Overcoming Lack of Internal Resources
Following are resources and timesaving tips that some jurisdictions have used to mitigate the problems caused by a dearth of resources. Although many differences exist between rural and urban jurisdictions, looking to strategies that urban offices have incorporated successfully may help rural offices identify solutions that they can tailor to the size and needs of their jurisdictions.
Volunteers and Interns
Approximately one-third of prosecutors' offices nationally use volunteers and interns to extend the services they provide to victims. Although most of these offices use only a handful of volunteers, most of these unpaid workers donate their skills consistently and over a long period (APRI 2002). A significant portion of the surveyed areas reported that having volunteers assist in the office, whether their duties are administrative or directly related to victim advocacy, provides countless benefits, the most prominent of which is freeing victim advocates for the more victim-related aspects of their jobs.
Most jurisdictions with extensive programs have comprehensive written policies and procedures for recruiting, training, and supervising volunteers (APRI 2002). Most often, volunteers provide support to victims and help victim/witness advocates in their duties. Services that volunteers perform for a prosecutor's office range from administrative tasks like typing and filing to more substantive duties such as transporting victims to or accompanying them into court, supervising victims' children during meetings or court proceedings, and intervening during crises (APRI 2002). Interns typically are recruited from nearby graduate and undergraduate institutions. The students donate their services in exchange for course credit. The most important component of training volunteers and interns is to instill in them a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
Several victim/witness programs that have successfully implemented a volunteer component are highlighted in "Promising Practices in Rural Prosecutors' Offices."
Approximately 60 percent of survey respondents have victim assistance positions that are supported by grant funds, which do not last indefinitely. In addition, the staff in many rural jurisdictions may not have the time or grant-writing skills they need to acquire this funding. Prosecutors' offices of all sizes have used colleges, other government agencies, private organizations, citizens, and even the staffs of mayors' offices or county commissioners to help them write grant applications. In some states, the prosecutors' association will help the prosecutors' offices develop grant proposals. Appendix A contains a comprehensive list of agencies that historically have helped fund victim-based programs. It includes national victim-related organizations, crime victim compensation programs, and public policy-related associations.
Two of the organizations most noted for helping to fund rural providers are the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC).
OVW provides financial assistance to rural areas through its Rural Violence and Child Victimization Enforcement Grants. These grants are designed to enhance the services available to rural victims and children by involving the community in developing a coordinated response to domestic violence, dating violence, and child abuse. A state is considered rural if it has a population of 52 persons or fewer per square mile or if the largest county has fewer than 150,000 people. In rural states, eligible applicants are state and local governments and public and private entities. Non-rural states may apply on behalf of rural jurisdictions in their states. Eligible applicants also include tribal governments in rural and non-rural states. Deadlines, qualifications, and applications can be found through OVW's Website.
OVC uses its Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds to support crime victim compensation programs and to fund grants to agencies that serve victims of crime. Dollars are deposited each year into the Crime Victims Fund from offenders convicted of federal crimes. Fund dollars have also been used to carry out program evaluations, conduct special workshops, support victims' rights compliance efforts, develop training curricula, disseminate promising practices, and deliver technical assistance. Information on obtaining VOCA grants can be found on the OVC Website.
Even so, seeking out nontraditional benefactors is a necessity for the rural prosecutor. Several jurisdictions surveyed spoke of the need for their local prosecutor to "go to bat" with the county board or to request funding from nontraditional sponsors, such as large corporations, to expand their victim/witness program. Lack of resources can be overcome only when a program's staffing and funding needs are made clear to the community. Other local victim-based services or faith-based organizations also have helped several jurisdictions.
In addition, in-kind donations of furniture, meeting space, and computers can help the prosecutorial offices deliver services to victims without depleting their scarce budgets.