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Office of Criminal Justice Programs
Bill Scollon, Director


Family Justice Centers

TENNESSEE MOVES FORWARD TO HELP COMBAT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BY PROVIDING MORE SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS WITH ... ONE CALL TO MAKE, ONE PLACE TO GO.

In accordance with Governor Haslam´ Public Safety Action Plan (see http://news.tn.gov/node/8260 for more information), the Office of Criminal Justice Programs is actively engaged with local communities to increase the number of Family Justice Centers. Tennessee has two established Family Justice Centers, one in Knoxville and one in Memphis. In 2013, three additional cities received funding to start Family Justice Centers. Nashville, Cookeville, and Chattanooga obtained grants to assist them in planning and implementing a Family Justice Centers to reduce the number of domestic violence incidents in their local communities.

According to the Violence Policy Center´s 2013 report, "When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data" Tennessee ranks sixth overall for states where men murder women. Since the inception of the report in the late 1990´s, Tennessee has ranked consistently in the top 15 states. The documented and published outcomes of the Family Justice Center model include the following: reduced homicides; increased victim safety; increased autonomy and empowerment for victims; reduced fear and anxiety for victims and their children; increased efficiency and coordination among service providers; and reduced recantation and minimization by victims when wrapped in services and support. (See Casey Gwinn, Gael Strack, Hope for Hurting Families: Creating Family Justice Centers Across America (Volcano Press 2006)). The Family Justice Center approach is based on the San Diego Family Justice Center model which has been identified as a best practice in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention services by the United States Department of Justice.

The Family Justice Center model is the co-location of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals who work together, under one roof, to provide coordinated services to victims of family violence. Many communities use the name "Family Justice Center" though some communities select a different name to describe their multi-agency service delivery models. Family Justice Centers are specifically defined in federal law (VAWA 2005, H.R. 3402-17) and refer to the co-location of staff members from multiple agencies under one roof. While a Family Justice Center may house many partners, the critical partners include police officers, prosecutors, civil legal service providers, and community-based advocates. The core concept is to provide one place where victims can go to talk to an advocate, plan for their safety, interview with a police officer, meet with a prosecutor, receive medical assistance, receive information related to shelter, and receive help with transportation. For more information regarding the Family Justice Center model, please visit the Family Justice Center Alliance´s website (http://www.familyjusticecenter.org/).

After a solicitation in the spring of 2013, three cities; Chattanooga, Cookeville, and Nashville, were awarded a three year funding opportunity from OCJP Byrne JAG federal funds to pay for a Family Justice Center Site Coordinator. This position is responsible for successfully pulling together and coordinating all of the entities that will make their Family Justice Center a reality.

Tennessee is only the second state in the Nation to launch a Statewide Family Justice Center initiative, and the first to fund the start-ups through grants with the state.

The 3 funded cities came together in Knoxville on October 1, 2013 for a press conference and an initial day of training. Representatives from the chosen cities of Chattanooga, Cookeville, and Nashville were greeted with words of encouragement from Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons. "While reported domestic violence incidents in Tennessee are down more than 10 percent compared to last year, domestic violence continues to make up a large percentage of all reported violent crimes, with over 50,000 incidents already reported this year. We know that in order to reduce crime in our state, we have to reduce violence in the home. Expanding the number of family safety centers is one of the steps in the Governor´s Public Safety Action Plan to get us to that goal and help make Tennessee safer," Commissioner Gibbons said. Commissioner Gibbons also presented each city with a proclamation signed by Governor Haslam proclaiming October as Domestic Violence Awareness month. Commissioner Gibbons heads the Governor´s Public Safety Subcabinet.

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Commissioner Bill Gibbons addressing city leaders and the press in Knoxville

While in Knoxville, the newly funded cities also received a full day of orientation and learning from leaders of Tennessee´s two current existing Family Justice Centers in Memphis and Knoxville. During the next few years as the new sites strive to make their Family Justice Centers come to life, they will continue to receive ongoing technical assistance from the Knoxville Family Justice Center (http://fjcknoxville.com/) and from the Memphis Safety Center ( http://www.familysafetycenter.org/).

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Leaders from the Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center team pose for a picture with their proclamation signed by Governor Haslam


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Leaders from Chattanooga’s Family Justice Center team pose with Knoxville´s Mayor Madeline Rogero

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Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announcing at a local Press conference that Nashville has been chosen for funding of a Family Justice Center


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OCJP Director Bill Scollon addressing leaders of the newly funded cities during the orientation in Knoxville

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Executive Directors from the Knoxville Family Justice Center and Memphis Safety Center speaking at the conference


Please contact Susan French at susan.french@tn.gov for more information on starting Tennessee´s Statewide Family Justice Center initiative in your community.