DOJ grants to address domestic violence in Mississippi

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst with the Southern District of Mississippi and U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar with the Northern District of Mississippi announced more than $6 million will be awarded to several entities throughout the state to address domestic violence. The funds were awarded by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

“These grants will help victims escape abuse, seek justice, and rebuild their lives,” said OVW Principal Deputy Director Laura Rogers.

“There are far too many Mississippians and Americans who fall victim to domestic violence at the hands of an intimate partner, family member or parent. For many of these victims, home is a place for fear and pain rather than a refuge or safe place.  Our office is committed to working alongside state and local partners to combat this problem and these grants will significantly aid in ongoing efforts to combat domestic violence across our state and nation,” remarked Lamar.

Among the more than $6 million in awards that will be issued to organizations and government agencies in Mississippi are:

  • The Mississippi State Department of Health will receive $2,271,297 in formula funds to support law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services providers, and courts in working collaboratively to respond to domestic and sexual violence.
  • The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is receiving four awards, totaling $2,149,722, to: fund a cross-deputized tribal prosecutor to pursue cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, and other serious crimes in tribal court, federal court, or both; bolster coordinated community responses to violence against women; strengthen the tribal criminal justice system in preparation for exercising special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction under the Violence Against Women Act; and provide services specifically for sexual assault victims.
  • The Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault is receiving $152,345, and the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence is receiving $91,274, to coordinate victim services and training, and collaborate with federal, state, and local entities across the state.
  • The Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault is also being awarded an additional $500,000 to provide training and technical assistance to colleges and universities throughout the nation to address violence against women on campus.
  • Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter, Inc., in Meridian, is receiving a grant of $550,000 to provide transitional housing for domestic violence victims.
  • Our House, Inc., in Greenville, is receiving $288,300 to provide services tailored to the needs of Black survivors of sexual assault in rural areas.

Mississippi’s grant recipients will also have access to training and technical assistance to help them implement effective strategies for keeping victims safe and holding offenders accountable.

Hurst also announced a new initiative in the Southern District of Mississippi to target domestic violence offenders. Operation Phoenicia is an initiative to directly combat domestic violence with the intent to prevent harm and loss of life before they occur. 

“Today, we are recommitting to do even more to combat the scourge that is domestic violence. These grants and Operation Pheonecia will go a long way in making our homes, our families and our communities safer,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst. “By bringing together law enforcement, victim advocates, our courts, attorneys, and the general public, we can effectively fight domestic violence and get victims the help they so desperately need.”

The operation was named after Phoenicia Ratliff. Police said her ex-boyfriend Jamarquis Black kidnapped Ratliff in Canton in May 2020. He shot and killed her in Lincoln County, before he committed suicide.

Courtesy: Phoenicia Ratliff’s family

Under this initiative, and by working with federal, state and local law enforcement and nonprofit entities, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is making the investigation and prosecution of federal domestic violence crimes a priority. 

In addition, “Operation Pheonecia” will involve a campaign to put domestic abusers on notice of their prohibition to possessing firearms, train law enforcement on how to investigate federal domestic violence crimes, provide education for local judges as to the impact of their orders on potential federal criminal prosecutions, and bring awareness to local bar associations and the public on how to report domestic violence crimes to and work with federal authorities, with the overarching goal to reduce domestic violence, save lives and assist victims.

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