Friday, March 31, 2023

Lincoln County gets grant to help local victims of crime

The Western News | March 14, 2023 7:00 AM

The Lincoln County Victim/Witness Program recently received a $5,000 grant to promote services that are available for victims of crime as well as their rights.

The money came from the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The funding comes from fines collected from offenders convicted of federal crimes and not from taxpayers.

According to county Victim/Witness Advocate Kathleen Sheffield, the money will be used to educate and promote the program using social media outlets such as Facebook (, YouTube and the county website.

“The support from NAVAA and the Office for Victims of Crime for our 2023 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week activities will help us help crime victims,” Sheffield said in a press release. “Members of our community are encouraged to help promote justice through service to crime victims by joining our activities and supporting victim assistance programs on a daily basis.”

Sheffield said she is looking for survivors and victims of crimes who would like to help.

“This campaign not only focuses on domestic violence, but also scams, theft, arson, human trafficking and fraud,” Sheffield said.

First designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week increases public awareness of and knowledge about the wide range of rights and services available to people who have been victimized by crime.

This year’s theme is “Survivor Voices: Elevate, engage, effect change.”

Since 2004, the Community Awareness Project has provided financial assistance to more than 1,500 community projects that promote victim and public awareness activities and innovative approaches to victim outreach and public education about victim rights and services.

The Lincoln County Victim/Witness Program was one of 89 agencies that were chosen for funding from 151 applications submitted across the country.

It’s the first time a Montana program was awarded the grant since 2020.

For more information about the 2023 National Crime Victims Rights Week activities or county victims rights and services, call 406-283-2415.

The Lincoln County Victim/Witness Advocate Program is facilitated through the Lincoln County Attorney’s Office and County Attorney Marcia Boris.

The county Attorney’s Office works with law enforcement agences, including the county Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol, Eureka Police Department, Troy Police Department, Libby Police Department, state Fish, Wildlife and Parks, state Department of Transportation, Animal Control and other state and federal investigative agencies in the prosecution of crimes.

The Lincoln County Attorney’s Office represents the Montana Department of Health and Human Services in the prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases. It also represents the state in guardianship or conservatorship proceedings for indigent individuals at the request of Adult Protective Services.

The County Attorney’s Office also handles Youth Court proceedings and involuntary commitments of the seriously mentally ill. It also prosecutes violations of county ordinances, including junk vehicles, community decay, animal control and air quality.

The county Victim/Witness Program serves all of Lincoln County through district court and the city and justice courts. It is a prosecutor-based program.

The primary responsibility is to provide information regarding the criminal court process, support and advocacy to victims, survivors and witnesses to crime.

“Generally, most people have no idea or understanding of the criminal justice process,” Sheffield said. “The only view they have is what is seen in the movies or on television. Cases are not solved in an hour. Not everyone gets convicted. In fact, most cases take months to go to trial if it even goes to trial.”

The ways a victim advocate can help a person in need:

Provide crisis counseling, emotional support and guidance;

Help define a safety plan for a person’s protection;

Explain how the court system works and terminology that is used;

Provide specific information about a person’s case, including dates and times of hearings;

Refer a person to community services;

Assist in filing for crime victim compensation to cover medical, counseling, wage loss or funeral expenses;

Attend court proceedings with or for a victim;

Provide the victim who needs to testify with a secure waiting area;

Assist you with victim impact statements at sentencing hearings;

Facilitate parole hearings.