Lack of Internal Resources
Perhaps the most frustrating (and most frequently cited) challenge for rural victim/witness programs is the lack of internal resources and how this lack affects all aspects of the program, most notably
- The ability to maintain adequate staffing levels.
- The ability to hone services or create specialized units.
- The time needed to obtain additional education or training, apply for grant funding, or brainstorm ways to improve the overall services the advocates offer.
Rural jurisdictions historically have faced even stricter budget limitations than their urban counterparts. According to the American Prosecutors Research Institute's (APRI's) 2001 survey of prosecutors' offices nationwide, the average budget of a small office was $706,000, and for part-time offices it was only $148,000significantly less than the average budget for all offices, which was $2 million (DeFrances 2001). Only 9.5 percent of part-time offices and 15 percent of small offices included any social services in their budget, compared with 31 percent of medium and 39 percent of large offices. The budgets of most small and part-time offices are consumed mostly by salary and general operating expenses, whereas those of medium to large offices include expert services, investigator services, DNA testing, child support enforcement, interpreter services, and social services as part of their standard operating expenses.
Responses to a recent national survey conducted by the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) on the state of domestic violence service provision affirmed that advocates in rural areas were in critical need of services and support for battered women (Soler 2000, FVPF 2000).
Most of the rural jurisdictions that APRI surveyed similarly voiced their concerns about the staffing levels and lack of resources in their victim/witness offices:
"The biggest challenges that this jurisdiction faces revolve around financial resources and the isolation of the rural community from the large metropolitan area. State and federal funding has diminished over the past few years, yet crime in the county has increased."
"Few funds are available to professionalize the office . . . the cost of mileage is a budget problem . . . there are few coordinated education opportunities . . . coordinator [was] put in job with no training or blueprint."
"Perhaps the biggest challenge to serving our rural county is the lack of internal resources: no time to seek out resources, no funding to improve services."