The DA’s office is making headway toward a Family Justice Center in King City.
Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here with an update from South County. In the fall of 2022, Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni announced her office’s plan to create a Family Justice Center. The concept of an FJC is simple, and involves putting all the services that victims of violence might need (probation officers, counselors, spiritual advisers, court staff who can help with restraining orders or divorce paperwork, immigration experts and more) under one roof.
In a county as large and spread out as the County of Monterey, victims who must travel hours roundtrip and miss work to get a simple restraining order may just give up. So while consolidating services might sound intuitive, practically it involves a restructuring of the current justice system. And that takes investment—of both time and resources.
Monterey County’s first Family Justice Center—in an ideal world the DA’s office is planning for three—will be in King City. This location was chosen for practical and philosophical reasons: there was a building available (at 250 Franciscan Way); and South County, historically home to fewer resources, could benefit from such a hub.
Since announcing the project, the DA’s office has been pursuing grants to renovate and retrofit the building. So far they have used some grant money to create a forensic interview room for interviewing children who are both victims of, and witnesses to, crime. “There’s a special interview process that is used, and we do it in a child-friendly room,” assistant DA Lana Nassoura says. Previously, the only such facility in Monterey County was located at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas.
The biggest challenge the project faces, Nassoura says, is adequate—and adequately broad—funding. Grant money tends to come earmarked for very specific purposes, but as the initiative grows (and especially as they look to find additional locations for a second and third Family Justice Center), they anticipate needing a general pool of funds that can be used to purchase and renovate the buildings. To that end, the team has just filed nonprofit articles with the IRS, and anticipates they should receive nonprofit status within a couple of months.
That’s not to say there isn’t grant money in play as well. The Center has secured a $250,000 federal grant (for which they are in the final stages of documentation) that will be used to further update the King City building to create office space and therapy rooms; and in early December Pacioni announced a $100,000 grant from the Kaiser Foundation for gun violence prevention.
They’ve also been working on getting buy-in from partners, FCJ coordinator Veronica Rios says—and are seeing a lot of enthusiasm here. So far the list includes 30 agency partners, including both community-based organizations like Harmony at Home and Legal Services for Seniors, and government agencies like all of the police departments in South County. For Rios and Nassoura, this is heartening support for the idea. “We have the people who want to be in the building with us,” Nassoura says. “What’s really exciting is the community buy-in and the community support.”
Source: Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, Original Article Here