[Rutherford and Cannon Counties] – The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved Senate Bill 513 – “Safe Space for Victims: Grant Program.” The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) on behalf of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference. The companion House Bill, HB744 sponsored by Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), will be considered by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee in coming weeks.
The bill establishes a grant to provide one-time funding for county governments across Tennessee to provide a safe, secure waiting area for crime victims to wait for hearings or trials and meeting with attorneys and counselors.
Jennings Jones, District Attorney General for the 16th Judicial District (Rutherford and Cannon Counties), stated that, "It is important to my office that victims and victims’ rights be respected in this jurisdiction. In the past, victims who have come to court to assist the State have had to share space with the people they were there to testify against. While this is no longer the situation in Rutherford County, Cannon County has not been as fortunate.”
“It is an honor to champion this cause for victims and to fight side by side with our state’s elected District Attorneys on this important piece of legislation,” Rep. Curcio said. “It’s efforts like this grant program that show the rest of the country how much Tennessee cares about the needs of victims.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to work with our District Attorneys to pass legislation to provide a safe and secure place for these brave victims to await their court hearings,” Sen. Haile said. “I am very encouraged by the support within the General Assembly for this legislation to benefit victims of crime.”
Counties interested in receiving funding will be able to apply to the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference for a $5,000 grant. Counties that do receive the funding will be required to provide a 25 percent match, which can come from in-kind donations.
“Victims’ rights are among District Attorneys’ top priorities,” said 30th District Attorney General Amy Weirich, current president of the organization. “At present, victims of crime are forced to wait in crowded courthouses, where they may be in close contact with the person who victimized them. This puts them in a vulnerable situation that could result in revictimization, intimidation or even an unwillingness to move forward with prosecution. This Safe Space bill would provide a much better experience for the brave victims who come forward, and we want to do everything we can to ensure they feel secure and confident in the court process.”
“This bill has been top-of-mind for District Attorneys for some time, and we are thrilled to see this legislation move forward,” Gen. Weirich said.
The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference was created by the General Assembly in 1961 to provide for a more prompt and efficient administration of justice in the courts of the state. It is composed of the elected District Attorneys General from the state’s 31 judicial districts. www.tndagc.org