Jackson Free Press
by Brooke Kelly
June 18, 2010
Victims of domestic violence can now receive extra legal assistance, counseling and protection thanks to a $157,950.00 grant awarded to the Mississippi Center for Police and Sheriffs. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety awarded the center with the one-year grant during a press conference at the Capital yesterday.
“Mississippi ranks fifth in the nation in domestic violence murders. Two out of every 100,000 Mississippi women die each year from violence in the home,” said Hinds County Court Judge, William Skinner.
Justice Court Judge Jimmy Morton said not a day goes by without a domestic violence case in his courtroom.
“The fear and the anguish, I see it in their faces,” Morton said of victims at the press conference.
Through the grant, the center’s stop Domestic Violence project will offer free legal advice and support to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The toll-free help line (1-877-609-9911) opened today. Counselors will offer one-on-one counseling, and the staff attorney will be available to answer legal questions regarding the criminal court process.
The Mississippi Center for Police and Sheriffs plans to send cards with the toll free number to every jurisdiction in the state, and responding law enforcement officers will give the cards out at the scene of domestic or sexual-assault calls.
Sandy Middleton, executive director at The Center for Violence Prevention in Pearl said that the grant will help women and their children better afford the legal services needed to get out of abusive homes. In some cases, she said, children have had to stay in homes with fathers or stepfathers who may be sexually assaulting them because their mothers are not able to afford the costs of getting away.
“Victims of domestic violence are all throughout our community. … Calls pour into our center daily,” she said.
Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Simpson said that work has been going on over a year to get the grant through. He said that other than providing legal services and counseling to victims, the grant also supports the criminal justice system. Law enforcement, judicial personnel and victim advocates will be receiving free training in finding and apprehending subjects from experts in the field.
The Mississippi Center for Police and Sheriffs is raising $43,134.00, in addition to the grant, to fund the project. Individuals, corporations and foundation grants are contributing to the fundraising.