ATLANTA - Attorney General Thurbert Baker joined Chief Justice Robert Benham, State Representative Roy Barnes, and former State Bar President Linda Klein today at the Judicial Council of Georgia's ceremony to award grants totaling $1.5 million to fight domestic violence. The grants were awarded to the Georgia Legal Services Program and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Both agencies will add staff to assist victims of domestic violence and work together on a Statewide Domestic Violence Task Force. Plans include the hiring of new attorneys to assist victims, more staff to work with battered spouses, seniors and children, and a training component on domestic violence for law enforcement officers.

Baker played a key role in lobbying the General Assembly to appropriate $2 million to the Judicial Council to make the grants. "I'm proud to have been able to assist the State Bar and the Judicial Council in obtaining this money to fight domestic violence," Baker said. "I have made fighting domestic violence a top priority while serving as Attorney General and as a member of the General Assembly. These grants are an important step toward providing victims with the help they need."

Baker made clear that he thinks much needs to be done to fight domestic violence, and called on the General Assembly to act in its next session. "Abuse among family members is a growing problem in Georgia. The GBI released statistics just last week that showed that reports of domestic violence increased almost 30% from 1996 to 1997," Baker said. "This is unacceptable. I call on the members of the General Assembly to enact the comprehensive domestic violence legislation I have been advocating, including mandatory jail time for domestic abusers."