Judy Utter shares the story of her daughter Jennifer with 150 inmates.

By Eddie Escobar, Community Resources Manager
Mule Creek State Prison

In observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) hosted its annual five-day Victim Impact Speakers Panel.

The panel was composed of victims and survivors of crime representing various victims’ rights organizations: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Lodi Gang Reduction Intervention Program, Parents of Murdered Children, Operation Care, and the Partnership for Re-entry Program.

Richard Nelson shares his story of Monique, who was murdered in South Sacramento.

This year’s theme was “Strength. Resilience. Justice.”

Earlier this spring, speakers presented their stories to 3,000 inmates and MCSP staff. Several speakers not only shared their stories, but also gave a stern warning to the inmates.

“As men, you all need to get it right because your children are expecting more from all of you,” said Richard Nelson, whose daughter was murdered in South Sacramento in 2010 while protecting her 2-year-old son.

Judy Utter, Senior Victim Advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said she is still haunted by the memories of the day she lost her 18-year-old daughter Jennifer, who was killed in a drunk-driving accident 27 years ago.

“The officer handed me the license and asked if I was Jennifer’s mother. ‘There has been a terrible accident. Your daughter didn’t make it,'” she recalls being told.

In responding to inmates’ questions, Nancy Pezzi, whose daughter died from a drug overdose, challenged the audience.

“I tell you my daughter’s story because your actions impact not only victims but everyone; the victim’s family and your own,” she said.

In addition to the Victim Impact Speaker Panel, information regarding victims’ awareness from the National Center of Victims and Crime (NCVC) and the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) was posted throughout MCSP’s six facilities.

In conjunction with other activities, inmates who participate in self-help groups, and who wished to share their feelings about crime and victims, participated in an essay writing campaign.

Monthly, over 1,000 MCSP inmates participate in the Victim’s Offender’s Awareness Program (VAOP). The overall philosophy of the VAOP is for inmates to accept accountability for the harm they committed to victims and taking the restorative steps necessary to make amends with society.

A juvenile diversion graduate urges inmates to be better fathers.