The domestic violence program will mesh with a drunken driving program already in place.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Mahoning County judge and the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving have joined forces to help combat domestic violence.
"Before I became a judge, I never realized how extensive this problem is," said Judge Loren A. Popio, who presides over the county's area court in Sebring. "I thought we had to do something to raise the level of awareness about the issue."
Judge Popio was appointed to the bench in July, replacing Judge Theresa Dellick, who left to become Mahoning County juvenile court judge. He created the Peace At Home program, aimed at helping domestic violence offenders realize the impact of their actions on victims. It's meant to enhance other punishment doled out by the court, not replace it, Judge Popio said.
Judge Popio said he thinks the program is the first of its kind in the country.
He and Janet Duricy, president of the Mahoning-Trumbull MADD chapter, also stressed that the program is not counseling, but rather awareness education. It will dovetail with a victim-impact program that MADD has used for years, Duricy said.
"It's not a big leap for us to do this. These two things are so closely interrelated," Duricy said.
Program expanded: She said the MADD program has been used by area courts for years for drunken driving defendants. The monthly meetings include lessons on the impact of drunken driving, she said. The program will be expanded to include a component on domestic violence, and meetings will last about two hours.
The first domestic violence program will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Canfield municipal building.
People who are sentenced to attend the meetings must stay for the whole thing, not just the component that affects them, Duricy said.
Getting help: Judge Popio said the idea is to get help for offenders rather than simply punishing them. That's similar to the philosophy behind drug courts and other specialty courts, he said.
"The court system is moving toward a social service orientation," he said. "Courts are being asked to do more than just punish people."
For now, MADD is adapting its program at no cost to the county, the judge said. He's working with the county's special projects unit on applying for a grant to expand the program so it can stand on its own.
Duricy noted that she's already gotten calls from a magistrate in Columbiana County who's heard about the program and wants to begin referring people into it.