ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Domestic violence has been a relevant topic as of late with three high-profile murders taking place in the Twin Cities.
One community has been working on the issue for some time and is gaining recognition for its success.
It all started when Stearns County officials were trying to figure out why the jails were overcrowded.
"Although there was significant crime, there hadn't been enough crime to justify this massive influx in jail," said County Attorney Janelle Kendall.
What they found was an issue of repeat offenders. The same criminals were causing most of the problems, and in particular, the primary crime was felony domestic assault.
"So when we looked at those 30 to 40 people who themselves were committing about 100 felonies a year, it was clear that the traditional criminal justice system wasn't working and we decided to try something different," said Kendall.
They started 24/7 surveillance on those criminals on probation and instituted a curfew. But, it didn't stop there. They are also working with the victims and not just through the criminal court case.
"These victims are assigned a legal aid lawyer that has nothing to do with the crime and what's going on over here," said Kendall.
The lawyer is there to help with any civil issues like gaining child support or anything else that will make the woman feel more independent. It all seems to be working. Shelter use is down because women feel safer in their homes and domestic violence is down too. There have only been five new offenses out of the 150 people who have gone through the program.
"The long-term aspects we're just starting to see because frankly it hasn't been that long, but the drop in crime that we're seeing is measurable. It's significant. It's been called dramatic," she said.
The partnership has already won several Innovation in Government Awards and many other communities are now looking to Stearns County to emulate what it is doing.
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