New S.J. Family Justice Center ready to help victims in need
STOCKTON — Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, child and elder abuse now have place to go that will make their process through the justice system simple and easy.
The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office officially opened the doors of its Family Justice Center on Wednesday morning, a “onestop shop” where victims of such crimes will be guided through the proper channels for help and resources.
Located on the first floor of the old San Joaquin County Courthouse at 222 E. Weber Ave., program manager Suzanne Schultz said the Family Justice Center is a project two years in the making.
The Family Justice Center initially opened on the fifth floor of the old courthouse, in the D.A.’s Office, in 2016. However, the center dealt only with criminal justice victims, Schultz said.
“We had to wait for the courts to move into the new building before we could move in here,” she said. “This is phase two, and we’re expanding to bring in more partners.”
Those partners include the Stockton Police Department, Victim Witness, the San Joaquin County Sheriff ’s Office, Behavioral Health Services, the Human Services Agency, the Child Abuse Prevention Council, Women’s Center-Youth & Family Services, the San Joaquin County Office of Education and Department of Child Support Services.
If a victim is referred to the Family Justice Center, Schultz said they will walk through the double doors of the “Justice Wing” and let an advocate know why they are there.
They will then watch a short video introduction, providing information on all the resources the center has to offer before meeting with a Stockton police officer or sheriff ’s deputy.
After an intake and interview period, the victim will then be guided to the proper representatives from the other partners at the center for help and guidance.
For example, if a woman has been the victim of domestic violence, she can come to the center, speak with law enforcement, and then be directed to the Human Services Agency or Women’s Center-Youth & Family Services, all after walking through one set of doors.
“That’s really the key to all this,” Schultz said. “It’s one set of doors. We are not going to refer anyone outside our doors. You come to us, you fill out one form so you don’t have to tell your story over and over.”
The center is not just windows and desks, though. Interview rooms are furnished in the style of family or living rooms found at home, and there are special rooms for children to play games, read books or draw, color and paint while mom or dad speak with Justice Center advocates.
“We wanted this whole space to be completely different,” Schultz said. “This isn’t something you see in government. We wanted to take that whole (government) feeling away because it’s not conducive to comfort.”
There is also a “Comeback Kid Classroom” where victims of all ages can participate in an educational program to earn their high school diploma and be on their way to seeking employment, all in partnership with the SJCOE.
If a client completes the educational program, they can then browse through laundered, donated clothes available through the “Success Boutique” for attire they can wear to job interviews.
In addition, the San Joaquin Regional Transit District has partnered with the program, providing victims with bus passes to get to and from the center if no other transportation is available, Schultz said.
Those who come to the center could be domestic violence victims referred from San Joaquin General Hospital or a local high school, she said, or even from a local business that has noticed an employee has come to work one day with a black eye.
“Don’t think you are alone,” Schultz wants victims to know. “There are a lot of us here that care about you and your family, and we’re all together, ready to serve you.”