Domestic Violence Court in the Conasauga Circuit

Every other Tuesday at 1:30 pm, Judge M. Cindy Morris convenes a Domestic Violence Court session in her Dalton courtroom. Men and women who have been arrested for domestic offenses sit in Judge Morris’ courtroom ready to talk to Judge Morris about their progress.

Judge Morris created the court after attending a National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) training in 2011. She notes that they had all the pieces and just needed to put them together. Those who work in the court receive no additional pay and the court receives no additional resources from the county. “It’s been a remarkable effort by the community,” Judge Morris said.

Domestic Violence CourtAt roll call, attendees find out if they must speak to the judge or if they’re able to report in at the next session in two weeks. Each status report takes a few minutes as the judge reviews their case, confers with prosecutors and defense attorneys, and receives updates from the Resolv Project, the local Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP). The Resolv Project combines education and support to help change behaviors, which leads participants to examine their beliefs and attitudes about power and control in their relationships.  Participants must enroll in Resolv within 28 days of their plea, and to remain in the program they must remain compliant with fines, community service, and no contact orders.

First up are the graduates who are given a chance to express to the court what they’ve learned through the program, then those who have probation violations are taken into custody. In essence, participants see the “carrot and the stick” at the beginning of each court session. Those with hearing issues and/or language barriers are accommodated as needed.

Several benefits of the courts include being able to coordinate with the drug court for some offenders as well as referring others to mental health providers. The biggest benefit seems to be the decrease in the recidivism rate since the court’s inception.

On Judge Morris’ wish list is money to hire a coordinator for the program. As she sees it, a coordinator would then be able to help create a tie in with Temporary Protective Orders, divorce cases, and custody cases.

For more on FVIPs, go to http://gcfv.georgia.gov/enroll-family-violence-intervention-program.

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