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Innovation Sites

Nine of the country’s most innovative rural justice programs have been selected to serve as models for other communities by the Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC) Advisory Council. Applications for additional innovation sites are currently being accepted.

Reaching Rural Initiative

Location: South Carolina

Cities/Counties served: All Rural Counties in South Carolina, with Victims' Rights Centers in Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper Counties.


Program description: The Reaching Rural initiative provides resources to victims of crime in their local communities and remotely. The project partners with established local organizations in each rural county to create Victims’ Rights Centers (VRCs). The VRCs provide victims access to private office space that is equipped with a computer, secure internet connection, scanner, printer and a desk. The VRCs are located inside trusted community partners’ buildings and are unmarked from the outside. This anonymity gives victims access to the tools necessary to access victims’ services, meet with their attorney, attend court hearings, print documents, etc., privately and discreetly. The project has also started connecting victims to transition assistance and resources such as financial counseling, career development, employment opportunities and training. In addition to increasing access to victims’ services, the Reaching Rural initiative has a website with information (including a clickable resource map) for victims, victim service providers and volunteer attorneys. The website hosts an Advocacy Portal, where victim service providers and attorneys can access additional trainings and receive technical assistance through an exclusive forum. The project helped fund an app for victim service providers, which allows them to access our resource map offline, an important feature for advocates in rural areas who do not always have access to the internet.

Lazarus Recovery Services: Justice-Involved Initiative

Location: North Carolina

Cities/Counties served: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Mitchell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes, Yadkin and Yancey Counties


Program description: The Lazarus Recovery Services: Justice-Involved Initiative, as a program of Project Lazarus, provides prevention and recovery support services to justice-involved individuals with substance or opioid use problems. Working with a team of health providers, public safety and judicial stakeholders, the program offers and links to various resources to people who struggle with substance use. It connects individuals with peer support specialists to create a recovery plan and helps support them through their recovery journey. For those currently in jail, the program provides educational materials about addiction and recovery.  It also gives naloxone, an FDA-approved medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose, to people on their release from jail. Additionally, through their Lazarus FIRST (Families in Recovery Support Together) program, children of those with substance use and justice involved individuals have advocacy and support, whether or not involved with DSS CPS.

Rural community responses for positive outcomes for public health related issues (substance use disorder included) require strong collaboration with linkages to care in a continuum that removes gaps that so many in rural areas find themselves in and unable to navigate out. Our success is based on community collective efforts as no one organization or agency can do it alone.

The Center for Empowering Victims of Gender-based Violence

Location: Kansas

Cities/Counties served: Ellis and Hays Counties


Program description: The Center for Empowering Victims of Gender-based Violence is a research and collaboration center focused on promoting the connection between social entrepreneurship and economic freedom for domestic violence and human trafficking victims. One of the Center’s goals is to facilitate a social movement using entrepreneurial approaches to give power and freedom to survivors. The Center will examine the cost of gender-based violence victimization in the upcoming two years, including both tangible and intangible costs, through a research project focusing on service providers' perceptions. The Center will also generate a report on innovative approaches to tackling issues in rural communities on the Center's website. The Center will provide consulting services to victim advocates and agencies in rural communities by providing workshops and webinars in the next five years. Ultimately, the Center aims to facilitate a social enterprise alliance where survivors in rural Kansas will have opportunities to access both employment and long-term residential care. The coalition will be a collective force involving research and policy analysis produced by the Center, support from local businesses and community stakeholders and victim advocacy groups.

The Rural Attorney Recruitment Program

Location: South Dakota

Cities/Counties served: Rural communities in South Dakota


Program description: The Rural Attorney Recruitment Program recruits qualified attorneys to practice for five years in rural counties where older attorneys are retiring and there is an absence of individuals to provide legal services. The program connects eligible rural counties and legal employers to attorneys interested in rural practice. Qualified attorneys agree to practice full-time in the county for at least five years and receive incentive payments equal to 90% of the University of South Dakota School of Law’s tuition costs. During those five years, the goal is to ensure the attorney becomes vested in his/her community, increasing the likelihood that the attorney will remain in the rural community after the five years are expired. The stipends provide financial stability as new attorneys establish themselves in the community and address the genuine concern of law school debt. The State Bar, the participating rural county, and the Unified Judicial System split the cost of the incentive payment.

