March 20, 2008
Osage Beach, Mo. — In a speech today to the 24th annual conference of the Missouri Victim Assistance Network (MoVA), Attorney General Jay Nixon repeated his call for the restoration of federal funding of programs that have been vital to help crime victims and local law enforcement.
Those programs include victims assistance grants under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), and the Edward Byrnes Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrnes/JAG). Funding for state VOCA assistance grants is likely to be about $81 million less than it was in 2007; funding for the Byrne/JAG grants, the only source of funding currently available to state and local law enforcement for multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement, has been cut by two-thirds for fiscal year 2008.
Nixon, who has been a leader in expanding and protecting the rights of crime victims during his 16 years as Attorney General, said that the VOCA cuts have been especially felt in Missouri’s smaller communities.
“As county officials around the state make tough budget decisions in these financially challenging times, victim advocate programs become endangered,” Nixon said. “Many of our county officials understand the value of victim advocates, but all too often, serving crime victims can take a backseat in light of too many other demands on county budgets.”
The result of those cuts has meant that MoVA’s regional advocates are no longer able to focus primarily on helping prosecutors implement their own victims’ services programs, but are instead called on by prosecutors to provide direct victims’ services because there is no one in the county to do so.
Nixon told MoVA members that he and other Attorneys General have repeatedly urged Congress and President Bush to restore funding for the VOCA and Byrne/JAG grants, and he said his office, MoVA and other advocates for crime victims must continue to speak with a united voice.
Nixon praised the work of MoVA members, saying they go far beyond basic services to crime victims, and often provide important psychological and material support to crime victims and their families as they go through a court system that they may find confusing and frustrating.
During his tenure as Attorney General, Nixon has been a leader in calling for greater access to courtroom proceedings and increased notification of hearings for victims. Nixon also has been at the forefront in providing important information to Missourians about resources available to crime victims.