendations and advice to the Legislature in seven
areas, as follows:

1. Streamlining funding to domestic violence shelters
resulting in uniform and objective funding and
auditing standards;

2. Providing recommendations regarding the Victims of
Domestic Violence Fund under Section 93-21-117 and
its disbursement to shelters;

3. Considering the impact, definition, funding and
certification of batterer intervention programs;

4. Creating standards for confidentiality of client records;

5. Updating training requirements for grant monitors, law
enforcement and court personnel;

6. Providing uniform reporting and automation options;
and,

7. Implementing the formation of a domestic violence
commission with the charge of executing
recommendations made by this task force.

The Mississippi
Legislature passed
a bill in 2013
creating the
Domestic Violence
Task Force to
provide
recommendations
and advice in 7
key areas.

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page 3

Task Force Recommendation

Having conducted research on the seven areas, the Domestic
Violence Task Force recommends legislative action to create
the Mississippi Commission Against Interpersonal Violence
(MCAIV) and that the duties and powers of this Commission
include designation as the sole state entity responsible for
administering all state and federal-pass-through domestic
violence and related monies. Additionally, it is recommended
that the Commission be given the authority to develop,
promulgate and implement certification and reporting
standards for domestic violence and related victim service
providers, and that any organization seeking to serve victims
or receive funding be required to comply with such
standards and become certified. Other legislative action is
recommended to address a number of the 7 areas prescribed
by the legislature as described below.

Recommended changes will not result in any added expenses
to the state, but rather will result in a reorganization which
will ultimately result in better efficiency and improvement of
services for victims. Changes will require an amendment to
MISS CODE. ANN. § 93-21-117 changing the administering
agency of the Domestic Violence Prevention Fund from the
Mississippi State Department of Health to the Mississippi
Commission Against Interpersonal Violence and amending
any other statute to change the administering agencies of all
other domestic violence and other related funds from their
current state agencies to the Mississippi Commission Against
Interpersonal Violence. Further the MCAIV would also be
able to utilize a percentage of the federal grants for
administrative purposes.

The Task Force recommends housing all domestic violence
related monies under the MCAIV and the creation of uniform
standards for certification, to be used as a basis to qualify
for funding because funding from multiple sources has
created the current environment in which the needs
described in S.B. 2631 have come into being.

The Mississippi
Commission Against
Interpersonal
Violence should
become the state
entity responsible for
administering all
domestic violence
and related monies.

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page 4

Although the directives to the Task Force contained in S.B.
2631 were limited to domestic violence funding and related
issues, the Task Force found that it was not possible to
complete its mandate of making sound recommendations to
the Legislature without considering and incorporating related
areas into its inquiries, including sexual assault, human
trafficking and to a lesser extent, child abuse, and other
related victim services. This has come under the purview of
the Task Force because many domestic violence shelters are
already providing services to these victims and receiving
funding for those services. The issues related to the funding,
training, uniformity, data collection and the streamlining of
the provision of effective, quality services to victims in these
areas are too integrally related to those experienced by
domestic violence service providers to exclude from the Task
Force recommendations. Thus, to the extent necessary, Task
Force considered and made recommendations regarding such
services in addition to domestic violence services. The very
name of the recommended Commission recognizes the need
to broaden the scope of this organization beyond domestic
violence, as the “Mississippi Commission Against
Interpersonal Violence.” For purposes of this report, the
term “interpersonal violence” is defined to include violence
between family members and intimate partners, but also
violence between acquaintances and strangers, and includes
the crimes of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault,
trafficking, child sexual abuse, and related crimes.

Current Environment

The task force has determined four main elements that are
problematic in the current environment: lack of uniform
funding and grant process, lack of grievance structure, lack
of transparency and lack of accountability.

Lack of uniform funding and grant process

The state agencies in Mississippi that administer grant funds
to domestic violence shelters in the state do not have a
uniform process or procedure or a written policy for the
shelters to apply for grant funds, to receive the funds from
the granting agencies, or to provide periodic reports to the
granting agencies.

