More money for justice

By: Sara Shookman Email
By: Sara Shookman Email

Click here for more information on the Family Justice Center.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- If you do the crime, you'll pay with time, and now a little cash.

A newly corrected law lets Knox County courts collect a victim's fee to help advocacy groups cover their costs. And Volunteer TV learned it could mean millions to those who've suffered the most.

Family Justice Center hoped to start collecting this money years ago, but a loophole in state law kept that from happening until now.

"We don't worry about going back and fixing, but we go from this day forward, and from this day forward, this is going to be such a help," Amy Dilworth, the center's executive director.

It's $45 that Dilworth says brings new opportunities to the Family Justice Center, and the 63 agencies under its umbrella.

"Think about how many women you know. If you know over 4 women, you likely know someone who is being abused," said Dilworth.

Knox County commissioners signed on to taxing criminals that $45 court fee after the state created a victim assistance program in 2006. But Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey says because the county follows a charter, she couldn't collect.

"It was a loophole. Nobody had the intent for them not to receive the money, but I knew I didn't have the authority to collect it," she said.

She says Knox County was the only one with this problem. That's why she worked with legislators and county commission to amend the wording.

"The mayor signed off on July 7 of this year, so from that day forward, I have been collecting," said McCroskey.

There's now $1,260 in the account from July, says McCroskey. The Justice Center will create an endowment, and use the interest to move current grant funds to grow programs.

"We have a long term plan that these positions will always be here. The Justice Center will be in this community," said Dilworth.

And the best part? Dilworth says criminals are held accountable to the people they've hurt.

"You are going to pay a price to help change the life back, change the course back, for that person."

The Family Justice Center sees more than 50 people a week. Dilworth says anyone who questions their relationship, or wants to reach out to the Family Justice Center should call 521-6336. You can also get more information by clicking on the link above.

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