Survivors Speak 2019

April 8 at the Double Tree Hotel in Sacramento, CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS) participated in breakout sessions for Survivors Speak 2019, an annual event hosted by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.

OVSRS staff discussed restorative justice with members of the victim and survivor community and provided insight into the Victim-Offender Dialogue Program, a process in which the victim of a crime, or the surviving family members, and the offender who committed the offense meet face-to face in a safe and secure setting.

Crime survivors Trino Jimenez and Tom Rudderow shared their experiences with the Victim-Offender Dialogue Program and discussed how their participation in the program provided a pathway to further healing and further justice.

Also participating in the breakout sessions was Sonya Shah and Martina Lutz Schneider of The Ahimsa Collective, a restorative justice organization that works closely with both victims/survivors, victim servicing agencies and incarcerated people.

California Rehabilitation Center awareness

On April 8, staff at California Rehabilitation Center in Norco spread awareness for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week by sharing important documents regarding services available to the victim and survivor community.

California Rehabilitation Center held a second event, a staff nacho sale for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Proceeds will be donated to a nonprofit organization serving victims of domestic violence.

Ventura Youth Correctional Facility Opening Ceremonies

Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) hosted an opening ceremony to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) on Monday, providing an opportunity for youth to share compelling and painful stories of victimization, redemption, compassion and courage.

Parole Agent Beatrice Driver, this year’s Chairperson of VYCF’s Victims’ Rights Committee, explained the theme for #NCVR2019 – Honoring our Past; Creating Hope for the Future.

Three youth from the student council at VYCF’s Mary B. Perry High School penned and read revealing essays and poems capturing their personal experience of victimizing, victimization, remorse and healing. Youth Washington led the Pledge of Allegiance, youth McKinney shared a letter to her victim in which she acknowledged how and took full responsibility for irreparably changing his life. Youth Washington also challenged his peers to take control of their life and move in a positive direction, stating “If you fail to plan then you plan to fail.” Youth Jackson read a poem that echoed a haunting refrain to “remember me” referencing her own personal experience of being too ashamed to ask for help, and youth Laughton emphasized the importance of lost kids being able to open the gate to change.

Guest speakers included Racheal Watkins from the Crime Victims Assistance Program from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office; Heather Abbott from the VOICES program in Ventura County and Julia Campos from Parents for Murdered Children. The speakers delivered heartfelt presentations.

Speakers reminded VYCF youth that the reverberation of victimization is far reaching with trauma not only impacting the victim but also affecting loved ones, friends and the community at large. Abbott also shared a story about a courageous struggle of breaking the chain of insidious generational and familial sexual abuse. Powerful themes of good triumphing over evil and light driving out darkness were also expressed.

According to Wilkins, the Family Justice Center located in Ventura, California, has been created to support and assist victims heal and transform into survivors. The Family Justice Center is an aggregate of at least eight agencies that offer a plethora of services at one location.

Campos, an eight-time survivor of family homicide victims, was overcome with emotion, and told the audience that her son’s future was cut short due to a senseless act of murder. Kasha Clemons, Gang Information Coordinator and a member of VYCF’s Victims’ Rights Committee, helped Campos finish her speech, as she was overwhelmed with emotion. Both speakers reminded youth and staff of the ripple of effects of victimization ― emotional, mental and sometimes physical. They also encouraged the VYCF youth to live a productive life, have a family, and to grow old.

VYCF youth presented flowers to each guest presenter and a beautiful, inspirational dance was performed by youth Newell to “Dancing in the Sky.” Trifold art created by youth depicted various types of crimes and  human suffering that results from senseless violence. The ceremony and its accompanying art reflected the insight incarcerated youth have into the crucial need to stop cycles of victimization.

SATF fundraiser

Staff at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran (SATF) battled the frigid early-morning temperatures to raise money during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Staff followed up with a second fundraiser, selling out of tickets at their food sale in support of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. All proceeds from both fundraisers will go to The Grace Homes, a non-profit agency dedicated to residential care, education, and rehabilitation of troubled adolescent youth and the care and protection of their family units.

CTF Soledad’s Victims Week Event

CTF’s staff presented colors, observed a moment of silence and heard from guest speakers.

Ncvrw Corcoran 2019

Corcoran staff welcome food vendors for fundraiser

This week staff at California State Prison, Corcoran, invited three special vendors – The Chicken Shack Hanford Villarreal Corn Roasters and Taco’s Galacticos – to enter the facility and sell to staff during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week for a fundraiser benefiting victims and survivors of crime. Ten percent of the profits from each vendor will be donated to the Barbara Saville Shelter.

Ventura youth discuss the impact of crime with from Mothers of Murdered Children

On Tuesday, Ventura Youth Correctional Facility hosted six guest speakers from Mothers of Murdered Children to share the impact of violence with Division of Juvenile Justice youth and participate in a luncheon. It was the second facility event commemorating National Crime Victim’s Rights Week.