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page 5

The lack of a uniform process or procedure for the grant
process is caused by the lack of a statewide strategic plan for
funding to domestic violence shelters and a lack of statewide
policies and procedures for grant administration of domestic
violence funds. In addition to statutory mandates provided
in MS. Code Section 93-21-107, with which any organization
seeking funding from the Victims of Domestic Violence Fund
administered by the MSDH must comply (discussed more
fully below), each funding source has promulgated different
internal rules with which organizations seeking funding must
comply. Furthermore, the effects of not having a uniform
process or procedure are that domestic violence shelters
must send reports to multiple funding agencies. This results
in an inefficient use of time and resources by shelters and
other service providers, as well as creating a haphazard and
unwieldy structure for receiving both state and federal
funds. Ultimately, services to clients suffer.

Federal Funds

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety (DPS), the
Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and the
Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) administer
federal funds to domestic violence shelters in the state of
Mississippi through seven grants, originating from federal
agencies, illustrated in the attached Exhibit A.

Exhibit B illustrates the differences in process and procedure
utilized by each of the four state agencies in awarding and
monitoring grants to the shelters.

State Funds

In addition to the grants listed in Exhibits A and B, the
Victims of Domestic Violence Fund, funded through state
dollars, is administered by the Mississippi State Department
of Health, Women’s Health Office, and has its own process.

The MSDH Policy Office personnel have indicated to service
providers that an in-house committee reviews grant
applications, and a scoring system is utilized; however, the
Women’s Health Office has not shared this information with
the domestic violence shelters after being requested to do so.
The task force determined that MSDH utilizes both written
and unwritten policies to determine eligibility, amounts to be
awarded before grant submission, and grant management
requirements.

A statewide
strategic plan for
funding to
domestic violence
shelters and
statewide policies
and procedures
for grant
administration of
domestic violence
funds have never
been developed.

___________________________________________________________________________________________page 6

The MSDH requires the shelters to submit quarterly and
annual reports as well as copies of checks, and requires the
revision of the budget for any change made.

The Task Force also notes that site visits are not conducted
consistently. When they are conducted, the shelters are not
provided with any written protocol or evaluation criteria for
the site visit in advance of the monitoring. Hence, shelters
are being held accountable and findings have been made
against shelters due to a lack of prior knowledge of
expectations or for items of which they were unaware. Site
visits conducted by the MSDH are primarily focused on the
shelter facility and not the client files, financial records, or
program services. The reason for the focus on the facility
during site visits is unknown. The result is that the MSDH is
holding shelters to standards which are neither included in
Miss. Code Ann. Section 93-21-107, nor in any written policy
which has been promulgated or provided to service
providers.

Lack of grievance structure

The task force has noted that a grievance structure does not
exist to provide shelters with a means to a formal complaint
process. Shelter directors have expressed concern regarding
difficulty contacting grant administrators who can address
their complaints regarding funding and reporting when the
grant administrator has not addressed those complaints.

The lack of a grievance structure throughout the grant
process is caused by the lack of statewide policies and
procedures for administering grants to shelters. The effects
of not having such a grievance structure are the inefficient
use of time and resources by shelters in attempting to
resolve grievances, and that funds are often held up for
several weeks or months while shelters try to resolve issues.
The result is that the shelters have difficulty paying their
bills and payroll, sometimes having to use their reserve
funds, and may also cause loss of personnel causing services
to clients suffer.

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page 7

Lack of transparency

The Task Force has noted that grant providers show a lack of
transparency regarding the utilization of domestic violence
grant funds.

Department of Public Safety

Regarding the VOCA (Victims of Crimes Act) grants to states,
this federal statute requires states to allocate a minimum of
10% of funds to specific categories of victim services (e.g.,
domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and previously
underserved populations identified by the administering
state agency). The percentage above the minimum 10% for
each category is subject to change each year, but DPS has not
been transparent with respect to who recommends, decides,
and approves the percentages.

Regarding the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) grants to
states, this federal statute requires states to allocate a
mandated percentage of funds to specific groups. The task
force noted that DPS has not been transparent regarding how
it accounts for these percentages.

Department of Health

As discussed above, in the administration of the Victims of
Domestic Violence Fund, MSDH Policy Office has stated that
an in-house committee reviews grant applications, and a
scoring system is utilized; however, the methodology utilized
by the Women’s Health Office has not been shared with the
domestic violence shelters.

Lack of Accountability

The MSDH administers the Victims of Domestic Violence
Fund through its Women’s Health Office. This fund consists
of monies appropriated by the legislature, interest accruing
to the fund, monies received through criminal assessments,
monies received from the federal government, donations,
assessments collected on bail bonds, and monies received
from other sources as may be provided by law. The MSDH
was required by legislation to create a separate fund within
the state treasury into which these monies were to be
deposited.

