Prosecutor’s Office expanding victim services


By JOHN BURNETT

Tribune-Herald staff writer

The county Prosecutor’s Office will be expanding its Victim Assistant Unit by six positions, Prosecutor Charlene Iboshi announced on Friday.

Two victim counselors, two counselor assistants and two legal clerks will be added through a $303,177 grant from the state Justice Reinvestment Initiative. One of each position will be placed in the Hilo and Kona offices, respectively. First Deputy Prosecutor Dale Yamada Ross said the grant will run through Fiscal Year 2015.

“Currently, our Victims Assistance Unit is unable to service victims of property crime. It has to be extraordinary circumstances before they get assigned,” Ross said late Friday afternoon.

“They automatically get assigned to violent crime cases, … but as we know, the property crime victims can be just as traumatized. When someone burglarizes your house, that can have a tremendous impact on how you feel about your personal safety. So this will allow us to have victim counselor services for property crime victims, and we’re really happy about that.”

According to a written statement from the Prosecutor’s Office, services to victims will be available through the incarceration or supervision period of the offenders.

Ross said that currently in Hilo, there are seven victim counselors including the supervisor, no counselor assistant and 10 clerks, while in Kona there are three victim counselors, no counselor assistant and 10 clerks, including the supervisor.

She added that the clerk count is the clerical unit for the entire department, not just the Victims Assistance Unit.

“These particular persons will probably be focused on … trying to get restitution information at the point of the case coming into our office,” Ross said.

Ross said that the County Council has approved the receipt of the state funds. The statement expressed appreciation to the council, Mayor Billy Kenoi and the county Departments of Planning and Parks and Recreation.

“We couldn’t create the new positions,” Ross explained. “Those departments had similar positions that we could tweak the descriptions so they could fit (the Prosecutor’s Office). They let us have those positions. They didn’t have to do that. They could have said that by right, those are ours.”

Those departments could not, however, have used the JRI funds, which are earmarked for victims’ assistance, Ross said.

Openings for the new positions had not been posted to the county’s Department of Human Resources website as of late Friday afternoon.

The JRI is an initiative of Gov. Neil Abercrombie “to save $7 million by reducing mainland prisoner contracts, reduce spending on corrections, and reinvesting the savings to fill key unfilled positions, train in best practices, support treatment programs in the community and more supervision efforts” the Prosecutor’s release stated.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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