Rural Incubator Project for Lawyers

Location: Montana

Cities/Counties served: State of Montana. RIPL Fellows and alumni are located throughout the state in the following counties: Red Lodge, Miles City, Helena, Great Falls, Polson, Kalispell, Glasgow, Nashua, Hot Springs, Lewistown, Bozeman and Ekalaka


Program description: The Rural Incubator Project for Lawyers (RIPL) provides a 24-month fellowship program that trains and supports attorneys to develop solo or small firm practice that provide legal services to low-income Montanans in rural communities. Established by the Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA), the fellows are required to provide 300 hours of legal assistance annually to low-income clients pro bono or at a modest-means rate. The MLSA has a statewide legal services application system that allows low- and moderate-income people to request legal services through an online and phone-based application system. MLSA refers clients to RIPL Fellows who determine how best to handle clients’ needs, from providing legal advice in a phone consultation to accepting cases in limited or full-scope representation.

Texas Dispute Resolution System: Rural Mediation

Location: Texas

Cities/Counties served: Lubbock County and the surrounding rural areas


Program description: The Texas Dispute Resolution System provides alternative dispute resolution services to rural Texans. With mediation experience in criminal, civil, family, juvenile, guardianship, debt and agriculture disputes, the Texas Dispute Resolution System provides in-person and virtual mediation services. Judges, attorneys, law enforcement officers, community stakeholders or other individuals can refer cases for mediation, which may divert disputes from the court to alternative dispute resolution. As an example of the program’s impact, Lubbock County mediates more criminal disputes than any other county in Texas. The program also offers training on mediation for rural counties and their practitioners.

Public Defender Corporation Recovery Coach Project

Location: West Virginia

Cities/Counties served: Boone, Brooke, Cabell, Calhoun, Fayette, Greenbrier, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, Marshall, McDowell, Mingo, Nicholas, Ohio, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Roane, Tyler, Wayne and Wetzel Counties


Program description: The Public Defender Corporation Recovery Coach Project connects indigent criminal defendants with substance use disorders to certified peer recovery coaches. Peer recovery coaches arrange for substance use treatment opportunities immediately after a client is released from incarceration. Coaches follow up with clients 6-, 12- and 18-months after referral. The peer recovery coaches are employed by public defender corporations which are statutory, non-profit corporations funded by Public Defender Services, a state agency, to handle indigent cases in designated judicial circuits. By hiring peer recovery coaches directly, this model allows coaches to work directly with public defenders, referring clients early in the criminal justice process, often before bond conditions have been decided. This enables clients to enter substance treatment and frees public defenders to focus on their legal cases.

Scott County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) Team

Location: Tennessee

Cities/Counties served: Scott County

Program description: The Scott County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) Team is a multi-agency group that provides various services and support to victims of domestic violence, elder abuse, human trafficking and sexual assault. Meeting with their community partners and service providers at least once a week, the CCR Team works to strengthen the existing programs and improve victims’ services. The CCR Team also develops and implements new solutions to address known service gaps, providing greater support for victims and their families.

Family Accountability and Recovery Court

Location: North Carolina

Cities/Counties served: Greene, Lenoir, and Wayne Counties

Program description: The 8th District Family Accountability and Recovery Court provides services and opportunities for families involved in the child welfare system due to allegations of child abuse, neglect or other parenting issues related to substance dependence. Clients are referred to this court after the Department of Social Services files a petition regarding the children’s wellbeing. There are five phases of the program intended to facilitate wholistic treatment, provide meaningful opportunities and, if possible, reunite families.

Phase 1 involves the initial intake and screening process, while Phase 2 begins substance-abuse treatment. Phases 3 and 4 assess other potential issues with which clients might struggle. These phases are also where the program seeks to address environmental and financial stability through housing, employment, and educational opportunities and partnerships. Phase 5 focuses on aftercare.