ESCAPE

© 2014 Stearns County Domestic Violence Partnership

The Stearns County Domestic Violence Partnership formed in 2008 after 7 of 7 of the county’s previous intentional homicides involved domestic violence.  Research showed that approximately 30 Stearns County repeat felony offenders were committing about 100 new felony domestic violence offenses a year; traditional court responses were not working.   Data also revealed that 85% of the repeat violence victims had children, creating multi-generation issues.  Prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, corrections, the battered women’s shelter, legal aid attorneys, mental health and chemical dependency professionals and law enforcement came together to problem solve, receiving two competitive grants to fund 4 positions for 2 years: a specialized probation officer, a domestic violence victim assistance coordinator, a surveillance agent to enforce court orders 24/7, and a 70% time legal aid attorney for victim family legal needs. Minnesota’s first Domestic Violence Court (DVC) opened in April, 2009, and is now permanently funded in Stearns County. The Center for Court Innovation (CCI), a VAWA-funded New York agency specializing in domestic violence court establishment and research, reports that the Stearns County DVC is the only repeat felony domestic violence court program in the United States.