Crime victims and offender re-entry

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at

See the radio show at

Leonard: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, a topic of extreme importance, crime victims and offender re-entry. We have folks, with us today, from the National Institute of Corrections we have Anne Seymour. She is a national crime victim advocate and has been a national crime victim advocate for over 30 years. She’s helped develop programs and policies for corrections based victims services at the local, state, federal, and tribal levels.

In the studio we have Lori Brisban. She is a correctional program specialist in the community services division for the National Institute of Corrections. She has been recognized as an authority in the area of sexual violence in the correctional setting and has expertise in both the offender and victim perspective.

Ladies, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lori: Thank you Leonard.

Anne: Thanks Len.

Leonard: The first question is going to go to, I think it is Anne, talking about what we’re talking about. What do we mean by crime victim and offender re-entry. Correct?

Anne: I think that’s going to go to Lori.

Leonard: All right, Lori. I’m Sorry. Go ahead.

Lori: That’s okay Leonard. We just really appreciate being here today. You know, this is a very important issue that we rarely talk about in corrections. There are a few agencies across the country who are giving this some attention but it’s really an under served area. You know, as we push offenders and justice involved individuals back into our communities, we really need to be thinking about what’s happening with their victims. Victims do have rights and many times we in corrections forget about that or we rely on somebody else to do it and are not sure whether it’s happening.

It’s just a really important thing that we need to be talking about.

Leonard: Anne, why is the topic important?

Anne: Well, I think that we have to first recognize that we wouldn’t even have a criminal justice system if it weren’t for crime victims who were willing them to report crimes and serve as witnesses and give victim impact statements. They are really at the very apex of our justice system and very often we don’t treat them as such.

People think that when offenders go away to prison that everything is fine with their victims but that’s not always true. The trauma of victimization is immediate, short term, and sometimes can last a lifetime. We know from a lot of the work that we’ve done in all 50 states, that when a justice involved person is returning to the community, very often his or her victims will have a really critical concerns about getting information, being notified when the person is returning. Probably the most significant concern is safety for the victim and for the victim’s family. I would be remissent if I did not point out that most victims are known to their offenders and so there are relationships there. When the offender returns, it’s very important that we make sure that the victim feels safe and that the victim feels involved.

Leonard: Now there’s a podcast, a radio program from the National Institute of Corrections, called Offender Re-entry: The Value of Victim Involvement. It comes with a heck of a teaching guide. We’re going to put that in our show notes, put the link to it but I do want to let everybody know who aren’t … who won’t be exposed to the show notes that that document exists. The podcast exists and the instructor’s guide exists. From what I’m told, it’s a great value to people who are looking into this.

All right now that we’ve laid … oh … is the website for the National Institute of Corrections and you can find the document that I just referenced there.

Now, in terms of this concept, I do a series of shows over the course of the year with the National Organization for Victim Assistance and the sense that I get from the people at the National Organization for Victim Assistance is that we, in the criminal justice system, simply do not do enough in terms of taking the victim perspective into consideration whenever we propose any policy. This concept of people coming out of the prison system, we’re talking about having fewer people going to prison, having them coming out earlier, being under the [inaudible 00:04:17] of parole and probation agencies. We in community corrections in particular now have an even greater responsibility to take the victim perspective into consideration. Correct?

Lori: Yes Leonard. We believe that’s true and unfortunately, historically speaking corrections has not made that part of their business. We really believe that it should be. When I say we, I’m speaking for Anne and I specifically. You know, there are just so many things we could be doing better, so many things that would make our communities safe. If we considered the victim as part of this process, many times they feel very disenfranchised by the time an offender leaves the institution. It’s vitally important that they receive their notifications, that they be given a voice and decisions made about the offender, and that probation and parole officers and other community services agents understand that they have a role to play with these folks.

Leonard: I do want to point out that we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, my agency, we do have victim coordinators. They work with victims of crime all the time and the people that we currently have under supervision. The area in corrections has been ignored and I think you’re right Lori, because so many of the victim coordinators that do exist there, exist throughout the country, are in proscetorial offices, they’re in law enforcement offices, but how many correctional agencies have victim service coordinators?

Anne: Well, that …

Leonard: The criminal justice system is very complicated to the average person. We are just a huge maze of unknowns.

Anne: I will tell you because having been in the field for 30 years, when I began there were zero programs in state level institutional corrections. Today 49 states, the only exception being Hawaii and they’re getting on it as we speak, they have victim assistance programs in their state department of corrections. I think that one of the areas that we’re lacking is not having a corrections based victims services, but having them be … you know most of them are under staffed and with re-entry, we’re talking about a very specific juncture.

It’s not when the justice involved folks are actually in prison where the victim would feel a greater degree of safety, it’s when they’re returning back to the community. If you look at re-entry programs, and in particular probation and parole services, that’s where we’re lacking a focus on victim services. Not just with staffing, but Lori would also agree and she’s recently done some work with leaders in this field, we’re lacking in policies and really having people understand the importance of doing a continuum of victim services just as we do a continuum of people who are returning to the community from prison. Their victims need the same level of attention.

Leonard: I spent 14 years with the Maryland Department of Public Safety as their director of public information and to one victim in particular, she would call the institution every night to be sure that this individual remained behind bars. The institution complained. I finally got to the point where I was her go between. I said, “If you get somebody who doesn’t give you that information, call me and I’ll call the institution.” I had to call, I was from the secretary’s office and I’m on the secretary’s personal staff, and I had to call the institution until they finally got the message to cooperate with this individual.

Her sense was that we, on the correctional side, just lacked empathy for victim services. She needed to know that the person was continued to be locked up. If not, she was scared for her own safety. I mean, we need to understand that this really does have meaning for people in the community and could build real positive public relations and also guide that individual coming out of the prison system, guide them to probably a more meaningful experience if we work the victim into the process. Correct?

