Local Politics

Court system cuts could hurt help for crime victims

Posted May 25, 2011
Updated June 3, 2011

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— Funds for the state court system would be slashed by nearly three-quarters in the state Senate's proposed budget, ending the jobs of advocates who help crime victims navigate the legal system.

The budget proposal includes $5.2 million that district attorney's offices use to fund 151 victim's witness legal assistants, or a quarter of those positions statewide. These workers line up witnesses for court and guide victims through the legal process.

"It will have a dramatic impact on what we do day to day," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Wednesday.

Renee Jones, of Raleigh, said she felt daunted by going to court as the victim of a violent crime in 2009.

"I was stabbed in the head 10 times, burnt with hot cooking oil and stabbed with a scalpel," she said.

Jones said she depended on the support and guidance of a victim's advocate.

"She was there for me, and I don't know what I would have done mentally, emotionally or spiritually without her," Jones said.

Megan Lively said she supports the victims of sex crimes as a witness legal assistant with the Wake County District Attorney's Office.

"I actually help people in my job," Lively said. "There's a lot of hand holding. Traumatic events happen to the people that I deal with."

Willoughby said his office would lose five staff members if the cuts go through.

"If you reduce the workforce substantially, there will be things we do now that we can't do. There will probably be cases that we can't prosecute," he said.

Willoughby went to the General Assembly Wednesday to lobby to keep the funds in the budget.

DA: Budget cuts would mean cases fall through cracks DA: Budget cuts would mean cases fall through cracks

"Every DA will tell you that they need these people on the front lines. They depend on them," state Sen. Ed Jones, D-Halifax County, said.

Funds for the North Carolina Victim's Assistance Network are also being cut. The director of the 25-year-old nonprofit said they will be bankrupt within 18 months if the cuts stand.

Supporters of the Senate budget plan said while the cuts painful, they must be made to close a projected $2.4 billion shortfall.

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  • superman May 26, 2011

    No one likes their program cut! Start with the Public Welfare Education -- discontinue public "free" education. It is the taxpayers with no children that provide the free education for the children of parents who lay on their backs all day. End the deduction for dependents on the state income tax. The county property tax should be calculated on the value of the house as well as the number of occupants. About time you people started paying for those children. Please -no more free public schools.

  • earsonthenews May 26, 2011

    They will take so much away from other programs but the programs that have personal connections to friends will never be cut...Just look at the private prison in Charlotte for women...It's a 2 Million dollar facility that the second in charge of DOC started...it's not cut but rather increased from 20 to 30 women...and a new facility was built since the economic downturn of the State. Eyes are watching to see if that program gets cut???????

  • anonemoose May 26, 2011

    MAYBE IF THE DA'S WOULD QUIT TRYING TO BUY VOTES BY DISMISSING A MAJORITY OF THE CHARGES AND THUS ELIMINATING TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN COURT COSTS COMING IN, THEN MAYBE THEY WOULDN'T BE IN SUCH BAD SHAPE FISCALLY.

  • mattoz5150 May 25, 2011

    The Offices of the District Attorneys are *not* in the NC Department of Justice, which is an Executive Branch department that houses the Office of the Attorney General (among other entities). The District Attorneys are in the NC Judicial Branch along with the judges, magistrates, public defenders, and clerks of court.

  • dollibug May 25, 2011

    Perhaps those who still have jobs will work SMARTER...not HARDER...and figure out if there is enough evidence to actually try a person for a crime...or waste a lot of money trying to try a person who should NOT have been indicted to begin with...
    Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of RAILROADING people in WAKE COUNTY....there is always a BRIGHT side to every dark side....

  • cwbauer55 May 25, 2011

    dont take that away take things from the prisoners they got there by doing the things they did so cut back on tv food if a cell holds 2 put 4 work half for 12 hours then change up work the others 4 12 hours they lost thier rights when the screwed up so no play time no lifting weights spo they can be in better shape when they get out my dad was 78 when he was murdered by a punk so take from the criminals not the victims