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page 8

The task force has determined that collection amounts for
the Victims of Domestic Violence Fund published by the
Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (DFA)
and from the MSDH differ significantly. In response to a
letter from the Task Force requesting information from FY
2011 and FY 2012 regarding this fund, MSDH admitted that
the total amount of funds deposited into the Victims of
Domestic Violence Fund for FY 2011 was $768,593.95,
however, the amount disbursed to eligible shelters was only
$377,566.11. Furthermore, for FY 2012, the total amount of
funds deposited into the Victims of Domestic Violence Fund
was $797,731.59, while the amount disbursed to eligible
shelters was only $469,806.69. For the two years in
question, this results in a total of $591,519.21 of funds
intended to support domestic violence victim services which
were not distributed. There has been no explanation of why
these funds were not made available for the services for
which the Legislature mandated. Furthermore, the MSDH
failed to create the separate fund as required by the
Legislature. The members of the Task Force expressed
outrage that the MSDH disregarded the legislatively
mandated intent for these funds, and the lack of internal
accountability for these funds within MSDH.

As a result of this determination by the task force and at the
request of the task force, the Performance Evaluation and
Expenditure Review (PEER) Committee has approved a project
to look further into this and to determine amounts of monies
not received by the shelters as far back as practicable from
the Victims of Domestic Violence Fund.

For the fiscal
years 2011 and
2012, the MSDH
failed to distribute
or account for a
total of
$591,519.21 of
funds intended to
support domestic
violence victim
services.

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page 9

Recommendations for Implementation of Commission

To begin the process of implementing the formation of a
domestic violence commission, as stated in S.B. 2631, the
task force recommends that:

* The legislature pass the attached bill creating the
Mississippi Commission Against Interpersonal Violence
(MCAIV);

This recommendation
addresses Area 7.

* The legislature amend MISS CODE. ANN. § 93-21-117 to
change the administering agency of the Victims of
Domestic Violence Fund from MSDH to the Mississippi
Commission Against Interpersonal Violence so that the
MCAIV becomes the state entity responsible for
administering all state domestic violence, sexual
assault and other related monies;

This recommendation addresses Area 2
& 7.

* The Legislature transfer the authority to administer
funding from Victims of Crime Act and the Violence
Against Women Act from DPS to the MCAIV;

This recommendation addresses Area 1
& 7.

* The Legislature transfer the authority to administer
funding under the Family Violence Prevention and
Services Program from the MSDH to the MCAIV;

This recommendation addresses Area 1
& 7.

* The legislature amend any other statute to change the
administering agencies of all other domestic violence,
sexual assault and related funds from their current
state agencies to the MCAIV so that the MCAIV
becomes the state entity responsible for administering
all state and federal-pass-through domestic violence,
sexual assault and related monies;

This recommendation addresses Area 1
& 7.

* The legislature grant the duty and authority to the
Mississippi Commission Against Interpersonal Violence
to develop a statewide strategic plan for streamlining
the process by which victim service agencies seek and
obtain funding, how this funding is distributed, and
statewide policies and procedures for the
administration of such funds, while respecting federal
requirements, and that such policies and procedures
specifically provide for an appeals and/or grievance
process for grantees;

This recommendation addresses Area 1, 2
& 7.

* That the legislature amend § 93-21-107(6) to allow the
current cap on shelter funding to be adjusted for inflation;

This recommendation addresses Area 1.

* The legislature amend § 93-21-107(4) to clarify that the
match requirement contained in that provision shall be
based solely on state dollars;

This recommendation addresses Area 1.

* The legislature grant the MCAIV the authority and duty
to promulgate and implement uniform standards for
shelter and other service provider certification policies
and procedures to ensure uniformity in in the quality
of services, reporting, funding, and inspections;

This recommendation addresses Area 1
& 7.

* The legislature create a definition of the term “batterer
intervention programs,” and amend §§ 93-5-24, 99-15-
26, and 93-21-113, and any other necessary provisions
of law to clarify these are the types of programs
intended;

This recommendation addresses Area 3.

* The legislature amend §§93-21-109 and 93-21-107(7)
to require that all victim advocates maintain strict
confidentiality of all victim information, or be guilty of
a misdemeanor or be held civilly responsible;

This recommendation addresses Area 4.

