J.K. “Jess” Irby saw the troubles of domestic violence as a young assistant state attorney. Years later as Alachua County’s Clerk of the Court, he wanted to find a way to help those victims.
On Monday, Irby started a juror donation program that allows jurors to donate their compensation to two local nonprofit organizations, he wrote in an email. All proceeds from the program will benefit the Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network and the 8th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program.
“Attending dependency court can pull heavy on a heart as efforts are made to try to better the lives of children who are abused or neglected,” Irby said. “These experiences are what made me want to make this a possibility for Alachua County.”
Last year, the county summoned more than 20,000 jurors and issued nearly $49,000 in compensation for their time and service, Irby said. Jurors who are not paid by an employer during jury service receive $15 a day for the first three days of service. On the fourth day and thereafter, all jurors will receive $30 a day.
Irby said he had been working on making the program a possibility for about six months. On the first day it was available, several jurors donated.
Theresa Beachy, executive director of Peaceful Paths, said she was excited to learn about the added support for domestic violence survivors.
Peaceful Paths serves about 1,500 people each year as a safehouse, Beachy said. The money donations will be used for bus tickets, prescriptions and food for the shelters.
“I really hope this makes people feel good about not only doing their civic duty in the jury,” Beachy said, “but the added benefit of giving that discretionary donation to an organization that’s making critical impacts in the community.”
Judy Padgett, chair of the Guardian ad Litem Program, said they had never received that kind of funding before.
The program currently serves about 350 children, and uses the majority of its money toward the children, she said. Their goal is to provide normalcy for the children by helping fund things such as their scholastic trips, prom and driver’s licenses.
“A lot of funding sources are becoming fewer and fewer, so the prospect of having another option to fund these children and their dependencies is very exciting,” she said.