By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer

Imagine the fear of facing, for the first time, the person who nearly took your life, or raped you or killed a loved one. Going through that by yourself, can be even more terrifying. That’s where this group gathered at Folsom State Prison (FSP) comes in.

The group members are going through Victim Services Representative training. “If you’ve never been in a parole hearing, it’s pretty devastating,” said one of the instructors, Mike Young, who is with the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services at CDCR. “The parole hearings are worse than the trial for the victim.”

Everyone taking the class on this day either works at Folsom State Prison or CSP Sacramento, and is doing this because they want to. The instructors train how to escort victims to parole hearings and   pass along to the victim’s the following information:

  • Know who is in the hearing room
  • Know what happens at the hearings
  • Know who speaks at hearings, and when.
  • Know what happens during deliberations.

There also are the do’s and don’ts when a victim goes to a Parole Board hearing.

  • Don’t wear denim.
  • Don’t wear anything revealing.
  • No purses, cellphones, cameras or tobacco products.

The trainees are introduced to Victim Impact Statements, which are written or oral information from  crime victims, in their own words, about how a crime has affected them. And finally they are taught about the hearing decisions. Was parole granted, was it denied, what happens if there’s a tie vote among the Board of Parole Hearing commissioners?

The trainees learn about Marsy’s Law, which significantly expands the rights for victims in California. Restitution is also explained to the group. Restitution is ordered by the court and the fines are considered an offender’s debt to society for their criminal behavior.

Elmore stresses the importance of keeping a line of communication open between the Victim Services Representative and the victim, especially the closer they get to the Parole Board hearing. She also said it is important to be there for the victim, making he or she feel like they are not going through this sometimes terrifying event by themselves.

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Mike Young and Courtney Elmore with the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services at CDCR teach a Victims Services representative class at FSP.