Lori: Well that’s exactly right Leonard. You know, we’re not here to say that people aren’t doing their jobs because I think most people in positions and corrections agencies and community corrections are very interested in doing the right thing for their community. I just think we need to do it better. By collaborating, by considering the victim’s needs and rights that are statutorily provided, we can actually do that. We see that happening in some pockets around the country. I think Anne can speak to that because she’s worked directly with some jurisdictions on those collaborations and how to do this work better.

Leonard: Anne talk to us.

Anne: Well, Lori’s right. There are so many innovative programs occurring now in particular with re-entry. We see increasingly a focus on safety planning for victims who feel that their personal security could possibly be at risk. We’re seeing a lot more, as Lori said earlier, just providing victims with basic information about what’s going on. You say re-entry probation parole, victims don’t know the difference. We need to explain that process to them and as Lori also said, notify them when the person is getting out.

Victims need to be aware that they have rights. They can attend the parole release hearing in most states and talk to the parole board about their concerns about the person being release or if they want the person being released. It’s just important that they have the opportunity to have that input. I also want to add, if you look at the mission statement of most correctional agencies at the state level, I think about half of them have the word victim in it and the other half don’t. To me, your mission statement is the direction that your agency is going in. I’m not going to stop my work until all 50 state level correctional agencies … you know, when they talk about public safety, that they include the words “victim safety” along with it. Victims are an integral part of the public and as I said earlier, we would not have criminal justice or correction systems without victims.

Leonard: We have innovative programs throughout the country that are doing this correct?

Anne: Absolutely. Lori and I are attending a conference in Baton Rouge coming up where the first half of the week is talking just about victim-offender dialogue in serious crime cases. These are murders and rapes where the victims actually ask to meet with the person who caused them or their loved one harm through a very very structured process where the victim is allowed to ask questions. The offender is given opportunities to be responsible, to be held accountable with no expectations from the offender that he or she will gain anything from being involved in the process. It’s an incredibly powerful process that … that’s one of the innovations that I think we’re starting to see, really I don’t want to be exaggerating, but kind of sweeping corrections. It’s a very very popular program with a strong evidence base of effectiveness for both justice involved folks as well as for their victims.

Leonard: One of you mentioned a fact that often times the offender knows the victim. The victim knows the offender. I want to explore that a little bit because in most violent crimes there is prior knowledge. They aren’t strangers. These are non-stranger crimes. The person coming out of the prison system, the violent crime that he committed, or the crime the he committed, is in all probability was committed against somebody who he knows, who is still in that community, who is a relative with a family member, who was an acquaintance. He’s probably coming back to the same neighborhood he or she lives in. Talk to me about the complexity of that.

Anne: Well, it’s not just the same neighborhood. Very often it’s the same home. I’m thinking particularly in cases of domestic violence and cases of child abuse. We have to be very cognizant of the victims need for safety.  We have to recognize that some victims want the perpetrator to come back but they also want to feel safe. Every single victim in every single situation is unique and just as we want people returning to the community from prison to be successful, to be employed, to not commit additional crimes, we want them to not commit additional crimes against their original victim. If that’s someone known to them, you know there’s a lot of things we can do with wrap around services for victims who are considered high risk where they really feel that their security is at risk. We can absolutely provide them with supportive services from partnerships between corrections and community based advocates that empower them to feel safe.

Also, I think there are a lot of things we can do to make sure that we’re keeping a close eye on offenders that may be at higher risk to re-offend. We have great risk assessment instruments now that tell us pretty clearly who might be at higher risk and those are the folks that we want to keep an extra special eye on.

Leonard: The bottom line in this process is communicating. Communicating with the victim, communicating with the family, communicating with everybody in this case to be sure that; A, the victims are protected. That victims are informed and at the same time the possibility of a healing process as you mentioned Anne, in terms of the victim actually confronting or getting together with the person who calls that damage. These are very very intricate very detailed oriented encounters that you’re describing. A lot rides on these interactions between people coming out of the prison system and victims in the community.

Lori: Well, I believe that’s true but again, I think this needs to be looked at as a whole. I mean, it can’t just be a siloed affect where we’re only talking about the offender, we’re only talking about their re-entry process and whether they got any programming and whether their substance abuse issues have been resolved or addressed. You know, there’s a lot more going on there and we’ve never had a mechanism for that or we rarely have thought about the victim as part of that process.

Now, there will be victims who want nothing to do with their offender and that needs to be respected.

Leonard: Sure.

Lori: In many cases, it is an inter familial situation and we need to start looking at that more constructively and collaboratively.

Leonard: What I want to do right after the break and right after I re-introduce both of you is to talk about the enormous work load that community corrections has and how we fit this in. Not just fitting it in bureaucratically but fitting it in meaningfully. We’ll pick that up when we come back. I want to re-introduce both of my guests today. Anne Seymour, National Crime Victim Advocate. Again, Anna has been a National Victim’s Service Advocate for over 30 years. Lori Brisban is a correctional program specialist in the Community Services Division for the National Institute of Corrections. The program today was produced by the National Institute of Corrections Donna Ledbetter. There is a podcast, a piece of audio, video, what is it, Offender Re-entry: The Value of Victim Involvement. There is a learning guide to go along with that. I think it was a webinar put on by the National Institute of Corrections. A direct link will be in the show notes to the document that I’m talking about.

What was this Lori? Was it a webinar?

Lori: No, this is actually a professionally produced television program.

Leonard: Really?

Lori: Yes and it’s broadcast live and streaming. You can still stream it off of our website. It is in a format now where you can choose the chapters that you’re most interested in which you can view in the participant guide and in the directory. Ahead of time, it is a three hour program. We also produce a six hour program. I do have plans to do another victims broadcast in the coming year which will be targeted at domestic violence and how those offenders and victims can be better addressed in the community.

Leonard: The National Institute of Corrections bottom line is making a major effort to make everybody in the criminal justice system focused on this issue of victim services?

Lori: I wouldn’t say we’re trying to get everybody, but we are trying to make people aware of something that’s a missing piece.

Leonard: It’s a very important topic. Again, the gentleman who I have on from the National Organization for Victim Assistance his stance again is that we need to do much more particularly in terms of corrections. My question before the break, this falls on the shoulders of parole and probation agencies throughout the country, they ordinarily have huge case loads. We do not. We at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agencies have less than 50 to 1 ratios and most organizations out there are carrying caseloads of 150 per parole and probation agent and more.

Considering the lack of resources and the demands on the time parole and probation agents in parole and probation agencies throughout the country, how realistic is this that we’re going to not just provide services to victims but provide meaningful services to victims.

Anne: CSOSA, you’re own agency is probably one of the best examples and a shout out to Bonnie Andrews and her amazing staff because when you have designated victim advocates on staff it means that the probation officers collaborate with them and they’re able to really focus their time on working with the offenders under their supervision while concurrently the victim’s services staff are working with the victims so it ends up saving probation officers I think a whole lot of time. The other thing is that designated victim advocates, you gave the example when you were in Maryland, you know, they’re going to be happy to get the call from the victim who wants information. That’s their job and that’s their level of dedication.

Unfortunately, back in the 90’s we saw an increase in probation based victim services. We ran into budget cuts in the early part of the century. The first thing that went was what? Victim services. Unfortunately it’s one of the things that gets cut but I will tell you that, especially the larger probation and parole agencies that have dedicated victim services, they will tell you it is the best investment of their money. As you said earlier, it’s also really good for public relations and relations with the community because victims are a huge part of the community.

If you think about it, everyone in the community is or knows a victim of crime. It’s not like this thing that happens to someone else. We’re all affected by crime. Paying attention to victim’s needs with dedicated staff and with PO’s who are trained to understand victim’s needs, that’s just … it’s part of the mission of corrections be it institutional or community corrections.

Leonard: The debate I had the other day with an individual was this, that we were talking about crime and the impact of crime on individuals and what we in the criminal justice system could do, should do. We were talking about hierarchies and he was talking about well, “I could see the services for the violent crimes but I fail to see the services for the non-violent crimes. We’re only capable of doing so much.”

I tell the story of a news producer in Baltimore who came in from out of state and moved into the Charles Village area because he wanted to be apart of the fabric of the city. He wanted his family to be apart of the fabric of the city. To make a long story short, three burglaries later … and this was bikes being stolen from a garage, they were out of Baltimore City. It took about two and a half months for them to move and two and a half months for them to move in. Here is a family who really wanted to dedicate themselves to the very fabric of the city of Baltimore and to experience that. They picked up and they moved and they took that economic value to the city of Baltimore with them. What we’re talking about is bikes being stolen from the garage but there’s a certain point where the wife said, and the children said, “We’re leaving. You can stay but we’re going.”

Even non-violent crimes have a way of affecting people’s perspectives and their sense of safety forever. This is a big task is it not?

Lori: It is a big task but one of the reasons why we’re talking about this issue now is because we are seeing some money that we didn’t have available to us before and when you said, “where are the resources going to come from? We have all these people on supervision. We don’t have enough officers.” Well, the reality is that across the country, states that are investing in justice reinvestment funds and that program, some of those states have chosen to use part of their pot of money for victim services.

Leonard: That’s great.

Lori: I personally would like to challenge everybody to just think about that. Think about those resources that might be available to you in a way that you haven’t had them before and where you need to put those. The reality is, involving the victim in this process of offender re-entry increases and enhances community safety. It works for everybody.

Leonard: It does work for everybody. It works in terms of people coming out of the prison system. It works for the victims who are directly involved in it. It works from the standpoint of what’s good for the community. What’s good for the community is for everybody to stay and be involved and not run away. The whole idea is to serve people caught up in the criminal justice caught up on both sides of the aisle and taking care of their needs. Everybody wants us in the criminal justice system to be sensitive to their needs across the board and we sort of forget victims along the way. I think that’s unfortunate but I really think, and what I see us doing, is laudable.

Where do we go to from here? We talked to everybody throughout the country and to try to bring them on board, try to get them to understand that this is something that they need to do and needs to be done in your words Lori, comprehensively.

Lori: Well, Anne, can you describe just a little bit of the work that you’ve done in one of the JRA sites?

Anne: Yeah. I think, and Len this is another whole podcast, but there is a giant focus on justice reinvestment initiative that use really good data to tell us who can be effectively supervised at lower costs in the community instead of in prison. The cost savings, as Lori said, go into things such as offender treatment programs and yes indeed victim services. I think we’re also seeing, I just saw an article today that there’s a new book out with every presidential candidate so far has a strong position on justice reform. We are starting universally to question whether we need to be. The incarceration generation as I heard the other day which I thought was a really good term for sort of where we’re at. I think it’s just using the limited corrections dollars we have I think better and more effectively.

For me, when I got involved with justice reinvestment, I remember hearing four words; Less crime, fewer victims. Less crime, fewer victims. We’re starting to see research that shows now that we can have less prison beds and still less crime and still fewer victims. It’s possible to supervise people in the community while making sure that we tend to the victims needs. Lori’s talking sort of about a … to see change from the early 1990’s, and I was very involved in the Tough on Crime, Build More Prisons Movement. I was a proud leader of that but those were different times. Crime rates were much higher, people were much more fearful.

