By the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services

During National Crime Victims’ Rights week (NCVRW), the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS) honored many individuals who have done an exemplary job assisting crime victims. The honorees assist crime victims in some of the most difficult situations in their lives.

Those honored span from many areas that assist OVSRS included CDCR staff, DA’s office, non-profit agencies and actual victims of crime. OVSRS presented each honoree with a certificate of appreciation.

The Department also acknowledged their efforts in assisting crime victims at OVSRS’ Annual NCVRW Moment of Silence Ceremony on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Seven of the honorees were present to accept the award in person.

They were:

  • Kathy Azevedo, a paralegal with the Solano County District Attorney’s Office.  She also works as a Restitution Specialist here while being the liaison to the Victim Compensation Board.  Ms. Azevedo was nominated for this award by OVSRS staff due to her dedication to providing critical information to staff so victims can obtain their court-ordered restitution while offenders can be held accountable.  Ms. Azevedo always responds to staff inquires promptly and goes above and beyond to ensure victim’s constitutional rights to restitution collection are being met.
  • Kimberly Chu, Correctional Counselor III at the California State Prison – Solano.  She has played a crucial role in the success of the Long Term Offender Program (LTOP) program for long term offenders/lifers.  She always involves the victim’s voice in her duties at the prison.  She has ensured a victim impact speaker at every LTOP graduation event and continues to work with offenders as they go through restorative programming – never letting them forget the crime they committed and the person they’ve victimized.  She has 20 plus years of CDCR and Board of Parole Hearings experience.
  • Martin Figueroa, Parole Agent III of the San Francisco Lifer Parole unit.  Besides supervising numerous parolees in the SF area, he strives to make parolees understand their criminal impact on victims and the community they violated.  He works closely with his region to bring in community and victim speakers and to speak to lifer parolees so they always recognize the impact their crime had on their victims and the area around them.  While he constantly assists in parolee rehabilitation and growth, he never forgets the victim or restorative justice.
  • Naomi Laws, sister of victim Diane Hightower, who was murdered on May 13, 1992.  Ms. Laws has faithfully attended all of the offender’s six parole suitability hearings since they began.  She has spoken before the Board of Parole Hearing commissioners to help them understand what it’s like for a victim and a victim’s family member to experience the trauma and pain every time the offender has a hearing.  She has also volunteered her time to be a keynote speaker at the graduation ceremonies for offender’s who have participated in the Long Term Offender Program (LTOP).  Her dedication and compassion for crime victims along with her ability to recognize through proper education and rehabilitative programs we can have a safer community as well as giving offenders the ability to succeed despite past obstacles.
  • Terry Thornton, deputy press secretary media relations for the Office of Public and Employee Communications Office (OPEC) for CDCR.  She has worked for CDCR for over 17 years.  She is the first to alert OVSRS of any offender case where she feels the victim’s privacy or safety could be compromised.  Even when confronted with challenging offender/victim type dynamics in many cases including deaths of offenders and victims, her spiritual and caring nature always shines through.
  • The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). BPH Executive Officer Jennifer Shaffer accepted the award on behalf of BPH. BPH assists victims every day to ensure they can attend parole hearings throughout the state. BPH notifies victims and their families when the offender is coming up for a parole hearing and ensures arrangements are made so they can attend the hearing.
  • Harriet Salarno, whose daughter was murdered on a college campus in 1979. Soon after her daughter’s murder, Salarno formed the non-profit organization Crime Victims United of California, fighting to strengthen victims’ rights laws and promote public safety. Salarno supports other families of victims by attending parole hearings. She also lobbies State Legislators to ensure victims have a voice.

For a related story and photos, see CDCR observes National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.