New Technology Funding Will Help Increase Legal Services to Rural Crime Victims

Helena MT  –  Rural crime victims in Montana will soon have more services and information to help them navigate their complex situations. The National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) recently awarded $749,156 over two years to the Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) to implement innovative technology to deliver no-cost legal services and information to crime victims in rural Montana.  Montana is one of three sites selected by NCVLI to implement these projects; the other two sites include rural areas in Arizona and South Carolina. Funding for this project originated with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

The grant to MLSA will fund two new staff members to support crime victims in rural Montana, new web-based applications and training tools for victims of crime, and a strategic plan which will include input from rural communities to guide the process.  The new web-based application will use artificial intelligence to easily provide victim-centric legal information to victims of crime no matter where they live in Montana.

The new services will be part of the Montana Victim Legal Assistance Network (MT VLAN), which is one of ten sites across the country created to help victims with the legal needs that arise in the wake of crimes. Comprehensive specialized services are offered to all crime victims, including victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and underserved victim populations such as American Indians, LGBTQ, and rural populations.

Since its launch in September of 2016, MT VLAN has provided holistic civil legal and supportive services to 402 victims of crime, with services ranging from information and referral to full representation in court.  Since January of 2018 alone, MT VLAN staff has traveled over 9,700 miles throughout Montana to meet with clients and provide representation in court, and to conduct outreach to crime victim advocates and other professionals. 

Founded in 2000, NCVLI is a national resource for crime victim lawyers and advocates to support the assertion and enforcement of victims’ rights in criminal and civil processes. NCVLI continues to be the only national organization whose mission is focused on enforcement of victims’ rights in the courts. MLSA and its project partners will receive intensive, ongoing support and technical assistance from NCVLI. To learn more about the national project and NCVLI go to www.ncvli.org.

“This project is exciting both because each site will uniquely leverage technology to help victims in their communities and because together we can advance the intersection of law and technology to improve victim services,” said Meg Garvin, Executive Director of NCVLI.

The national Victim Legal Assistance Network demonstration project is funded by the federal Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime. The MT Victim Legal Assistance Networks is also funded in part by AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works through the Elder Justice Legal Corps funding. Funding for MT VLAN is also provided in part by a grant from the Montana Board of Crime Control to fund the Victims of Crime Act Program, which is funded from the federal Office of Victims of Crime.

The Victim Legal Assistance Network Project is just one way that MLSA provides equal justice to all Montanans. Civil legal aid from MLSA assures fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money a person has, and helps Montanans protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.

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