* The legislature grant to the MCAIV the authority to
gather and report data on domestic violence, sexual
assault and related issues;

This recommendation addresses Area 6.

* The legislature amend any other relevant provisions of
state law in furtherance of these recommendations;
and

This recommendation addresses Area 6.

* The Mississippi Commission Against Interpersonal
Violence consider the findings and recommendations
presented in the pending PEER audit report regarding
the Victims of Domestic Violence Fund.

This recommendation addresses Area 1, 2
& 7.

_________________________________________________________________________________________
page 10

Need for legislative action to create uniform standards for
shelter certification

The Task Force recommends that the MCAIV be given the
duty to promulgate and implement uniform standards for
domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking
service providers. In this way, uniformity of services can be
achieved, and the standards can be used as a basis to
streamline funding to these organizations by providing one
set of standards with which they are required to comply,
rather than the current system of multiple standards
imposed by various funding sources. There is no
requirement that an entity identifying itself as such a
provider comply with any uniform certification standards.
State law does not address uniformity of domestic violence
shelter standards, except to the extent that Section 93-21-101

et seq., which defines a domestic violence shelter as: “a place
established to provide temporary food and shelter,
counseling, and related services to victims of domestic
violence” and which sets certain geographic and other
criteria to establish a shelter and to receive funding
administered by the MDHS. These are not certification
standards. State law nowhere recognizes or references any
standards for sexual assault or human trafficking service
providers.

The Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence
(MCADV) has developed certification standards for shelters
and programs, but these are not mandated or even
recognized by any state law. The MCADV is not recognized
by state law as an entity to perform this function.
Compliance is purely voluntary in nature.

There is a process whereby a shelter may voluntarily receive
certification from the MCADV, and that the MCADV has
established Minimum Standards for Domestic Violence
Programs (most currently revised in June 2011). Shelters
operating in Mississippi may apply to become a member of
the MCADV, and then comply with those minimum
standards.

The Domestic Violence Task Force surveyed twelve domestic
violence service providers in the state of Mississippi and
received responses from eight. All eight responded that their
shelters follow the minimum standards for domestic violence
shelters promulgated by the MCADV. All eight responders
also responded that there were other standards or
requirements imposed upon them by various funding
sources or local governments.

Some responders indicated being required to submit as many
as five and six different reports, many of which were
submitted on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis (the
quarterly summarizes the monthly, the annual summarizes
the quarterly). Some responders indicated regular annual
visits by fire department and health department for
code/health purposes, others indicated those visits were
sporadic or had to be requested.

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page 11

A cursory review of surrounding states indicates that there is
state law mandating the creation of standards for domestic
violence shelters (the task force reviewed Alabama,
Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma
laws). Some state laws reviewed place the authority to
establish and enforce such standards on a state agency,
(human services or equivalent, state attorney general, health
department), others on their state domestic violence coalition
with specific directions to that coalition regarding their
duties.

The cause of the lack of a requirement for certification is
that there has not been a clear mandate by the Mississippi
Legislature creating one. The effect of the lack of any one
official certification process impacts services provided to
victims in various parts of the state. Therefore, any
organization could declare itself a domestic violence shelter
or domestic violence program without any oversight,
guidance or accountability.

The task force recommends legislative action (see attached
proposed legislation) clearly establishing one entity to create
and implement uniform standards for domestic violence,
sexual assault and other related programs in the state of
Mississippi and including a mandate that any organization
identifying itself as a domestic violence shelter comply with
those standards and submit to the certification process. The
Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the
Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault shall be
authorized to provide technical support services to member
agencies. Any such legislation would necessarily have to
address funding, include batterer intervention programs and
confidentiality.

Allow the current cap on shelter funding to be adjusted for
inflation by indexing the $50,000 to 1983 dollars.

MISS. CODE ANN. § 93-21-107(6) states that no domestic
violence shelter may receive more than $50,000 annually
from state funding. This statute was created in 1983 when
annual collective funding available for the domestic violence
shelters was less than it is today. Therefore, in order to
assure that each shelter received sufficient funds, a $50,000
cap was placed on monies distributed to each shelter from
this fund. However, over time, the funding to the Victims of
Domestic Violence Fund has increased. The effect of leaving
the cap in place means that there will most likely be a
surplus in the fund that will never be used, and thus, services
to victims will not be operating at their full potential.

