Cynthia Florez-DeLyon is chief of Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services
By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Cynthia Florez-DeLyon leads by the motto, “Crime victims must know they have a voice.” For three years, she’s been Chief of the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS) but has been with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for 25 years.
Florez-DeLyon has worn a number of hats for CDCR, beginning her career with the California Youth Authority (now Division of Juvenile Justice) as a Youth Correctional Officer and has served in various positons ranging from Youth Correctional Counselor, Casework Specialist, Parole Agent, Parole Administrator with the Division of Reentry Facilities and Adult Parole Operations, and served as Assistant Director and Parole Supervisor for the Office of Prevention and Victim Services at the California Youth Authority for eight years.
When asked what motivated her to take her current job as head of OVSRS she said, “Once I heard about the position, I thought what an opportunity to come back to the victim services field and make a difference. With my background, it made sense. It was like coming home. I was familiar with the constitutional rights for victims, the criminal justice system, and most importantly, my previous experience working with crime victims and knowing firsthand the devastating impacts of crime on victims, their families and our communities. I thought how do we make sure victims are not forgotten?”
So she rolled up her sleeves, and got busy.
“I needed to know what my resources were going to be. I needed a well-trained staff,” she said. “I had to know what was statutorily mandated to make sure we were adhering to everything we were supposed to be doing.”
In 1988, OVSRS was formed to give victims a voice, laying groundwork for enforcing victims’ rights and providing services. OVSRS is responsible for providing information, notification, restitution, outreach, training, referral and support services directly to and for crime victims and their next of kin whose offenders are committed to CDCR adult and juvenile institutions.
OVSRS has the responsibility to ensure these rights are enforced for crime victims. OVSRS works closely with local victim/witness assistance agencies, probation departments, district attorneys’ offices and the courts to enhance services to victims throughout the State.
During her tenure and the work of her predecessors, Florez-DeLyon said OVSRS has become relevant and visible both internally and externally.
“Before, Victims’ Services was not even at the table,” she said. “My role is to be the voice. We have a service to provide and it’s our job to get the word out and to provide that service.”
In 2014, OVSRS staff responded to over 34,000 telephone calls, email messages and written requests for information about offenders and services; assisted over 1,800 victims and their next of kin to attend parole hearings; provided over $66,000 in federal fund assistance to reimburse victims and their next of kin who traveled to parole hearings; and a total of $22,234,671 was collected in victim restitution and fines from adult and juvenile offenders.
Florez- DeLyon is proud her department is meeting goals they have set over the past few years.
“We’re addressing every victim who requests information and services. We are part of the criminal justice continuum, from the time of arrest to working with Probation to working with the District Attorneys, CDCR staff and release to parole or community supervision,” she said. “Victims are advised of our office and services available, and we let them know what they can expect, once the offender is sentenced to prison or committed to a juvenile justice institution. That’s very important.”
Florez-DeLyon admits there is some lack of understanding and awareness about the role of OVSRS and what they do.
To those concerns, she responds, “Yes, we’re listening and welcome the opportunities to provide information and outreach.”
“It is our duty as public servants that we adhere to the Victims Bill of Rights or Marsy’s Law, and legal mandates that we provide support and respect to the victims of crimes. Crime victims have a voice and are integral to the criminal justice process,” said Florez-DeLyon.
When asked what she’s most looking forward to in 2015, she said, “Build on the progress we have made and continue our collaboration with our stakeholders to work together to support crime victims. Now more than ever, we must work with our local and state partners to serve victims and to assist them in navigating through the criminal justice continuum.”
Find out more about the Victims Bill of rights, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/BOPH/marsys_law.html
Learn more about OVSRS, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/index.html