Speakers shared deeply personal stories of devastating loss. One mother spoke of how her son’s affiliation with a gang was the beginning of the end, and how it meant her son replaced his faith with his gang. Not long after, her son lost his life.

Another mother spoke about how she always taught her son not to be judgmental, and even though her son was not a gang member, being affiliated with a gang cost him his life.

A VYCF youth asked the guest speakers how you deal with the loss of your child on a daily basis. One mother said, “Some days like today when I wake up in the morning, I can’t breathe. It’s like it happened yesterday. It does not go away in a month, a year, 10 years. “ Another presenter answered, “I have good memories, but when I hear motorcycles and see Converse tennis shoes, I’m broken all over again.”

A youth also shared her own story of victimization and crime, and how she used violence to spread the pain she suffered when she was sexually abused. She admitted that at the time of her crime, she enjoyed it, because she got to hurt somebody else.

Another youth shared his story after being empowered by all the speakers. He spoke candidly of revenge and remorse.

The guest presenters encouraged youth to take responsibility for what they have done, because that’s where healing starts. One Mother stated, “Honor your victim in your quiet time. Do not forget their name, get an education, learn as much as you can so you can come back to the community and have a positive life. Do not go back to the life you came from.”

CCC moment of silence

CCC staff observed National Crime Victims’ Rights Week by holding a moment of silence.

Lassen Family Services Executive Director Brooke Mansfield and Warden Suzanne Peery gave a speech to staff about the importance of serving crime-impacted communities. Support bracelets are being given to staff in exchange for donations throughout the month, with all proceeds going to Lassen Family Services to support victims of crime.

The CCC honor guard also presented our nation’s colors at the “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event in Susanville on April 13.

Mule Creek invites guest speakers

In honor of National Crime Victim’s Rights Week, Mule Creek State Prison invited several guest speakers to share their stories with the inmate population.

Russ Turner spoke about his son’s death in a hit-and-run DUI accident and shared video interviews between himself and his son’s killer, aiding in his journey to forgiveness.

Aaron Cardoza, a formerly incarcerated individual, spoke about his continuous efforts to make positive changes in his community and his work with at-risk youth.

2019 Victims’ Rights Symposium

On April 12, CDCR staff joined the 2019 Victims’ Rights Symposium: Working Together To Make Victims’ Rights A Reality at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. Nolice Edwards, Chief of CDCR’s Office of Victim & Survivor Rights & Services, told her partners in victims’ rights enforcement that they must work together to reach vulnerable and under-served communities.

VYCF closes week with special ceremony after raising funds

The Victim’s Coordinator at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Beatrice Driver, in addition to organizing this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Ceremonies which included guest and youth speakers and presentations, art projects, Victims’ Luncheon, Opening and Closing Ceremonies, etc., also designed a lapel pin commemorating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to raise funds to donate to organizations devoted to supporting victims’ rights and services.  Fundraisers held all year long at VYCF enabled the Victims’ Right Committee to make donations to Parents of Murdered Children from Ventura County of $2,000 while $500 was donated to Crime Survivors, Inc. The youth at Ventura Youth Correctional Center were also active in fundraising this year and were able to donate $1,100.00 to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.

Closing Ceremony for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week took place on April 18 in a “hidden sanctuary” maintained by Chaplain Matchak at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VCYF). The sanctuary is filled with plants and greenery including an Orchid tree that would grow wildly, but by pruning that which needs to be cut off, the beauty and vitality of the plant is able to grow and bloom. Such a bucolic location and powerful imagery shared by Chaplain Matchak befitted the message of hope and healing that resonated throughout the week spent honoring National Crime Victims.

The closing ceremony opened with a prayer from the Chaplain who spoke of the deep scarring and hurt victims have and how we can work together in helping victims heal, to interact with those who have been forgotten and open doors to continue to share a message of hope. The youth speakers echoed similar sentiments such as the importance of changing one’s life by breaking negative cycles and making plans for the future. Speaker Tony Pinado, Youth Correctional Officer at VYCF, spoke of the overwhelming impact of crime on our social consciousness and the healing that comes with justice, restoration and reconciliation.

Jessica Reynaga thanked our youth for their donation to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence which will go towards supporting programs and partnerships, linking communities throughout the state of California, with a focus on primary prevention.  The youth at VYCF were able to raise $1,100 through fundraisers.  Youth McKinney spoke of seeing her crime through her victim’s eyes and his harrowing experience of trauma.

Director Charles Supple acknowledged the work, time and effort that goes into the putting on a program for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week including the fundraising ultimately for the purpose of helping our youth become responsible, successful adults.

He underscored to staff the importance of supporting youth’s change and growth in order for them to become responsible and successful, and the need for them to deal with the harm that came to them prior to DJJ. He emphasized the need for staff to help our youth understand and change the thinking, attitude and beliefs that led them to harm others and learn to repair that harm, develop the humanity and skills to apologize and build a strong caring community with family, staff, visitors and volunteers.