Kelsey Stein – – Jefferson County is joining six other sites across the country that will focus on improving how the justice system handles sexual assault cases.

The county will receive federal funding from the Department of Justice for the initiative, which involves the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the nonprofit Crisis Center.

Through the DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women, the Jefferson County Commission will receive $400,000 to implement performance measures for prosecuting sexual assault cases and promoting justice for victims.

The money will be used to develop a specialized unit within the district attorney’s office to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases. They will offer training for prosecutors and law enforcement on how to handle those cases from start to finish.

The unit will include a bilingual investigator, a rape response advocate and a special prosecutor.

U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls, Sheriff Mike Hale and Crisis Center Executive Director Meg McGlamery announced the initiative Friday.

This year, the district attorney’s office has worked with the Crisis Center, the YWCA and the city of Birmingham to launch a Family Justice Center that focuses on helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The DOJ-funded initiative will allow local officials to expand on that work next year, Falls said.

“Sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking are serious crimes that require a robust criminal justice system response in coordination with community-based organizations and victim service providers,” Vance said. “I am proud of leaders in our community for putting together this outstanding program, which has earned a pilot site designation from the Department of Justice. This program will strengthen prosecutions and promote justice for victims.”

The other pilot sites are the city of Los Angeles, Cobb County, Ga., the city and county of Honolulu, the New Hampshire Department of Justice in Concord, the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Okla., and Sauk County, Wis. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the chosen sites this week.

“Sexual and domestic violence is a heinous crime, inflicting physical and emotional trauma that can linger for years, with grave consequences for survivors and their loved ones; for neighborhoods and communities and for our country as a whole,” Lynch said. “The Department of Justice is committed to doing everything it can to help prevent, investigate and prosecute these horrendous crimes – including working to ensure that our greatest partners in this effort, the state and local law enforcement officers on whom we all rely, have the tools, training and resources they need to fairly and effectively address allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence.”

To view original article click here: Jefferson County Taking Steps to Improve How Sexual Assault Cases are Handled