Jalayne Robinson, LMSW
Earlier this summer, we at TDCAA conducted a survey to find out what victim assistance coordinators (VACs) across Texas might need to make their jobs easier. The online survey was open to all victim assistance coordinators statewide, and it was designed to identify emerging issues and trends, challenges, and gaps in available training and technical assistance, as well as to give VACs a voice in the future training and assistance initiatives TDCAA offers.
The assessment was available online in May 2014 with a total of 127 victim assistance coordinators responding. The 127 VACs were located in county attorney (30 percent), district attorney (35 percent), and criminal district attorney (35 percent) offices across Texas. The respondents primarily serve rural (57 percent) and urban areas (26 percent), with some serving the suburbs (17 percent).
See the charts (in the attachment below) for the years of experience among the VACs who responded, the pie chart on the opposite page for their awareness of TDCAA and the resources we offer, and the box on the opposite page for respondents’ assessment of which TDCAA programs are most helpful.
When asked to indicate the preferred method of training, VAC respondents preferred distance learning or Web-based trainings, on-site consultations, and phone consultations over other methods of training.
When asked to list their top-three critical unmet training needs that would improve future efforts in working with crime victims, 56 percent of VACs reported best practices and programs as their top critical unmet training need with funding, resources, and grant-writing running a close second (47 percent); 28 percent want training on partnership and collaboration within community.
TDCAA intends to use the results of this survey to identify training and technical assistance gaps and in planning for future support to address needs in those areas.
Did you know?
An individual serving as a witness in a criminal proceeding may be eligible for reimbursement of certain travel expenses through the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Witness Fee Claim Program. Mileage, rental car, meals, parking, taxi, and hotel expenses are reimbursable expenses. Travel may be by bus, train, air, or a personal automobile.
Art. 35.27 of the Code of Criminal Procedure governs this program (and Art. 24.28 governs out-of-state witness reimbursements). To be eligible for reimbursement from state funds, a witness must meet the following criteria:
• The witness must reside outside the county in which the trial is held.
• Confinement in jail must be a permissible punishment for the offense for which the defendant is charged, so confinement in a juvenile detention center does not meet this requirement.
• The state will not reimburse expert witnesses for wages lost while appearing as a witness.
• The claim must be filed with the comptroller’s office within 12 months from the date the witness is released from further court attendance.
• This program will also apply to any witness who has been requested, subpoenaed, or summoned for grand jury proceedings, habeas corpus proceedings, pre-trial hearings, and courts of inquiry; examining trials are eligible to be reimbursed if they reside outside the county of the request.
• Expenses of minor children who travel with a witness are eligible for reimbursement if the child is also subpoenaed as a witness, in which case a separate claim form, if possible, must be completed and filed with the comptroller’s office.
Parents or guardians of a minor under 18 years of age can be reimbursed when they are required to travel with a minor witness. The minor witness’s name must be included on the claim form.
For witness fee claim reimbursement forms visit www.window.state .tx.us/taxinfo/taxforms/73-316.pdf. For witness fee claim guidelines visit www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxforms/96-762.pdf.
The 2014 TDCAA Key Personnel & Victim Assistance Coordinator Seminar will be held November 5–7 in San Antonio. Don’t miss this opportunity to network with other victim service personnel and learn more on how to assist crime victims in your jurisdiction.
Visit www.tdcaa.com/training for registration and hotel information.
In-office VAC visits
In recent weeks, my TDCAA travels have taken me to Newton and Upshur Counties to assist new victimassistance coordinators. Our goal at TDCAA is to offer training to VACs because many VACs are scrambling at times to navigate through the process of assisting crime victims. In-office consultations are proving to be a great way for VACs to learn one-on-one, in their own office setting, how to effectively serve victims of crime.
Please e-mail me at Jalayne [email protected] for inquiries or support or to schedule an in-office consultation.