Overcoming Lack of Community Resources
Several jurisdictions have identified possible strategies for overcoming a lack of community resources, including
- Forming cooperative relationships with local criminal justice, medical, mental health, and social service organizations in the community.
Examples of these organizations may include, but are not limited to, police, fire/rescue, and sheriffs' departments; probation and parole agencies; juvenile court and juvenile service providers; government social services; legal aid services; or medical and mental health service providers (APRI 2002). In addition to asking these agencies to donate space and time, information sharing and cooperative efforts between victim/witness units and other law enforcement agencies may help avoid duplication of effort and waste of scarce resources, while ensuring that victims receive the services they need.
The National Center on Rural Justice and Crime Prevention has identified two types of community and neighborhood resource centers that may help provide services. Family resource centers make services supportive of families and more widely and readily accessible. Neighborhood justice centers provide a wide array of legal and social services, as well as prevention programs. Regardless of the services they provide, these centers are designed to bring the community together and to improve the quality of life in that community (Kimbrough-Melton 2001).
Reaching out to unlikely but visible places in the community has proved to be helpful to many rural jurisdictions. The Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut, for instance, has created an innovative program called the Hairdresser Project that trains hairstylists in the dynamics of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment; teaches them how to recognize the signs of domestic abuse; and advises them on how to discuss domestic violence with suspected victims (Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut 1999). Likewise, specialty and grocery stores, post offices, or local restaurants can be useful venues for reaching out to victims.
- Involving the faith community.
Approaching churches and other faith-based institutions to set up meeting places for counseling or support groups may be worthwhile, especially now that changes in federal legislation have increased the funding resources available to help these organizations serve their communities (Small 2001).
- Increasing the community's awareness of the needs of the victim/witness program.
The rural prosecutor is in an important position to raise awareness in the community about the needs of the victim/witness program. With his or her visible support and public appeals, community organizations or nontraditional resources such as local corporations may be willing to donate time, space, or other necessities. In Smyrna, Georgia, for example, local prosecutors tapped the local Wal-Mart to pay the rent for the community's child advocacy center.