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Thursday, April 1, 2004 03:35 pm

No protocol, no dough

Domestic-violence victims will take a hit in July when a grant funding some services expires. Citing the "lack of a formal Domestic Violence protocol" at the Sangamon County State's Attorney's office, a state agency decided not to renew a grant that paid for a Springfield police detective and other services since 1997.

Sangamon County was one of a dozen Illinois jurisdictions that had received a grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority in 1997. The goal was to improve the response to domestic-violence cases by building cooperation among law enforcement, courts, and social-service agencies like Sojourn Shelter and Services Inc.

When it came time to renew the grants, ICJIA sent a pair of reviewers to see which sites had "a great vision," says Jennifer Vesely, victim services administrator at ICJIA.

Vesely, who was one of the reviewers sent to Springfield, says Sangamon County was "number three or four in the running," adding that the reviewers had been impressed with the work of Sojourn and SPD.

But the discovery that State's Attorney John Schmidt had discontinued the written policy established by his predecessor on the handling of domestic violence complaints disqualified Sangamon County, Vesely says.

"There were also some issues involving cooperation and the lack of an oversight committee," she says. "But the main factor was that they were not using a domestic violence protocol."

"We felt to have a successful site, you needed to have this protocol in place," Vesely says.

Schmidt contends domestic violence cases don't lend themselves to a formal protocol. "These cases involve human beings, and human beings are not subject to an algebraic equation," he tells Illinois Times.

SPD Chief Don Kliment says he was disappointed to learn the funds will no longer be available. "This was going to be a coordinated county-wide effort similar to what they're doing in Bloomington-Normal," he says.

Trista Cox, Sojourn assistant director, says her staff had conferred with other agencies to prepare a proposal asking ICJIA to fund additional detectives and prosecutors and a probation officer all dedicated to dealing with domestic violence cases. Sojourn also planned to use the grant to establish a satellite office on Springfield's East Side, and to expand its staff to be able to send an advocate to meet with complainants.

"Through no fault of our own we are unable to expand our program to other victims in the community at this time," Cox says.

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