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Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

May 3, 2024

 

A $10 Million Investment, the Right Thing To Do
 

On Friday, April 26, 2024, I visited the Green County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) and met with Green County District Attorney Craig Nolen and other law enforcement officials from our community to understand the value of the $10 million investment we made this spring. It was an eye opening day and one I will not soon forget. This visit proved to me that Wisconsin’s $10 million investment in survivor and victim service providers is absolutely worth it, even if we will never be able to quantify the full impact of our investment. It is the right thing to do.
 
The Green County CAC is one of 135 Victim of Crimes Act (VOCA) organizations in Wisconsin. They are located in Monroe and provide “a safe place for children who may have been abused or have witnessed an act of violence.” They have an extraordinary team of passionate people who are trained to investigate cases of abuse and neglect in order to assist local law enforcement to arrest and prosecute offenders. They also provide follow-up support, counseling and other services to help children and families recover from horrific trauma.
 
Unfortunately, in October 2023, the Federal government informed VOCA organizations in Wisconsin that they would be losing 40% of their funding because of a massive drop in the revenues collected by the VOCA Fund through fees and fines. The CACs, as well as domestic violence service providers, Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART), Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs and other victim/witness programs are funded by the VOCA Fund.
 
In response, the State Legislature passed a bill to allocate $10 million to VOCA organizations throughout Wisconsin so that they may continue to provide these important services to our communities and the people who need them. I am proud of this investment and am very thankful for all of the individuals and organizations who educated and advocated for these funds.
 
One of those advocates was the Green County CAC. I was honored to be invited to tour their facility and learn more about their work. The highly-trained, professional staff who work at the CAC conduct extremely thorough investigations while caring for the victims and witnesses. They provide a comfortable interview space and they know how to ask the right questions in the right way. They record every interview to minimize the need to repeat interviews that re-victimize people when they are asked to tell their story over and over again. 
 
They work in partnership with law enforcement and court officials to seek justice for children who experience abuse and neglect. Then, they help these children recover. The counselors at the CACs become trusted friends who help children move past horrific trauma. One counselor shared that she continues to connect with a former victim who is graduating this spring. She talked about how rewarding it is to know that she helped this young woman overcome trauma so that she can live a full, positive life.
 
District Attorney Craig Nolen told me that investigations conducted by the CAC produce a 95-100% conviction rate. He said the video interviews and evidence that they collect ensure that offenders are arrested and brought to justice without having to put vulnerable children through difficult repeat interviews or court appearances.  This is a strong, positive partnership that is worth our investment.
 
In state government, we often want to define the return on our investments. We want “proof” that we are spending taxpayer funds wisely. I don’t think we will ever be able to fully measure or quantify the return on this investment, but I can say, without a doubt, that it was the right thing to do. 
 
As always, if you need assistance with any state-related matters, please call our team at the State Capitol – 608-266-0703 – or email me – Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. My team is ready, and willing, to help navigate your state government, clear obstacles and receive your input.