DECATUR - Macon County will receive nearly $500,000 over the next two years for 6½ new positions to improve prosecution of offenders and support of victims involved in domestic violence or sexual assault.

State's Attorney Jack Ahola reported the award of federal economic stimulus funds Thursday afternoon to members of the county board's Justice Committee.

"We're still putting details together on that," he said, "but it will mean a probation officer and probably one more attorney."

Ahola referred further questions to Assistant State's Attorney Jane Spitler, head of the office's domestic violence unit, who said that the funds were given to Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to create and/or preserve jobs geared toward reducing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and teen dating violence.

Spitler said the $499,998 grant tentatively will pay for 1½ probation officers supervising offenders who have committed sexual assault; an additional assistant state's attorney, a full-time prosecution investigator/witness coordinator and a half-time unit coordinator and grant administrator in the state's attorney's office; and two full-time contractual positions - at least one sexual assault counselor for Growing Strong Sexual Assault Center and a batterer intervention program coordinator for Dove Inc.

"One-third of all the crime committed in Macon County falls under this category, so I'm still over the moon about this (grant)," Spitler said.

The contractual positions apparently will allow each agency to recoup some of the staffing losses they have suffered because of state budget cuts.

Cathy Byers, executive director of Growing Strong, said she is looking forward to having 3½ or four sexual assault counselors instead of the 2½ she currently has.

In other business Thursday, Probation Department Director Lori Long told the committee she will wrap up early next week her application for a Second Chance Act Reentry Grant of up to $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice to assist juvenile offenders upon their release from detention to help keep them from committing more crimes.

The grant requires a 50 percent local match, but Long told the county board's Justice and Finance committees that half of that would come from in-kind contributions such as office space and use of computers.

tchurchill@herald-review.com|421-7978

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