3 agencies receive nearly $700,000 to help crime victims

Three Jackson County agencies recently were awarded a total of $691,943 to provide assistance to crime victims.

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute announced in a news release that $67 million in federal grants was awarded to more than 190 public and nonprofit entities through the Victims of Crime Act program.

Funding for the program is provided by the Office for Victims of Crime under the U.S. Department of Justice and comes from the fines and restitution paid by convicted federal offenders.

Funding will be allocated over the next two years.

“It’s not enough to hold offenders accountable. We also need to support victims who have been impacted by violence and need assistance,” said Devon McDonald, executive director of the institute. “Last year alone, VOCA funds helped more than 200,000 crime victims in Indiana, so this program has a sizable footprint and is vital to communities across the state.”

The three Jackson County agencies receiving federal funding are Reins to Recovery Therapeutic Riding Center, $443,150; the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, $141,315; and Child Care Network, $107,478.

Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, said her organization’s funding will go toward hiring two additional staff members to make it more cost-efficient to provide a court-appointed special advocate to any child in the county that needs one.

“Before receiving this funding, we were only able to serve 35 to 40% of the children in Jackson County that needed them, and now, we’re able to serve about 100%,” she said.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jeff Chalfant said the funding his office received will go to the victim assistance department to pay for a victim coordinator.

The victim assistance department is where people are able to help communicate with victims, update them on their court cases and answer any questions they have, he said.

Calli Johnson, executive director of Reins to Recovery, said her nonprofit organization’s funding is a blessing and will be used to continue to provide free therapy for those they serve.

Reins to Recovery offers therapeutic riding for children and adults with special needs, equine-assisted psychotherapy for ages 5 and up who are victims of violence and abuse and equine-assisted learning for at-risk youth with emotional disabilities and behavior issues.

While the organization is based in Seymour, it also serves Jennings, Scott, Bartholomew and Johnson counties.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling because the money is used to help victims of crime, but the sweet part is that we’re able to provide help because this grant is available,” Johnson said.

The Victims of Crime Act was established by Congress in 1984 to support state and local programs that assist victims of all kinds of crime, including assault, robbery, homicide, driving while intoxicated, fraud, elder abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking and many others.

Overall, funds are designed to help survivors stabilize their lives after a victimization, participate in the justice system and restore a measure of security and safety to their daily lives, along with addressing the physical and emotional trauma of crime.

“When it comes to addressing the needs of crime victims, one size does not fit all,” said Kim Lambert, victim services director for ICJI. “That’s why funding sources like VOCA are important because they allow organizations embedded in the community to create and tailor services to the individual.”

The projects for the 2022-2024 grant cycle were approved by the ICJI board of trustees and will be made available to organizations starting in October.

The ICJI is the state planning agency for criminal justice, juvenile justice, traffic safety and victim services. It’s designated as the state administering agency for distribution of federal funds and as the state Statistical Analysis Center for research.

The organization is responsible for coordinating and collaborating with local, state and federal entities to identify, assess, plan, resource and evaluate new and emerging issues facing the criminal justice and public safety spectrum.

For information, visit cji.in.gov.