The Stearns County Domestic Violence Court received a Local Government Innovation Award in late January from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, in partnership with InCommons.
The Local Government Innovation Awards recognize the creative ways counties, cities, and schools are making Minnesota better and doing things differently. Judges review entries based on the following criteria: innovation (40%), impact (30%) and sustainability/potential for growth (30%). In keeping with previous years, up to 18 local government entities were recognized as award winners for their innovative work.
Stearns County Attorney Janelle P. Kendall initiated the Stearns County Domestic Violence Partnership, of which the Court is a part, in 2008 when she realized that all of the last seven intentional homicides in Stearns County were domestic violence-related. In order to systemically address this issue, Kendall called together 30 of the community's policy makers to form the Partnership.
Stearns County’s Domestic Violence Court is the only repeat felony domestic violence court program in the United States.
The Court, of which coordinated offender accountability and victim safety are hallmarks, has resulted in the length of relevant cases to be cut in half, reducing stress on witnesses and their families and cutting the costs of prosecuting, defending, and court processing. Also, the needs of children trapped in households with domestic violence are now addressed to assure safety and break the cycle of abuse.