I think we’re looking at now, as we’ve discussed today, is the dynamics of crime and victimization and the fact that I think everyone is committed to having safer communities and that’s sort of the bottom lines of what we’re talking about.

Leonard: We say that re-entry begins in prison. Does victim’s planning, victim services begin in prison as well?

Anne: Well I would hope that victim services begins at the time the crime occurs. Lori said it very well earlier that we tend to operate in silos. You have your law enforcement and then you have your courts, then you have your community corrections and your corrections. It should be, I always say the criminal justice system should be designed to protect victims and yet victims often fall through the cracks in that system and we need to, as Lori said, get rid of the silos and be a little bit more seamless in our service delivery so that we’re giving victim services from the time the crime occurs to when a justice involved person is released and if they’re re-incarcerated, the same thing. To be able to provide the victim with supportive services across the continuum.

Len you said earlier, you know, it’s a forever thing. The impact of crime doesn’t often end. I mean, some people are able to recover and get on with their life but for many people it is a life long trauma that occurs as a result of victimization. They will need services along that continuum.

Leonard: It’s a lifelong process. Nobody ever forgets that victimization and again, as my friends from the National Organization for Victim Assistance would say, “They certainly do not want to be re-victimized one more time by the criminal justice system.”

Anne: That’s right.

Leonard: This has huge implications not just for us, it doesn’t have huge … it also has huge implications in terms of victim services, but it has huge implications for our own reputations as being equitable individuals who understand the damage done to victims of crime and the fact that we’re sensitive to that and the fact that we’re responding to it. That’s a public relations win win win if I’ve ever heard of one.

Anne: Absolutely. I always, when I talk to correctional administrators, I always tell them that good PR isn’t the reason to do victim services but it certainly is one of the positive outcomes. Lori and I, and I really want to thank the National Institute of Corrections on which I serve on their advisory board, they have taken a huge leadership role and Lori in particular, really focusing attention on policy and programs that help victims but also recognize the victim offender dynamics that we talked about earlier with an ultimate goal that we want individuals to be safe and communities to be safe.

I certainly want people who are re-entering the community to do so successfully. The victim having a successful transition when his or her offender’s return in the community after that person who is returning. That’s sort of my bottom line.

Leonard: Maybe, just maybe, the fact that on those instances where the offender does have the oppprtunity to confront the person coming out of the prison system, maybe but maybe it could positively effect that individual coming out of the prison system as well. Maybe it can give him or her, but in the vast majority of instances him, a better understanding as to the damage, as to the implications. Maybe that prompts change.

Anne: Yeah, I think that anytime we can give people who have committed crimes the opportunity to be held accountable, I really feel that that’s where we’ve been remiss over the past couple of decades. We have not provided opportunities. That’s what we’re seeing now with victim offender dialogue, with the very popular impact of crime on victim’s classes where survivors actually talk to inmates, talk to parolees and probationers about what happens when a crime occurs. When we take restitution seriously and when offenders are given the opportunity to pay back the victim for the financial damages that they caused that person, these are all things that to me are part of helping offenders become better people.

Again, it’s having the courage to provide them, recognize that it’s important to provide them with the opportunities for those types of programs and services that very often involve their victims.

Leonard: Okay, I’m going to close because I’ll tell you, this an extraordinarily meaningful program to me and I think a real plus for the criminal justice system especially the correctional system in terms of them getting involved in this. Again, it’s done through the leadership of the National Institute of Corrections ladies and gentlemen. We’ve done a show on crime victims and offender re-entry with the National Institute of Corrections by your microphones today has been Anne Seymour, National Crime Victim Advocate and Lori Brisban. She’s a Correctional Programs Specialist in the community services division for the National Institute of Corrections.

They both made reference to a television show called Offender Re-Entry: The Value of Victim Involvement. There’s an instructional guide that goes along with that so if you’re looking for quick access to information on this topic, go to

Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. We want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.


What do victims of crime experience

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main page at

See the radio program at

Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC public safety. I’ve your host Leonard Sipes, ladies and gentlemen back at our microphones. Will Marling he is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance The show title today ladies and gentlemen is what do victims of crime experience? Will, we were talking before we hit the record button one of the things that people do not understand, those of us in the criminal justice system we don’t have a clear understanding as to the victim experience.

Unless we’ve been through it ourselves we don’t have a clear understanding as to what victims of crime whether it be property crime or a violent crime what they experience correct or incorrect?

Will Marling: That is a common observation when and thanks for having me.

Leonard Sipes: Sure.

Will Marling: The realities that victims experience sometimes are fairly profound but what many times people don’t understand, they don’t comprehend is that they’re fairly organic and by that I mean when we are victimized which is a word to the can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, when we’re victimized or when we’re harmed by another human being specifically there are actually biological reactions that happen within our brains in our bodies that just happen. We are not even cognizant of those. It would be like I was sitting on the deck with my wife last summer. We were  having coffee and these two birds that were flying chasing each other flew within inches of my head as they were flying.

I could not do anything but react very organically very naturally. It was all instinctive and so many times victims are responding and what we try to quantify in that is the understanding of trauma and the loss that causes trauma. That’s really where we try to look at this and say okay victimization is really about loss and loss results in trauma.

Leonard Sipes: Well we again before hitting the record button we were talking about change fundamental change that is occurring within the criminal justice system throughout the country the massive discussion that is now taking place on both sides of the political aisle where we and they are discussing who should go to prison, whether or not that person should be imprisoned, whether or not that person should be on community supervision, now all the discussion through the MacArthur foundation is switching over towards jails, do we use jails to their best possible potential?

Do we need to put as many people in jail as humanly possible? We have this discussion and it’s happening from a philosophical point of view and it’s happening from a limitation of government and best use of taxpayer dollars point of view.

I’m not hearing the victim brought up in all of this and so it strikes me that if I been burglarized or if I’ve been robbed or if I’ve gone through another sort of crime that discussion becomes academic. I simply want to be safe. I simply want the criminal justice system to act responsibly I understand that but I simply want to be safe. That drawls out some interesting juxtapositions on the part of victims of crime does it not?

Will Marling: It does the struggle many times is that folks who experience something like the harm that somebody brings on them whether that’s the loss of a valuable piece of property or the loss of physical function because you’re assaulted or the horrible things that occur like the child-abuse, sexual assault, homicide those have naturally occurring responses and are just as thinking as a human being, wait a minute. This isn’t right. This person should be held accountable. Many times there’s just an instinctive restitution dimension that we bring into that and I don’t mean that in the in some kind of official formal sense. I just mean justice or sense of rightness, says no wait a minute. A person should be held accountable. In many situations we would we would want them to repay and that’s the difficulty because the system itself is trying to address those and yet many victims would say if they’re not part of this process they would say the system really doesn’t necessarily serve my interest for doesn’t hear me and that’s why in the movement I’ve been in and and honored to be part of there’s been attempts over the past 30 years specifically and intentionally to get victims more involved in the process or to allow them should I should say to have a stronger voice like with victim impact statements in sentencing or victim notification of processes and procedures.

When you’re talking about some of these important discussions and I want to affirm that these important discussions about jail and incarceration overcrowding, I’ve been fortunate to be asked to participate in some of these conversations and in so doing I would still affirm that many people aren’t considering the victim’s perspective necessarily. They’re concerned about a lot of issues but not necessarily how the victims might contribute to solutions that we’re trying to address.

Leonard Sipes: Any member of the Gen. assembly at the state level, any member of the United States Congress is going to sit there and say to themselves, okay we’re talking about individuals that we ordinarily would put in jail and ordinarily we would put in prison and we’re talking about not doing that any longer and I think it’s inevitable because of the victim’s movement for the last 30-40 years, it’s inevitable for that member of the legislature whether it be state or federal to sit there and go well how does that impact the individual who’s been victimized? What does it do to them? Do they see this as justice? Do they see we within the criminal justice system taking their point of view into consideration or quite frankly are we making their circumstances as victims even more dangerous? All of that comes into it does it not?

Will Marling: All of that comes into it and that’s a conversation that we really do need to have. Sometimes the struggles of course with these conversations is that folks are very aligned with a perspective that they are tenaciously holding onto. I would suggest that there is more in agreement in many ways than in that we have a different permit. I sometimes try to describe this is let’s talk about what’s more at the center for all of us than what’s at the edges in this discussion. If we can have that kind of conversation and engagement, first of all legislators would find more sense and common sense and support from people who have been harmed than they realize. Many times when they engage folks they are catching a person at that worst possible moment when the emotional reactions are quite profound and intense but that typically doesn’t define that person fully.

It defines that moment of trauma and those things can come out in justice proceedings because that’s the focal point of the pressure. I’m looking for  “justice” in the justice system and it’s understandable that the expressions and reactions to that process are going to come out in court proceedings for instance or around a declaration at the end of the trial with sentencing.

What I say is the people I’ve met who’ve experienced harm  most of them are quite sensible people. If they were sensible before that experienced they’re still sensible but they’re just far more informed and that’s why it really can help for people within the system to understand how victimization in other words how trauma that is a result of loss is actually working itself out in the life of a person because if we can understand that better we can be more supportive of the individual. We can engage them in more effective ways and we can involve them in a process that at the core it centers on them or it should center on the. The system is really the state versus the perpetrator typically but we’ve become we become more sensitive to the fact that wait a minute that might be legally this case but we’re learning that the victim voice should be included in that.

Leonard Sipes: There are multiple stages the stages of grief that an individual victim of a crime goes through in the same way that any individual any human being goes through multiple stages of I’m not quite sure that word grief applies in every set of circumstances but they have to process it and in many ways it can become a profoundly meaningful experience and a profoundly negative experience in their lives especially if they feel that nobody is listening to them. The story that I’ve brought up multiple times in the past is a television producer moving into the city of Baltimore wants to be part of the Baltimore experience and bikes were stolen from that person’s garage and it happened a third time and boom they moved. Here was Baltimore city’s loss.  Here was a loss to a metropolitan area, a loss to that person in terms of engaging all the wonderful things that can happen as you will live in the city of Baltimore. Everybody was lost of that because of a property crime.

Now nobody’s suggesting a person go to prison for a property crime but at the same time that experience that those individuals went through, they told me it was a grief related process. It was fear, it was grief. They didn’t like the way the criminal justice system responded to them. They didn’t like the way that the police officer responded to them and they withdrew.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: That was a property crime.

Will Marling: Right, oh what a great example. You’ve got a lot of experience from your law enforcement days in interacting with people who suffer loss. We commonly talk about the loss of innocence. That is a very common theme among people who are victimized and experienced harm at the hands of others whether that be a property crime or something around physical violence and the like.

We we want to believe that the system is working or we want to believe the working in a society that cares or that law enforcement is supportive and then we discover it isn’t quite the way we thought. You weren’t far off in terms of grief because there’s a theme in our victim’s world that perpetration is about control power and control and what we’ve come to recognizes that we can’t always say that about every perpetrator. The guy who steals your car I mean who knows what his motives are. I really don’t know. There’s some crimes we say yeah it’s about power and control.

