News From Your DA’s Office
Western Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, serving Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties
Vol. 1, No. 2 August 2021
As the people of Athens-Clarke and Oconee get ready for back-to-school activities, your District Attorney’s office is hard at work building a stronger and safer community. Here are the latest updates.
Victim Advocates Are There For US All When We Need Help the Most
Anyone who has been a victim of crime knows the stress and trauma that can result. Assisting and advocating for victims of crime is one of the highest priorities of the District Attorney’s office and District Attorney Gonzalez. The office’s highly trained, experienced and compassionate Victim Advocates stand ready to assist victims in their time of need.
The services they provide include:
- Advocacy on behalf of victims to secure their rights;
- Crisis intervention services to listen and provide advice and assistance in resolving problems and issue caused by the crime or the need to participate in court proceedings;
- Intervention against intimidation to protect victims experiencing fear or intimidation; and
- Orientation regarding the criminal justice system in order to assist victims in understanding the process and what is expected of them.
Advocates also make referrals to community partners and provide notification of a variety of court proceedings. They ensure that crime victims understand their rights and assist with obtaining appropriate restitution and compensation.
The Victim Advocates in the Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office are dedicated professionals who are credentialed by the National Advocate Credentialing Program (NACP). Several advocates also hold advanced counseling and social work degrees and licenses. Advocates working with survivors of sexual assault and child abuse are specially trained. They partner with community organizations such as The Cottage and Project Safe.
In collaboration with ACC-SANE, Inc. and other law enforcement agencies the District Attorney’s office supports the work of the Family Protection Center. The Center is a standalone facility used to conduct physical examinations of victims, record adult and child forensic interviews, provide family and individual counseling, and carry out the criminal investigations and prosecutorial efforts necessary to address crimes and child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence in the community.
Back to School
August means students will be returning to class in the Clarke and Oconee County schools, as well as The University of Georgia and other colleges in the area. The continued presence of COVID – and especially the Delta variant – means that this fall will present special challenges for children, parents, and educators alike. The good news is that the end can be in sight. Everyone please mask up, get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and let’s keep each other safe.
Apart from its public health consequences, COVID has damaged our community in other ways. The loss and structure and support from the schools and other organizations that in normal times do so much to provide alternatives for youth has contributed to additional violence, especially gun violence, in Athens.
As DA Gonzalez wrote in a recent Letter to the Editor of the Athens-Banner Herald, it is up to all of us support these organizations as they work to give positive alternatives to our kids.
In the Community
Leading the District Attorney’s office is a demanding job, but in the evenings and on the weekends, DA Gonzalez engages with community leaders and organizations. She supports community organizations with her time and by establishing the Justice Action Fund to provide resources to groups who do such great work for our community and especially our youth.
If you would like to invite her to your organization’s event, or for more information on the Justice is on the Agenda Fund, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the News
DA Gonzalez has been in the news lately. Alexia Ridley from WUGA recently interviewed her to discuss several issues involving her office. After running on a platform of change, Gonzalez discussed some of those measures which have already been implemented.
You can listen to the interview here: WUGA Interview.
Reform Across America
The Prison Policy Initiative released a report outlining the various off-ramps from the criminal legal system – from community-based services to pre-trial diversion to alternatives to incarceration – that can be leveraged to reduce incarceration. The report assesses the benefits and costs of each of these interventions.
A new report shows that reformed laws and changes in policing techniques in cities nationwide have resulted in fewer arrests for minor offenses, without any increase in serious violent crime and a reduction in the number of shootings by police.
Meet the People of the DA’s Office
The month’s look at the people of the DA’s office features an unusual musical hobby and – of course – another DA dog.
Assistant District Attorney Kyle Bowland joined the office this year and is one of two prosecutors working in the Oconee County office. Like many people in this music-oriented community, he plays an instrument, but in his case it is a somewhat unusual one: the saxophone.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Schollmeyer handles some of the most sensitive and challenging legal matters as a Special Victims Unit prosecutor. That can mean late nights and weekends in the office. But when he does get home, he can count on Jack, his trusty rescue dog, to help him unwind. Jack has also been named the DA Office Mascot. As a rescue dog Jack symbolizes unconditional love, but also the heart of why we do what we do – for the people in our community, for those hurt and who need to heal.