Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment.
Gov. Greg Abbott's criminal justice division is doling out $133 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies and victims' assistance programs across seven Texas regions, he announced Friday.
The state and federal dollars will go to law enforcement agencies, domestic violence shelters, programs that aid victims of child sex trafficking and other governmental and nonprofit agencies in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, Houston, San Antonio and Waco, according to his office.
The grants are the first step in Abbott's plan to establish a child sex-trafficking victim services program within his office, with the goal of establishing a statewide network of services to meet those victims' needs.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of all Texans,” Abbott said in a statement. “These grants will help ensure that in every community, victims of domestic violence and child sex trafficking will have a safe place to turn in order to remove and prosecute abusers, prevent domestic violence and allow victims the therapy, shelter and education resources needed to flourish.”
The grants represent an opportunity to serve low-income people and those with few resources who disproportionately are victims of crime, said Marc Levin, director of the Center for Effective Justice and Right on Crime at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The criminal justice system has not placed enough focus on victims and the practice of restorative justice, said Leah Pinney, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and the funds will help with that.
“We don’t feel that the current justice system is always meeting the needs of communities most impacted by crime and violence,” Pinney said. “Sometimes those are the communities that are hurt most, and they’re also being damaged by the justice system’s response, so we’d like to see victims’ services move further in their process for addressing crime and accountability and allowing the process to be transformative for everyone. We truly believe that the larger goal should be about building safer, healthier communities, and so, in that respect, we support victims’ services, and we’re pleased that the Governor’s Office is providing funding.”
Disclosure: The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.