Published on Thursday, 20 December 2012 21:13
Stearns County’s Domestic Violence Partnership project received state honors for its excellence and innovation. The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) recognized the Partnership with the County Achievement Award for innovations in government that improved the quality of life in Minnesota. Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall was also recognized with the 2012 Outstanding Service Award for her work in spearheading the Partnership.
Kendall initiated the Stearns County Domestic Violence Partnership in 2008, after the last seven homicides in Stearns County involved domestic violence. As well, 85 percent of the repeat violence victims had children, creating multi-generational issues. Research showed approximately 30 County repeat felony offenders were committing
3-4 felonies apiece each year. Traditional court approaches were not working. Intent on addressing the Stearns County justice system on issues of domestic violence, Kendall pulled together prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, corrections, the battered women’s shelter, legal aid attorneys, mental health and chemical dependency professionals and law enforcement to problem-solve. Stearns County received nearly $1 million in grants to launch a revamped approach to handling these worst of the worst domestic violence cases. The program uses intensive supervision, accountability and support, including drug and alcohol testing, access to treatment and strict no contact and behavior conditions for offenders. Victims have access to victim assistance and their own legal aid attorney. Crime reduction following entry into the program is dramatic. Stearns County’s Domestic Violence Court is the only repeat felony domestic violence court program in the United States. Recipients of the Outstanding Service and County Achievement Award are nominated by their counties and selected by a committee of county officials. Awards were accepted at the Association’s annual conference held this week at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud.