New Imperial County Family Justice Center Opens in El Centro

Supervisor Michael Kelley and Deborah Owen
cut the ribbon of the new Family Justice Center.


EL CENTRO – A long, purple ribbon was cut Monday evening at the grand opening of the Imperial County Family Justice Center to the cheering of a large crowd in downtown Main Street in El Centro.

There was a short ceremony before the official ribbon cutting that presented the facility with three certificates and speeches from the Justice Center’s board chairman and victims that pushed to have the facility built.  The certificates came from National Family Justice Center Alliance Resolution by Gael Strack and two Certificates of Appreciation from Assemblyman Manual Perez and a representative from the office of Senator Juan Vargas.  Shortly after the presentation people were led inside for tours of the building.

As stated by Strack, the Imperial Valley Justice Center is now one of 80 within the United States.  It has taken 10 years of work to get the project done according to Michael Kelly,  Chairman of the Board of Supervisor and former chief probation officer of the valley.

The center is a one-stop help center that allows a person to get help in a single area without having to travel around to various agencies to receive aid.  It is meant to be a free service that offers a place of aid, council, and be a place of safety for victims of domestic violence.  It is not a replacement, but a combination all of the valley’s services into one facility that allows easy access for victims.

“You went to at least five to ten different places to get help,” said Norma Vandergriff, a survivor who had been supporting the project, “It was just crazy.”

To the casual eye, the building does not look large or incredibly impressive.  However, once inside there is a winding, orange-colored corridor that leads to all of the offices that are open to the seekers of service within the center.  There is even a playroom for children that is stocked with toys and games for their enjoyment.  The corridor stretches to the back of the building, making the center much bigger than it appears to be on the outside.

“We all dream of what a justice center looks like on the outside differently, but we all have the same idea for the inside,” said Deborah Owen, the senior deputy DA, “A safe place, a warm inviting place, a place people can come.”