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page 12

Legislative action to define “batterer intervention
programs”

A standard definition of “batterer intervention program” is a
program which “focus[es] on behavior modification for
perpetrators of domestic violence in an effort to prevent
domestic violence from reoccurring.” There appear to be
only two statutes in the Mississippi Code that specifically
reference such programs. MISS. CODE ANN. § 93-5-
24(9)(a)(iii)(2) references “a batterer’s treatment program;”
MISS. CODE ANN. § 93-5-24(9)(b)(ii) references “a treatment
program;” MISS. CODE ANN. § 93-5-24(9)(d)(ii)(3) references
“a program for intervention for perpetrators.” These code
sections address custody issues in Chancery Court related to
child custody. MISS. CODE ANN. §99-15-26(2)(a)(iv)
references “a program designed to bring about the cessation
of domestic abuse.” This code section is the “nonadjudication”
statute, which provides for certain criminal charges to be
dismissed upon the successful completion of court-imposed
conditions. Additionally, MISS. CODE ANN. §93-21-113
also references the ability of prosecutors to refer
offenders to “counseling” in lieu of further prosecution.
None of these statutes define the nature or type of the
program intended, leading to confusion and inconsistencies
in the courts. Additionally, inadequate or inappropriate
programs, like anger management, which are not specifically
designed with full awareness of the dynamics of domestic
violence, are often substituted for true batterer intervention
programs, a practice which puts victims’ lives in danger.

The task force determined that there are at least five
organizations in the State offering specific batterer’s
intervention programs. Those five organizations are the Gulf
Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence (Biloxi); the Center for
Violence Prevention (Pearl); Care Lodge Domestic Violence
Shelter (Meridian); Domestic Abuse Family Shelter (Laurel);
and SAFE (Tupelo). Other programs may exist and be in use
in the State, but the task force was unable to determine the
number or location of any such other programs. However,
effective partnerships between existing batterer intervention
programs and the courts are proven to reduce recidivism to 1
– 5%. Certain courts using the programs, such as Clinton
Municipal Court, maintain and have records to demonstrate a
decrease in rates of recidivism for offenders who complete
such programs.

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page 13

Need for legislation to create greater confidentiality for
victims

MISS CODE ANN. 93-21-109 states that records maintained
by domestic violence shelters, except the official minutes of
the board of directors of the shelter, and financial reports
filed as required by statute with the board of supervisors or
municipal authorities or any other agency of government,
shall be withheld from public disclosure under the provisions
of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983. §93-21-107(7)
also requires that any domestic violence shelter require
employees or volunteers of the shelter to maintain the
confidentiality of any information that would identify
individuals served by the shelter.

The task force expressed concern that these confidentiality
provisions may not protect client information adequately.
There are no penalties for improper disclosure of such
information.

Clarify match requirement to include only state dollars

The task force has noted that the MSDH is requiring shelters
to have a 25% local match on their total budget, which
includes both state and federal funds (including federal
funds that do not have any match requirements).

MISS. CODE ANN. § 93-21-107(4) states that not less than 25%
of the operational cost of a domestic violence shelter shall be
derived from local revenue sources of the local community
served by the program. This statute refers only to state
funds.

The cause of the 25% match requirement by MSDH on federal
grants is a lack of clarity in state law that this requirement
applies only to state funds. When this statute came into
effect, the shelters were not receiving any federal funds. The
effect of the lack of clarity in the statute is that this could
result in shelters not applying for federal grants because
they cannot meet MSDH’s match requirement on the shelters’
total budget.

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page 14
15
Need for legislative action to authorize the MCAIV to
gather and report data on domestic violence and related
issues

Currently, the MSDH collects data from funded shelters to
prepare an annual report to the legislature pursuant to §93-
21-111. However, the reporting of this information is neither
standardized nor automated, and is compiled as an
aggregate report – information relative to individual shelters
and the victims served by that program is not readily
available absent a public records request. This unproductive
and archaic process of collecting and reporting data provides
little reliable information as to the real magnitude of the
incidence of domestic violence, not only to the service
providers, but equally important, to the policy-makers and
the public.

