Collegiate Advocates: Cass County, Michigan
The victim/witness program in Cass County, Michigan's Prosecuting Attorney's Office uses college interns who are mostly pre-law and criminal justice majors. After seeing ads about the program at area colleges, students contact the prosecutor's office, where a staff member evaluates each student's potential for handling the work. Then, the elected prosecutor provides training for interns and the victim/witness staff, which includes general information about victims' issues and the court process.
The training also emphasizes the dynamics of domestic violence. Once on the job, interns contact victims in ongoing domestic violence cases every 2 weeks to assure them that the prosecutor's office is concerned about them. First, they make sure that victims have experienced no further incidents of domestic violence. Then they provide support and make referrals as needed.
Advantages of the Intern Program
The intern component of the Cass County program has proved advantageous for several reasons. For prosecutors with limited budgets, one of the great benefits is that interns are usually paid for their services with college credits, which in themselves can be a great incentive for students. For the prosecutor, this may help alleviate the problem of having interns for only a short time.
The Cass County Prosecuting Attorney also wants to coordinate with a local nursing school. Such a partnership would give the prosecutor's office additional support for victims and help the students fine-tune the skills they will need to help people in crisis.