CDCR officials, service providers gather for information fair
By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
and Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Photos by Eric Owens, CDCR Staff Photographer
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) kicked off National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 19-25) with a moment of silence led by CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard to remember those who have been harmed by crime.
The theme of this year’s ceremony was “Engaging Communities-Empowering Victims.”
“I affirm our dedication to respecting and enforcing victims’ rights and addressing needs during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and throughout the year,” Beard said during the ceremony at CDCR headquarters in Sacramento. “I would like to express my appreciation for victims and crime survivors who have turned personal tragedy into a motivating force to improve our response to victims of crime.”
Beard shared the podium with guest speaker Mindi Russell, Senior Chaplain and Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Sacramento.
“We have come a long way in 30 years. It used to be that there were victims not coming forward, but now they have a voice, and are speaking out, and we are better for it,” Russell said. “There was a time when the victim was not heard, even though they were most affected by the crime. But now they are not alone, now they can stand together, and we can stand with them so they are heard.”
She said it’s important for victims to connect to others for support.
“Concerning victims, we can choose to be healthy, and reaching out to others,” she said. “You are not just a statistic. Don’t ever minimize what happened to you.”
Also addressing the audience was Cynthia Florez-DeLyon, Chief of CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS).
“Crime victims must know they have a voice,” Florez-DeLyon said. “We’re addressing every victim who asks for our help, for our services. We are part of the process, from the arrest to working with probation to working with the district attorneys. Victims are advised that we are there for them, and we let them know what they can expect. That’s important.”
The Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program was in attendance, providing information about their services.
“We are part of the Address Confidentiality Program,” said Chris Halle, with Safe at Home. “We provide a P.O. box victims can use as their address. … They can confidentially register to vote, register their cars and other things. This way, if their abusers are still following them or trying to track them down, they can’t do it through their address. We keep their real address hidden.”
The Missing Persons DNA Program offered pamphlets.
“Events like this are important to let people know if they have a missing loved one, they have a right to submit a DNA sample that is only used for identification of remains, if they are found,” said Kathryn Clarke, a Criminal Identification Specialist with the program. “If the loved one returns or is identified, we will destroy the family sample. The Missing Persons DNA Program went into law in 2001.”
CDCR’s OVSRS provides comprehensive services to crime victims such as counseling, collecting restitution and transportation to parole hearings. In California, victims of crime have the right to be notified of the offender’s status, the right to participate in the juvenile and criminal justice process and the right to be reimbursed by the offender for costs related to the criminal act.
In 2014, a total of $17,546,676 was collected in victim restitution and fines from adult and juvenile offenders.
Also last year, OVSRS staff assisted 1,830 victims in offenders’ parole hearing processes, helped them attend the hearings in prison or by audio or video conference and made sure that more than $66,000 was provided to help more than 370 victims and/or their families to attend suitability hearings.
OVSRS also located 2,400 victims whose whereabouts were previously unknown and distributed to them more than $2.4 million of restitution collected from inmates.
Victim service agencies in attendance included the California Crime Victims Coalition, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Victim Assistance, My Sister’s House, Parents of Murdered Children, Citizens Against Homicide and Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE).
Learn more about victims’ services, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/index.html