We typically see that in domestic violence for instance. The one thing we can say I think very consistently very confidently and that is every victimization victims experienced the loss of power and the loss of control and I suspect if we would interview the individual that the producer he is describing that, that sensation of I feel like I’m out of control here. I don’t have control in the situation. I’m going to take control translated, I’m moving. I’m moving to an area where I feel like I’m more in control or there are more resources available to me, more of a greater commitment to safety.

Leonard Sipes: It just strikes me again we talk about this in terms of a particular family but it is the community’s loss. It is a city’s loss. It is a loss of tax paid dollars. It is the loss of the joy of of living in a major metropolitan area and all the good things that go along with that so there are multiple losses to multiple people at multiple levels. It’s still for a “just a property crime.”

Will Marling: Yeah and it’s great that you’re really helping unpack some of the struggles that people have  and the tension that’s created when maybe law-enforcement and others respond and say well it was just a property crime. We’ll get your paint over the graffiti or whatever. Another thing you’re pointing out as you use the word grief is fair because a common reaction to loss is grief. Now people don’t necessarily think about it that way, apart from maybe homicide or some other things. a

A very intimate relationship that is broken divorce we grieve the loss of that relationship but in reality that is many times what people are going through and they don’t even realize it and of course society or others are telling  them well why are you grieving over the fact that had vandalism or stolen bikes? Well there’s a lot that could be behind that just like you’re describing.

Specific to that loss of that innocence that life people my society was one way and I’ve learned now that it is different.

Leonard Sipes: The bottom line in all of this Will is that do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? Does of the member of that legislator legislative body when he or she is trying to decide who goes to prison who goes to jail what compromises are we going to make because we do clearly understand that not everybody to go to jail. Not everybody to go to prison. There are limits and there are better ways on the part of some to operate the criminal justice system in a way that is fair, in a way that protects public safety, in a way that reduces the burden on taxpayers so all of those things are in play but when we are saying all of this and when we’re interacting with victims of crime as judges as police officers as parole and probation agents the bottom line question to me is do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? Do we really understand those dynamics?

Will Marling: That’s right and that’s a really great insight because we should not fear trying to understand what they’ve experienced. That doesn’t mean that we have to throw out the justice system or throw out rule of law or throw out due process. Quite frankly we’ve experienced the opposite and this kind comes back to the victims rights issue but you and I talked about the constitutional amendment issue the that we have been working to promote a new United States constitutional amendment for a number of years. Why? Because victims under the law should have standing. The accused has standing under the United States Constitution and all that is important particularly under  the Bill of Rights. The victims of the same crime for which that individual’s accused should have standing under the law to be able to have a place to speak to engage to act and those rights should be protected.

First they need to be inculcated first because you’re engaged on this issue that 33 of the 50 states have victims rights in their state constitutions. It’s a recognized value of among the states but still the consistency for that and then of course 17 states not having victims rights makes it very difficult not only in those states but if you’re in one state and you go across the border to a non-victims rights state, that complicates your life as well. We’ve just been affirming that. Understanding victims their needs their rights gives us a greater awareness of how we can respond in a fair and just and compassionate way to the needs of people who’ve been harmed by others.

Leonard Sipes: We’re more than halfway through the program. We’re talking today to Will Marling. He’s been by these microphones many times in the past. He is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance

Going back to the constitutional amendment Will again the question is for the victims movement and for victims of crime the question was do we understand we in the criminal justice system society do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? What victims are essentially saying is that if I don’t have constitutional protections they’re coming to the conclusion that that they the states that do not have constitutional amendments or they members of Congress don’t understand what it is that we’re going through because we need a national constitutional an amendment to the United States Constitution to protect the victims of crime at the federal level.

We need it at the same time at the state level and I guess sometimes they’re simply saying we don’t have it because they don’t understand our experience and it’s part of that continuing discussion of do we really understand what happens to victims of crime?

Will Marling: That’s right you know that the Constitution and a rule of law society the issue becomes is it written down? Is it inculcated somewhere? We can say this is the right thing to do but until we say this is the right thing to do and put it in writing so to speak then it can’t be argued legally. It can be argued morally, ethically and so on but that the courts don’t argue from that standpoint. Specifically they open the law books.

They opened open up the precedential imperatives and say okay where does this particular thing stand? That’s why we contend that raising the profile of crime victims in this country through a constitutional amendment is a profound opportunity to emphasize justice and really to deal with even some of these other issues that the focus on over incarceration over criminalization actually could be helped in my view by a discussion about victimization because then the victims could talk about really where those issues lie with them rather than just passing laws that everybody says well that that’s a violation you get arrested you get charged you get sent to jail.

That’s really not effective and historically we’ve seen where those kinds of approaches and attitudes really aren’t necessary productive. There’s been this migration from tough on crime to right on crime to straight on crime and this stuff of stuff and all of those are our meaningful attempts in some ways I think. To focus on justice as I want to presume people have good intentions but at the heart of the question is who really suffers the most when it comes to crime? How do we address it? How do we promote safety and security in a fiscally responsible way in our society and really look at the core issues not caricatures not emotional reactions but really at the heart of it or what rights people should have who’ve suffered at the hands of another person.

Leonard Sipes: The issue with compassion and I think that that’s how victims see it but it goes all the way from the individual police officer, who first contacts them all the way up to Congress, all the way up to the highest levels of the federal government. I think that’s the way they see it. When I was a young police officer and I was out there I would have times where I would be running from call to call to call you but. That doesn’t give you an awful lot of time to meet human needs.

If it’s a property crime or if it’s a violent crime I need to get as much information as I possibly can to try to solve that crime, to pass it on to detectives and to process a crime scene. I really don’t have a lot of time to hold your hand ma’am and I think that is a realistic point of view an unfortunate point of view all at the same time. The police officer he or she can only do so much, yet that person has just going through something that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

It is compassion. Do we build in compassion? Do we build an understanding all the way from the police officer to the prosecutor to the courts to the public defender to the entire criminal justice system? Understanding the victim experience becomes do we have sufficient compassion for that victims] experience and at the same time do we have built in the processes to be compassionate to that individual?

