Congressman Tim Holden presented a check for $399,999 from the U. S. Department of Justice Violence Against Women Office to the Schuylkill County commissioners at a brief ceremony held Friday afternoon in the courthouse.

The grant, presented in conjunction with the "Increasing Victim Safety through Access to Justice and Offender Accountability Project," will be used to encourage arrest policies and enforcement of protection orders issued by judges.

Commissioners Mantura Gallagher and Francis McAndrew accepted the check , along with heads of departments which will share in the funds, including District Attorney James P. Goodman, Sheriff Joseph Groody, Chief Adult Probation Officer John Richards and Denise Kramer, vice president of the Schuylkill Women in Crisis organization.

Goodman said funds will enable him to assign a district attorney to prosecute abusers. The probation office adds an officer to deal with the cases and the sheriff's office utilizes deputies in serving protection from abuse orders.

Holden said the funds are to be used to ensure legal representation for victims and survivors of domestic violence in hearings on Protection from Abuse cases who cannot afford counsel; provide continuity with victim services paralegal who will assist in filing of initial PFA petitions and assisting the project attorney at hearings; improve access to courts through video conference at central locations; expedite the processing serving of PFA orders and hold offenders accountable through designated probation officers to insure intense supervision of batterers as well as victim services monitoring.

The Schuylkill Women in Crisis is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1983 and through its history has taken the lead in improving services to victims of domestic violence in Schuylkill County.

In the fiscal year 2008-2009 it provided services to 1,026 county residents. Services included: 1,155 counseling hours, 4,708 shelter days, assistance with the filings of 400 PFA orders and transitional housing to ten families.

Because of lack of space, 38 women and their 18 children could not be accommodated in the shelter and were placed on a waiting list for emergency shelter. Klinger said all these services are free, confidential and are provided regardless of gender.