May 6, 2010 – conversation with Mary Claire and staff   Leave a comment

Today I took a long lunch hour, drove downtown in my sweaty overalls, T shirt and hiking boots, and went to the Family Justice Center annex. I had arranged to meet with Mary Claire Landry, head of the local shelter, Crescent House, and also director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center. I met her 2 years ago by Googling domestic violence agencies in NOLA, then inviting myself to meet with her. We’ve met annually ever since and really enjoy our time together. She is such a powerhouse – bringing her agency and staff back to life after Katrina destroyed the shelter building, getting the funding reinstated after the funders cut it off, saying there were no longer battered women in New Orleans after Katrina (!!). Just after Katrina, Mary Claire moved her agency from a single shelter model to putting battered women in apartments, which has worked much better for the women.

Her latest accomplishment was advocating for the District Attorney of this parish to move all the domestic violence criminal cases out of the municipal court and into the criminal court, where they are now seen as real crimes, advocating for the DA to create a domestic violence unit with six deputies and four advocates, and working with this new unit to help them figure out how to coordinate with each other. There are still major problems in NOLA, with 2 judges recently releasing batterers who then killed their victims, and rural parts of the state which don’t follow many of the domestic violence laws. But Mary Claire and her staff have also developed such strong relationships and good reputations with the criminal justice system that they are doing a great deal of training law enforcement, get cooperation from prosecutors and judges in regard to U visas for undocumented battered women, and are constantly expanding services. Since Mary Claire and company are aware of the need for long-term solutions to domestic violence, which includes financial independence for women, they now provide a class for battered women to get their GED’s and also another certification that can help them get jobs.

During our lunch, I made several suggestions regarding police training resources, more utilization of graduate and undergraduate students as interns, etc. I urged Mary Claire to work on state legislation and told her the rest of the state needs her too! It was fun spending time with these smart, hard-working, inspiring women, who have taken on such a huge project – ending domestic violence in New Orleans parish.



Posted May 6, 2010 by NOLA-er in Uncategorized

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