Now that’s a very complicated question. I hope it made sense.

Will Marling: It did and what I would want to say is actually there’s tremendous hope for engaging other people in ways that demonstrate compassion because you can be empathetic and that’s an ability to understand and feel what people are experiencing in some ways. Compassion work as it’s commonly called many times are people who actually get that intuitively instinctively. They look  at a person. They hear their story and they recognize okay I understand maybe what may be going on in a deep way. Compassionate self is an opportunity to demonstrate to another person that I’m hearing you and I’m supporting you and those things can be done on the front end very simply.

How many times a week have I taken a victim assistance call here at our office and we have a toll-free victim assistance number 800 TRYNOVA. I’ve probably taken 3500 to 4000 victim assistance calls myself in my tenure as executive director and the person says I called police. They wouldn’t take a report. That’s all they wanted. They didn’t want to hug from the officer. They didn’t want handholding. Most people understand that officers have a difficult job to do. What do they want out of that officer? They want them to listen to them and respond in a meaningful and professional way.

As I like to say law enforcement demonstrates a commitment to serious response when they do one of three things typically: they take out the pen to take report, they take out their handcuffs to make an arrest, or they took out their firearm to put down a very bad situation. At the very least when an officer pulls out his or her pen to take a police report they might not realize that that act right there is the beginning of demonstrating that I’m listening and I’m caring because I’m taking official action.

I’ve been on the street with officers, worked with law enforcement and it’s a real temptation to talk people out of doing paper because it’s work. Yeah it’s work but you don’t know why they want that and you don’t know why they need that. The fact is that that issue right there might be so powerful to being heard that it helps move them forward. Go ahead.

Leonard Sipes: It’s also the fact that we have built in certain mechanisms into the criminal justice system getting us back to the constitutional amendment but I want to be a lot more basic than that. We have victims advocates now. We have victim’s advocates here at the court services and offender supervision agency. We have victims’ advocates within the court systems. We have victim advocates’ in law enforcement. We have independent victims’ advocates. We have victims’ advocates for domestic violence. We have domestic victims’ advocates for rape and other sexual assaults. We have victims’ advocates for child related crimes so we now have people who are either paid or volunteer to provide that handholding all the way through the criminal justice system. Yes we do want the police officer to take the report. We do want the police officer to show some degree of compassion but we now have specialists who are in place to help that person through the system and solve their immediate needs.

Will Marling: Yeah I agree. Those victim advocates are really part of our family. We consider like ourselves a very tiny tip of a incredibly rich and deep iceberg of victim advocacy. The challenge we face though Len is that first of all we’re a land of jurisdictions and even how the advocates are placed where they serve can be quite varied from place to place.

Some advocates are placed in place departments and actually they might be nearly a first responder. Others are placed out of a prosecutor’s office so their engagement with a victim might be well down the path. That’s what we emphasize the fact that law-enforcement’s commitment to training and understanding how to engage somebody who’s been harmed is really paramount because they’re commonly the very first engagement with the justice system one way or another.

The people that I know that who are advocates are pound for pound the most incredible dedicated people there are and they do amazing work but within the justice system there are many opportunities to help victims be heard and move forward. I’d like to say that the best demonstration of this kind of thing is a three-legged stool where you have compassion, you have competence, and you have commitment.

The compassion really is the first thing that people see but if you only have compassion you don’t really have an opportunity to follow through with the skills necessary as an officer for instance to do an investigation or do the paperwork or an advocate to engage because there’s a  lot of skills associated with this. That compassion resource kind of wears thin to people. They’re like well he’s a nice guy, she’s a nice woman, but they didn’t really help me in this investigation and then of course you need the commitment to bring it all together.

I’ve seen some incredible officers law-enforcement individuals who really demonstrate those three things and it’s very common to see advocates that way but that’s really what we’re trying to promote here is that compassion is the very first thing people see. If you don’t give that communication to them that you’re wanting to hear, you’re wanting to understand even when you’re saying you’re going from call to call, it’s hard for them to get to the next step and say well I’m going to trust this individual to take my report in sometimes.

Leonard Sipes: It’s hard in terms of the fact that we depend upon victims of crime to cooperate with us within the criminal justice system in terms of the prosecutorial process and in terms of the remediation process. If they blow that relationships in the very beginning it makes all the rest of it that much more difficult to accomplish.

Will Marling: No question, like anything.

Leonard Sipes: Final minutes of the program, I do want to get on the training because of what we’re doing what the national organization for victim assistance has been doing for decades and what you’re currently doing for the Department of Defense is training individuals to deal with these issues at all levels not just at the individual level of dealing with that individual person who was has suffered through the criminal victimization but all the way up to the advocacy level. It’s a matter of structure to deal with these issues and training and that’s the heart and soul of what you guys have been doing over the course of the last couple decades correct?

Will Marling: Yeah at our core we’re all about training because again you’ve got compassion to have competence you have to competencies and those revolve around skills and training and refined experience and continuing education that enhance our ability to service people. Now just to clarify you’ve been a very supportive person for us at Nova.

Our engagement with the department offense specifically is a certification program because the department of defense has its own prescribed training as you can imagine, each of the services. We recognize that the value that the military is trying to bring to training in this area of advocacy is growing and we appreciate that. I obviously can’t speak for them but I can I cannot affirm that I appreciate the efforts that are being made there and so what we’re trying to continue to do is to speak and all kinds of training context.