Not all shelters are utilizing data management systems for
collecting and maintaining data. The effect of not having
access to data, not collecting data statewide, or of not having
a uniformly defined data collection and management system
is that any data collected is fragmented, misleading, and any
information gained is not able to be meaningfully applied.

The MCAIV should be responsible for gathering and
reporting data on domestic violence, sexual assault and
related crimes. The MCAIV should be given the authority and
responsibility of creating uniform reporting mandates,
defining terms and services, and ensuring training and
support for these new standards, and to work with the
Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the
Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault to provide
technical assistance in the delivery of training. Victim
services agencies will be mandated to participate in data
collection and report submission. The MCAIV will be
empowered to edit or modify standards as needed for
additional information or as required by grants. Proper
uniform reporting provides valuable information necessary
to apply for additional funding, for conducting needs
assessments in particular communities, and for analyzing
and developing a strategic plan for a statewide response to
these crimes.

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page 15

Recommendations for Commission Once Established

The task force recommends that the Mississippi Commission
Against Interpersonal Violence once implemented and
operating, address the following points of concern:

* Determine a path by which shelters’ funding becomes
more equitable with its client population;

* Conduct further research on certification and
implementation of batterer intervention programs;

* Determine the extent to which confidentiality of client
records should be strengthened;

* Conduct further research on training requirements;
and

* Conduct further research on uniform reporting and
automation options.

This recommendation addresses Area 1, 2, 3 4, 5 & 6.

Determine a path by which shelters’ funding becomes more
equitable with its client population.

MISS. CODE ANN. § 93-21-105 states four criteria that must
be met by domestic violence shelters to qualify for state
funding. First, the shelters must be distributed
geographically throughout the state so that at least one
shelter is located in each of the nine districts of the
Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol, as these districts existed
on July 1, 1983, before funding more than one shelter in a
highway safety patrol district. More than one shelter may be
funded in a highway safety patrol district upon a showing of
documented need. The second criterion is that the shelter be
able to provide services, the third criterion is that the shelter
be able to secure community support, and the fourth
criterion is the shelter’s administrative design, while giving
funding priority to those shelters in existence in 1983 that
meet eligibility requirements. The MCAIV should further
study ways to allow shelters’ funding to be more equitable
with its client population, rather than based upon arbitrary
geographic districts.

_________________________________________________________________________________________
page 16

Conduct further research on certification and implementation
of batterer intervention programs

Currently, no organization exists to formulate and/or to
promulgate standards applicable to programs designed or
purporting to bring about a cessation of domestic violence
for purposes of certification, monitoring, or data collection
and research; nor does any agency or organization exist for
the purpose of applying standards through certification
processes or monitoring of or accountability procedures for
programs after certification.

The cause of a lack of standards and certification for batterer
intervention programs is that there has not been a clear
mandate by the Mississippi Legislature creating any. The
effect of a lack of standards and certification is that it will
not be possible to determine which programs are effective
and which should be funded. Ultimately, services to victims
suffer.

The MCAIV should conduct further research and/or a more
comprehensive survey or investigation into (a) the
formulation and implementation of standards and best
practices for batterers intervention programs, (b) the best
available processes for certification and program monitoring,
and (c) effective ways to improve the availability of batterer
intervention programs throughout the state.

_________________________________________________________________________________________page 17

Determine the extent to which confidentiality of records of all
victims should be strengthened

MISS CODE ANN. 93-21-109 states that records maintained
by domestic violence shelters, except the official minutes of
the board of directors of the shelter, and financial reports
filed as required by statute with the board of supervisors or
municipal authorities or any other agency of government,
shall be withheld from public disclosure under the provisions
of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.

The task force expressed concern that this statute does not
grant confidentiality of client records, it only exempts those
records from the MS Public Records Act. Without such
specific confidentiality, sensitive information learned about a
victim may be disclosed to the detriment of the victim.

Victims may be less likely to disclose sensitive information
knowing that it could be released or used against them.
Without the ability to freely exchange information and
openly discuss intimate details that may assist in their
recovery, victims may be negatively impacted. Further, the
statute only protects such information of victims served by
domestic violence shelters, but not victims of sexual assault,
homicide survivors, human trafficking victims or other
victims who receive services from other organizations.

The MCAIV should continue research to determine the need
and manner of providing for specific confidentiality
requirements for victims of domestic violence, sexual
assault, homicide survivors, and victims of human trafficking
and other crimes receiving victim services.

