Story by: Sean Green
Chief Judge Mike Nerren of the 26th Judicial District Court for Bossier and Webster Parishes, together with the Office of the District Attorney of the 26th Judicial District, announced a new a pilot program.
The program will to allow victims of domestic violence to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order [TRO] via Video Conferencing from the Northwest Louisiana Family Justice Center (NWLA FJC), 1513 Doctors Drive, Suite B, Bossier City, LA 71111.
The new program would: 1) Provide a safe and secure link between the victim and the Court; 2) Make the Court more accessible to victims of domestic violence by allowing victims to pursue a Temporary Restraining Order [TRO] directly from the safety of a remote location; 3) Increase victim and court personnel safety; and 4) Be an efficient and convenient way to provide one-stop service to victims of domestic violence.
Melissa Fox, Court Administrator for 26th JDC, said, “The Polycom state-of-the-art based equipment will be controlled from the Judge’s bench. The victim will be able to communicate with courtroom staff from the Family Justice Center without the need to appear in person at the courthouse.”
Jeri Bowen, Executive Director of the NWLA FJC said, “By having on-site video conferencing for TRO’s, it will give clients an added sense of security when they decide to file for protection from their alleged assailant. This added service is another avenue to keep them safe, rather than having to face him /or her in the courtroom. She further asserted that many of the victims lack transportation to travel to the courthouse.”
In addition, she noted, that upon a client’s arrival at the FJC, they are given the opportunity to meet with trained advocates and law enforcement officers for safety planning and assistance in filing for a TRO if they so choose.
Julian Whittington, Bossier Parish Sheriff said, “The Family Justice Center is already a central location where domestic violence victims can obtain outstanding assistance, and this video technology enhances that process as it makes it more efficient and convenient for all parties involved. Excellent program.”
Jill M. Sessions, Bossier Parish Clerk of Court said, “The pilot program for the video conferencing for domestic violence victims to obtain a TRO is a great opportunity for the Family Justice Center to assist their clients. As always, we proudly support and corporate with all entities involved in these circumstances to assist all citizens of Bossier Parish.”
Bossier/Webster District Attorney Schuyler Marvin, Chairman of the Executive Committee for the NWLA FJC said, “This is the first program in the state which is being implemented and designed in consultation with the Maryland’s Montgomery County Family Justice Center, which was the first FJC in the country to use video conferencing technology.”
He further stated, “The pilot program is being implemented with the support and assistance of the Louisiana Supreme Court, Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department, Bossier City Police Department, Verizon Foundation, Polycom Grant Assistance Program (PGAP), and Audio Visual Innovations (AVI) of Tampa, Florida.
Marvin stated his office is applying for funding from the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The program should be fully operational by fall 2019.