The prosecutor's office is responsible for ensuring that victims' and witnesses' rights are upheld and protected throughout the court process. Yet this duty may be severely hampered in rural prosecutors' offices, whichunlike prosecutors' offices in large urban jurisdictionsare far less likely to have staff that are specifically designated to work directly with victims of crime. In fact, an APRI survey, discussed in more detail later in this section, found that urban prosecutors' offices spent nearly 20 percent more time on direct victim assistance than rural offices did.
In rural prosecutors' offices, victim services are provided by staff members who also carry other responsibilities. In one rural Illinois State's Attorney's Office, for example, the person who handles victim services works with as many as 500 victims a month, notifying them of defendants' appearances before a judge. This individual also has other duties, such as demanding payment on all bad check cases, helping attorneys prepare cases for jury trials, and obtaining defendants' criminal histories (Sifferd 1998).
This scenario is common among rural prosecutors' offices, where prosecutors must make maximum use of each staff person. As such, roles and responsibilities in many of these offices transcend job titlesclerical staff provide victim/witness assistance, attorneys do clerical work, and victim/witness advocates help investigate and prepare cases. In fact, APRI's survey found that 56 percent of support staff in rural offices perform some victim/witness assistance tasks, while 48 percent of the advocates perform general support functions unrelated to victim/witness assistance.
A comprehensive review by APRI (2002) of the daily activities of victim advocates reveals that those in rural offices spend 69 percent of their time on activities that relate specifically to processing cases and assisting victims. They spend 31 percent of their time on activities that do not relate to cases, such as office management, law enforcement coordination, general clerical activities, and community outreach.3 By comparison, advocates in urban offices reported spending nearly 89 percent of their time on activities that relate specifically to processing cases and assisting victimsnearly 20 percent more time than their rural counterparts spent providing victim assistance.
A Week in the Life of the Rural Victim Advocate