_________________________________________________________________________________________
page 18

Conduct further research on training requirements

Presently, grant administrators, law enforcement,
prosecutors, and judges all receive training from different
avenues with separate mandates concerning each area.

The MCAIV should conduct further research that will
determine a way that all training originate from one source
or authority such as a board or commission with
autonomous authority, which would have oversight to ensure
compliance to the law, rules, and regulations and best
practices. It is not the belief of the Task Force that
mandatory annual training be required by statute, but rather
to allow those rules and regulations to be promulgated by
the oversight authority which would allow for training to be
adjusted as needed without periodic legislative revisions.

_________________________________________________________________________________________
page 19

Conduct further research on uniform reporting or automation
options

The MCAIV should further evaluate appropriate data
management systems to ensure uniform reporting. Not all
shelters utilize a data management system for collecting and
maintaining data on services, demographics, the types of
victims served or other relevant information. The effect of
having a uniform data management system with well-defined
parameters and terms would be (1) a centralized place for
storage of this information, (2) data is easily validated, (3)
data is not open to interpretation, and (4) funding sources
would have immediate access to aggregated data. Programs
around the state, as well as the State of Mississippi itself,
would benefit by being able to provide valid, relevant and
current information when applying for grants.

This recommendation addresses Area 6.

Conclusion

The Domestic Violence Task Force recommends that the
legislature pass the attached bill to create the Mississippi
Commission Against Interpersonal Violence, which will
manage current and future state programs related to
domestic violence prevention.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Exhibit A: Seven Federal Domestic Violence Prevention Grants to State

—————————————————————————————————————————-
Grant Name Mississippi administering Federal agency of origin
agency of federal pass-through funds
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Victims of Crime Act DPS U.S. Department of Justice,
Office for Victims of Crime
(VOCA)
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Violence Against DPS U.S. Department of Justice,
Women Act (VAWASTOP) Office on Violence Against
Services, Training, Officers, and Women (OVW)
Prosecutors
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Violence Against DPS U.S. Department of Justice,
Women Act (VAWA) Office on Violence Against
Sexual Assault Women (OVW)
Services Program
(SASP)
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Family Violence MSDH U.S. Department of Family
Prevention and and Children’s Services
Services Grant
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Rape Prevention and MSDH Center for Disease Control
Education Grant (CDC)
(Sexual Violence and
Prevention Grant)
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Crime Bill Funds Grant MSDH Center for Disease Control
(CDC)
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Emergency Solutions Grant MDA Housing and Urban
Development

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Exhibit B: Federal Grant Processes Utilized by State Agencies
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Grant Name Mississippi Agency Grant Process
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) DPS * DPS uses federally required pre-
determined percentage of the state grant award
for utilization by domestic shelters;
* Starting approximately three years ago, DPS
began providing subgrantees a pre-determined
amount to request in the grant application;
* Determination and calculation of DPS’s pre-
determined amounts are unknown;.
* Grant review process is unknown;
* DPS utilizes written and unwritten policies to
determine eligibility, award amounts, and grant
management requirements;
* DPS requires that sub-grantees attend a Grant
Implementation Workshop;
* Monthly, quarterly, and annual reports required of
subgrantee;
* Sub-grantee must submit copies of checks,
returned checks, and bank statements for financial
reporting requirements;
* Several banking and back up documents are
required of subgrantees to verify receipt of direct
deposit payroll and online payments;
* Budget revision required for any budgetary change;
* DPS spot checks financial grant files, but does not
conduct an audit of the grant funds.
State Grant Award(s) Amount:
2013 Award – $ 4,237,000
2012 Award – $ 3,826,000
2011 Award – $ 4,303,000
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Violence Against DPS * Quarterly and annual required of sub-grantee;
Women Act * Sub-grantee must submit copies of checks, returned
(VAWA) Sexual checks, and bank statements for financial reporting
Assault Services requirements; and several banking and back up
Program (SASP) documents to verify receipts of direct deposit payroll
and on-line payments.
* Budget revision must be submitted for any budgetary
change; and
* DPS spot checks financial grant files, but does not
conduct an audit of the grant funds.
State Grant Award(s) Amount
2013 Award – Unknown
2012 Award – $257,565
2011 Award – $169,687
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Violence Against DPS * DPS uses federally required pre-determined
Women Act percentage of the state grant award for utilization by
(VAWA-STOP) domestic shelter;
Services, Training, * Grant amounts for most sub-grantees are determined
Officers, and with initial grant contract, and many award amounts
Prosecutors have remained the same since 1996;
* Per grant RFP, a scoring process is utilized to
determine eligibility, however, decision-making process
and final scores are unknown to shelters;
* As part of a strategic plan, a planning committee
convenes annually to discuss VAWA grant; most
committee members do not rotate off, and few are
appointed;
* DPS utilizes written and unwritten policies to determine
eligibility, award amounts, and grant management
requirements;
* DPS requires that sub-grantees attend a Grant
Implementation Workshop;
* Annual site visits are not consistently conducted;
* Monthly, quarterly, and annual reports required of
subgrantee;
* Sub-grantee must submit copies of checks, returned
checks, and bank statements for financial reporting
requirements;and several banking and back up
documents to verify receipt of direct deposit payroll and
on-line payments;
* Budget revision must be submitted for any budgetary
change; and
* DPS spot checks financial grant files, but does not
conduct an audit of the grant funds.

