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Legal Aid, Other Help For Crime Victims In Washington Expands Dramatically

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"Courtroom One Gavel" by Joe Gratz is licensed under CC BY 2.0 bit.ly/1Y2qTzV

In 2015, the federal grant to the Washington State Office of Crime Victims Advocacy went up 400 percent over the previous fiscal year. That's an extra $30 million the state is now able to spend helping victims of everything from sexual assault to identity theft.  Rick Torrance, managing director of the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy, says a big chunk of the new money, which will be distributed beginning in July,  will go towards legal help,  including aid for victims of domestic violence.

"It's protection orders;  It may be dealing with being able to make sure that your kids are safe and may have to do with custody," he said. 

Dozens of attorneys are being hired to provide the legal aid to victims. The money is the single biggest infusion of money for civil legal aid Washington has ever received, according to Jim Bamberger, director of the Washington State Office of Civil Legal Aid.

As with all victim services in Washington, about two-thirds of the funds will be spent helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and one-third for victims of other crimes, such as identity theft.

The windfall for the crime victims program in Washington came from approval by Congress of the federal Victims of Crime Act. The funds come  from fines and fees imposed on banks for regulatory violations.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.