Story and photos by Ike Dodson, CDCR PIO
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Agencies dedicated to providing services to the victim and survivor community rallied together alongside advocacy groups at Fremont Park in Sacramento April 10 for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The ceremony and resource faire included 12 vendor booths and inspirational words from leaders and champions of the national movement to give victims and survivors of crime a voice and hope for a greater future.

The event was hosted by CDCR’s Office of Victim & Survivor Rights & Services (OVSRS).

“While we highlight this week, CDCR understands that for the victim and survivor community, each day of the week, month and year should be celebrated for their journey, their resilience and their strength,” CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said during his keynote address. “It’s our obligation to provide the nurtured soil for the seeds we plant here today ― to fertilize it and care for it ― to cultivate better outcomes for those that leave our institutions, to ensure we have fewer victims.”

Diaz thanked OVSRS Chief Nolice Edwards and her staff and for being dedicated, passionate ambassadors to the victim and survivor community.

Edwards opened the event by proudly highlighting her office’s recent efforts to provide post-conviction services for crime victims and survivors. Last year OVSRS registered 8,623 victims to receive services and collected over $26.6 million in funds for direct restitution orders, restitution fines and for unknown victims.

The OVSRS outreach to the victim and survivor communities is a year-round task.

“My team is a group of hard-working, passionate individuals,” Edwards explained. “I think each and every one of them that work here ― they work here because they support and they understand, and have empathy for the plight and journey of victims and survivors.

“I don’t think we could do this work without having that understanding.”

Justice Martin Jenkins, Judicial Appointments Secretary with the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, also delivered an earnest and commanding speech to the audience gathered at Fremont Park.

“I have been humbled and moved to tears to listen to victims of crime testify at sentencing hearings and reveal the innermost feelings of their heart and how the fabric of their life has been changed,” Jenkins said. “Through help and (OVSRS), they have come to see transparency, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel… that they can be healed.

“Our presence together ― joined in a partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, with Governor Newsom, with the legislature and (OVSRS) ― will yield better outcomes for all of us.”

Guest speaker Elaine Whitefeather, Executive Director of A Community for Peace, provided a rousing testimony, confronting the sexual and physical violence that she suffered and the greater purpose she found in the power of her pain.

“It is the power of our spirit to endure and it is in that struggle that we find the courage to speak unspeakable truths at our own risk,” Whitefeather said. “I honor the lives and the stories of every survivor here in this space.”

OVSRS also recognized individuals who empower victims and survivors. Secretary Diaz and OVSRS Assistant Chief Katie James awarded certificates to the following people:

Mindy Stevens – CDCR Accounting Officer Specialist (California Institution for Men, Chino)

Kim Martinez – California Victim Compensation Board

Debbie Johnson – Founder, Without Permission

Lt. Jennifer Davies – Public Information Officer (Richard J. Donovan Correction Facility)

Sonia Gutierrez – Associate Governmental Program Analyst (OVSRS)

Mike Young – Staff Services Manager I (OVSRS)

Read up on the bevy of services provided by OVSRS and learn about partnering state, federal, county and community resources by visiting https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/.