State Grant Award(s) Amount
2013 Award – Unknown
2012 Award – $ 1,548,336
2011 Award – $ 1,574,618
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Family Violence Prevention MSDH * MSDH, Women’s Health Office provides subgrantees
and Services Grant with a pre-determined amount to request in the grant
application;
* Calculation and determination of MSDH’s pre-
determined amounts are unknown;
* Quarterly and annual reports required of sub-grantee;
* Sub-grantee must submit copies of checks for financial
reporting requirements;
* Budget revision must be submitted when there is staff
turnover;
* As of 2013, Women’s Health Office is now funding
nonresidential shelter domestic violence/children
programs;
* MSDH spot checks financial grant files, but does not
conduct an audit of the grant funds; and
* Annual site visits are not consistently conducted.

State Grant Award(s) Amount
FY2014 Award – $1,027,306
FY2013 Award – $1,027,833
FY2012 Award – $1,033,500
FY2011 Award – $1,033,500
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Rape Prevention and MSDH * MSDH, Women’s Health Office provides subgrantees
Education Grant (Sexual with a pre-determined amount to request in the grant
Violence and Prevention application;
Grant) * Calculation and determination of MSDH’s pre-
determined amounts are unknown;
* Criteria for rape crisis program is unknown;
* Quarterly and annual reports required of sub-grantee
* Sub-grantee must submit copies of checks for financial
reporting requirements;
* Budget revision must be submitted when there is staff
turnover. MSDH spot checks financial grant files, but
does not conduct an audit of the grant funds; and
* Annual site visits are not consistently conducted.
State Grant Award(s) Amount:
2014 Award – Unknown; however, MSDH has provided the predetermined
award amount to programs/subgrantees.
2013 Award – $215,706
2012 Award – $340,000
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Crime Bill Funds Grant MSDH * MSDH, Women’s Health Office provides subgrantees
(Rape Prevention and with a pre-determined amount to request in the grant
Education Grant) application;
* Calculation and determination of DPS’s pre-determined
amounts are unknown.
* Quarterly and annual reports required of sub-grantee
* Sub-grantee must submit copies of checks for financial
reporting requirements;
* Budget revision must be submitted when there is staff
turnover;
* MSDH spot checks financial grant files, but does not
conduct an audit of the grant funds; and
* Annual site visits are not consistently conducted.
State Grant Award(s):
2014 Award – Information not provided by MSDH
2013 Award – Information not provided by MSDH
—————————————————————————————————————————-
Emergency Solutions Grant MDA * Sub-grantees are required to attend a Grant
Orientation workshop before applying for funds;
* After grant application is submitted, MDA staff
conduct a site visit for sole purpose of evaluating the
shelter;
* MDA utilizes written policies to determine eligibility,
award amounts, and grant management requirements;
* Once sub-grantee is approved for funding, MDA
requires that all attend a Grant Implementation
Workshop;
* Site visit is conducted during grant period, and
monitor reviews client files and conducts desk audit of
financial reimbursement requests; additional facility
site visit is conducted near the end of the grant period;
* Monthly and annual reports required of sub-grantee
* Sub-grantee must submit copies of checks for
financial reporting requirements.

State Grant Award Not available at this time
—————————————————————————————————————————-