On Sunday, the 21st annual Northern California Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Conference was held in the Veteran’s Memorial in Davis. The focus was on the Quincy Solution, best practices that dramatically reduce domestic violence crime and child abuse.
One of the speakers on Sunday was Jean Jordan, who was both a former Deputy District Attorney and a former Assistant Public Defender in Yolo County. As a representative of the California District Attorneys Association, Ms. Jordan was a chief proponent of a Family Justice Center in Yolo County.
Ms. Jordan, who no longer works in Yolo County, said that one of the key premises was that the “leadership has to be committed.” She said “If you look around the room, there are a lot of great people here today, but there’s a lot of people who should be here that aren’t here. It’s really about who isn’t here today than is here today. That’s the problem in Yolo County right now.”
Ms. Jordan argued that, without that commitment, we would not have success and “family justice centers are something that have shown a great deal of success.”
“We don’t have one here in Yolo County,” she said, despite claims that we do and efforts going back to 2009 to bring one here. “I served on that board and that task force for a significant amount of time, Yolo County like many other counties has been talking about a family justice center for a long time.”
“It never really seems to get off the ground, it never really seems to go anywhere,” she said. “It’s because we don’t really have the leadership.” She said that there is lot of talk, “but nothing happens.”
Jean Jordan called a family justice center “one type of community response.” One of the problems is that victims of domestic violence or sexual assault have to go through an intricate maze of organizations and agencies in order to get services. One study, she said, found 22 different locations in Yolo County alone.
“The main idea behind a family justice center is that… we don’t make these folks that are in chaos and turmoil, traumatized, go to 22 locations – we bring those twenty locations to one spot – so it’s a one stop shop,” she explained.
One problem in this county, Jean Jordan said, is “[t]here is a thought that family justice centers can be too law enforcement centric.” She said, “That can be too, sometimes it’s easier for law enforcement to run family justice centers.”
There are also people who are reluctant to come to a family justice center with a bunch of police officers running around. Jean Jordan acknowledged that was “a reasonable fear” but argued “that’s not a reason not to have a family justice center.” She added, “Well they might not want to come, so let’s not have one.”
The conversation she wants to have is how to make a family justice center, or similar organization, be the type of place that people do want to come to.
Then Jean Jordan really laid the cards on the table from her perspective.
“In Yolo County, the bench won’t come to the table,” she said meaning the judges. “They won’t come to the table because they think they have a conflict of interest. I don’t see how it’s a conflict of interest for judges to want to do something in their community.”
She said, “I worked in Yolo County at a time when the judges were very involved in these issues.” She said, “They did amazing things and they really didn’t care what anyone thought about how they were running their courtrooms.”
“Our bench won’t participate because our public defender won’t participate,” Ms. Jordan continued. “Our public defender won’t participate because she says we don’t have any money for programs to serve offenders. We’re not doing anything to change offenders behavior, and until we do that, she’s not going to come to the table.”
Jean Jordan said that the public defender won’t come to the table because of that and the judges won’t come to the table unless the public defender comes to the table.
“So now, where are we going, we’re going nowhere,” she said. “We’re not having a conversation that matters.”
“Maybe she’s right, maybe we should have some programs and some things that we should be doing around offender work,” Ms. Jordan offered. She said that is a conversation she would like to have – but that’s not a conversation that’s happening.
“Our sheriff has been as committed as anyone in this community to this movement,” she added. “But the sheriff can’t do it by himself.
Ms. Jordan noted that some of the non-profits in this county refuse to participate in a family justice center. “They don’t want to participate because they’re afraid it will take grant money away from their program should the family justice center start applying for some grants,” she said. “They will tell you that they already do a family justice center, that they are a family justice center. They provide all of the services already that a family justice center would do.”
Jean Jordan said one point that needs emphasis is that “no one wants to prosecute a misdemeanor domestic violence case – they’re the hardest cases to prove, but I learned over the years that they are the most important cases.”
She said, “Those are the ones that you need to pay the most attention to. What they really are is this really tiny window into this really big situation.” And right now those cases go to the youngest and least experienced prosecutors.
A point that Barry Goldstein, the keynote speaker, made is that so many of the people in prison came from homes with domestic violence. So he believes that if you take domestic violence cases more seriously, you can gain a window into reducing crime overall.
More on that later this week.
—David M. Greenwald reporting