Knoxville, Tennessee

The Knoxville/Knox County, Tennessee area is known for its history of "firsts." It was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to conduct a safety audit of its response to domestic violence; one of 15 jurisdictions to receive a large, one-time grant award from the President's Family Justice Center Initiative to fund creation of a family justice center; the first jurisdiction to conduct a 10-year anniversary safety audit for a then-and-now comparison; and the first jurisdiction to receive funding from its Governor's Office to provide technical assistance to other communities in the state that are interested in creating a family justice center. More than 60 agencies and organizations participate in Knoxville's Family Justice Center demonstrating their commitment to coordination and collaboration among criminal justice professionals, advocates, and allied professionals.

On February 25, 2011, the Knoxville/Knox County audit team began work its work as an Initiative on Witness Intimidation (IWI) pilot site. They undertook investigative activities (as described on the IWI homepage), identified gaps in witness safety and offender accountability, and made recommendations to address those gaps. They reported their findings and identified five gaps in witness safety and offender accountability: intimidation of victims and witnesses inside and around the courthouse; professionals' lack of knowledge about intimidation; the impact of language, culture, mental health status, and religion on witness intimidation; domestic violence responders' lack of knowledge of available resources, specifically the expertise of jail and gang crime investigators; and missed opportunities to observe batterers' groups for insight about the use of intimidation by abusers.

In September of 2012, the team developed an action plan to effect change that they have since been implementing. Knoxville/Knox County's audit team adopted and is preparing to publicize a mission statement emphasizing witness safety throughout the justice system. The team is also creating safe spaces for victims and witnesses to wait for court appearances, instituting a check-in process, and developing a model policy for court security to monitor witness intimidation to increase safety inside the courthouse. Education, training, and policy development were also major themes in improving their current response in all areas, including advocacy, law enforcement, and prosecution.

Implementation and final pilot site reports are available upon request.

AEquitas would like to acknowledge the following organizations for their significant contributions to the Knoxville IWI project: Child and Family Tennessee; Complete Counseling North; Knox County Attorney General's Office; Knox County Detention Facility; Knox County Felony Court; Knox County Fourth Circuit Court; Knox County Probation; Knox County Sessions Court; Knox County Sheriff's Office, Court Services, Family Crisis, Major Crimes, Warrants; Knoxville Family Justice Center; Knoxville Police Department, Family Violence Unit, Gang/Intelligence Unit; Legal Aid of East Tennessee; Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee; Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole; Young Women's Christian Association.

Special Initiatives