TN attorneys general champion ‘Safe Space for Victims’

Published 11:08 am Tuesday, March 23, 2021

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A state bill is going into the hands of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, who will consider its fine points during the upcoming weeks. If the subcommittee gives the nod, the bill will establish a one-time grant that will give counties the financial means to provide a safe, secure waiting area for crime victims during court proceedings. The space would also give victims a protected area to meet with attorneys and counselors.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 513 “Safe Space for Victims: Grant Program” sponsored by Sen. Ferrell Haile on behalf of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference. Its companion House Bill – HB744 – is sponsored by Rep Michael Curcio.

Attorney general Jared Effler, 8th Judicial District, recently spoke about the bill and how it will affect future cases.

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“Victims’ rights are among the district attorneys’ top priorities. At present, victims of crime are forced to wait in crowded courthouses, where they may be in close contact with the person who victimized them. This puts them in a vulnerable situation that could result in re-victimization, intimidation or even an unwillingness to move forward with prosecution. This Safe Space bill would provide a much better experience for the brave victims who come forward, and we want to do everything we can to ensure they feel secure and confident in the court process.”

Rep. Curcio says it is an honor to champion this cause for victims and to fight side-by-side with our state’s elected district attorneys on this important piece of legislation.

“It’s efforts like this grant program that show the rest of the country how much Tennessee cares about the needs of victims.”

Sen. Haile agreed with the assessment.

“I appreciate the opportunity to work with our District Attorneys to pass legislation to provide a safe and secure place for these brave victims to await their court hearings. I am very encouraged by the support within the General Assembly for this legislation to benefit victims of crime.”

Each of the 95 counties inside the state will be eligible to apply for the grant monies. The cap for each county is $5,000 with a 75/25 match, which means 25 percent will need to be provided by the county. The county’s match can come from in-kind donations.

The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference was created by the General Assembly in 1961 to provide for a more prompt and efficient administration of justice in the courts of the state. It is composed of the elected District Attorneys General from the state’s 31 judicial districts.

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