Across the United States, there are several communities that have come together to start court monitoring programs in their court systems. Some are long-term, developed programs, others are more grassroots and focus on specific issues. Many of the programs have been started by direct service organizations like SAFE. What most of these programs have in common is their overarching goal to involve the community in ensuring that the court systems are just and efficient allowing victims of violence the freedom to access services. In this CWP blog post we will highlight a few examples of successful court monitoring programs.
King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC)
Located just south of Seattle, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center has been working to help survivors of sexual assault since 1976. Like SAFE, KCSARC is a direct services agency that has developed a CourtWatch program in order to become involved in the justice system. In just two years, the program has successfully achieved their goal of “holding the justice system accountable for its handling of sexual assault and child abuse cases, and to create a more informed public.” While focusing on Sexual Assault Protection Orders specifically, KCSARC’s CourtWatch program is working in both criminal and civil proceedings, allowing them to analyze data on the entire justice system and see the broad picture of where gaps exist for survivors. Recently, after publishing a report on Sexual Assault Protection Orders they were able to start analyzing whether their recommendations were being implemented and what their effect was. They are currently working on sharing these findings with other sexual assault organizations in Washington to be able to collaborate over best practices for advocates, lawyers and law enforcement working with survivors.
WATCH is one of the oldest and most developed court monitoring programs in the nation. Based in Minneapolis, WATCH started as its own organization, strictly dedicated to making the “justice system more effective and responsive in handling cases of violence against women and children, and to create a more informed and involved public.” Volunteers record data in a number of different kinds of court cases, from child abuse to domestic violence to sexual assault, both civil and criminal. In addition to releasing regular reports and recommendations, WATCH has published a number of “how-to” materials for other programs. As the founding member of the National Association of Court Monitoring Programs, WATCH has been a guiding model and resource for many of the court monitoring programs in the US and across the world.
Much like WATCH, CourtWatch Florida is an organization solely dedicated to court monitoring. They record data on domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault cases in central Florida to “make sure the justice system holds perpetrators accountable and doesn’t re-victimize the victims”. This program is volunteer driven and has many leaders in the community participating on the board of directors – from law enforcement, educators and businesspeople to members of the press. Court accountability is encouraged in many ways by CourtWatch Florida; one example is the weekly “watch list” newsletters sent out to identify the cases that volunteers are monitoring, allowing the community to learn about specific cases and how they are proceeding.
All of these programs are great examples of court monitoring having successful outcomes in their respective communities. Their websites are linked in this post and are worthwhile sources of information, resources and ideas. Do you know of other programs of that are having similar successes? Please share in the comments section!