We have a NOVA victim assistance Academy that we have developed because there are academies in many states and there’s also national victim assistance Academy through the office victims of crime but we’re really trying to fill voids that don’t exist in areas of training as well.

Leonard Sipes: We’re going to have wrap up. Will as always it’s been an enlightening experience. Every time I talk to you I learn something addition, something new in terms of all victims rights and what we within the criminal justice system need to understand about victims rights.

Ladies and gentlemen our guest today has been Will Marling. He is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance Ladies and gentlemen this is DC public safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.


Victim Assistance and Cyber Crime in America-NOVA

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, back at our microphones, Will Marling. He is the Executive Director for the National Director for Victim Assistance,, We’re going to be talking about a variety of topics in terms of victim assistance in America. Will, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Will Marling: Len, thanks so much. You know this is one of my favorite things to do. I just really enjoy our time.

Len Sipes: Well, the remarks that I get from Linked In and the other social media sites plus our own website seems to indicate that you’re very popular. Every time I bring you on we get nice comments, so we want to start off with a constitutional amendment for victims. One of the things that always boggles the minds of everybody is that the overwhelming majority of the criminal justice system is there to protect the rights of defendants, but very few rights are there to protect the rights of the victim and we have a variety of states, somewhere about 30 that do have state constitutional rights to protect victim rights, but what we’re talking about a federal law to establish a strong victims’ presence in the courtroom and then law enforcement and the rest of the criminal justice system protecting victims’ rights when a federal law is violated. Correct?

Will Marling: Well, that’s right. I mean we’re talking about the highest law of the land, which is the United States constitution, our founding document. So this represents an amendment to that founding document to affirm rights for victims of crime specifically.

Len Sipes: And how is that coming?

Will Marling: Well, it’s moving. We’re moving forward, you know, a lot of folks that listen to your program; things like this aren’t clearly visible because there’s a lot of activity. There can be between 10 and 12,000 bills introduced into Congress during the course of a two-year session and so you know, there’s a lot of noise, as I might say it, in the bills but we are continually educating house representatives specifically. It’s House Joint Resolution 40, and the main thing that we’re doing apart from just educating them is asking them for their co-sponsorship. They can literally put their name on an official support list and said yes, I will co-sponsor House Joint Resolution 40 and so it’s a continual effort to build momentum, to educate, and to move it forward.

Len Sipes: How could you not support victims’ rights? I mean, I would think the entire Congress would get behind this.

Will Marling: Well, we agree. The reality is that when people are asked on the street, should victims have rights? It’s an overwhelming response in the affirmative. And most people, even those who might resist this would affirm victims’ rights. There are some folks who are purists and we shouldn’t amend the constitution and you know, I agree, maybe not very frequently, but the reason it’s to be amended, is because it needs to grow and change. There are some that are concerned that it would impact the rights of the accused or defendants, and we simply respond that is not true either. We affirm that those rights need to be there and the Bill of Rights, the amendment is designed to protect those accused of a crime need to be vigorously upheld. We’re only saying that victims of the crime of which that person is accused, they need to be able to have standing under the law to affirm dignity, affirm the right to information, the right to restitution if this follows through, and the right to be part of the process officially. That’s really what this means.

Len Sipes: Well you have a lot of federal crimes that are in the news lately in terms of the military. So what you have is a situation where a lot of women in the military are basically that they were sexually assaulted, and advocates have stated that they have been ignored, that their rights have been ignored, this would provide them with the rights they seek, correct?

Will Marling: Yeah, it would, because an American under the constitution can affirm rights that are inculcated in the constitution. We say inalienable rights and what we mean by that is there are some things we just know are true. The average person knows they’re true. But we still have to state them in the constitution, they have to become part of a written document, so that someone can say hey, right here, we’ve said this. And in the military context, that’s especially true under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, historically, there really are no rights as such for victims of crime. Now, I will say, that in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA coming out, there have been some very positive progress with the affirmation of protections for victims. But nonetheless, this is, as I like to say, an amendment would cover a multitude of sins. It would address this issue of victims’ rights, crime victims’ rights, but also it would affirm at large, even those people who don’t engage in the criminal justice process as victims, it would create a national discussion about what rights are, what rights should be and hopefully raise the level of prominence, the needs that people have when they are harmed by others.

Len Sipes: And about 30 states or so have these rights, and the process in those states that do have a constitutional right, a state constitutional right, guarding the rights of victims of crimes, it’s worked in those states, it’s been a sea change. My experience has been that everybody is now very much attuned to the rights of victims because it’s the law. And in some cases you’ve got to spell it out and in some cases you’ve got to make it crystal clear. That’s what others have said to me. Is that correct?

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. Now I will affirm that of the 33 states that we know have crime victims’ rights in the state constitutions, the affirmations in the state constitutions vary from place to place. In other words, what they affirm as a right can be different in another state. But let me give you the example of Arizona, that has had victims’ rights for 20 years and they’ve been able to demonstrate that the process can be safely adjudicated so that the rights of the accused are not impinged upon, and the rights of the victims can be affirmed so that a process can pursue justice. And equitable justice. We know that there are inequities in the system, in many ways, and I recognize that even in my victim advocacy role that the accused many times, can be shortchanged from anything the defense attorney that they’ve been assigned or whatever. But we want to and vigorously want to affirm that the rights that everybody should have and we also say, victims want a good and healthy process for everybody. They don’t want a process where the accused is getting shortchanged, because commonly that just means an appeal, another trial, more and more pain and suffering for them. So you know, that’s really why a fair and balanced system can serve everyone.

Len Sipes: But speaking of pain and speaking of a sense of injustice, the average person going through the criminal justice system before a state constitutional amendment would often times say that it’s the criminal justice system itself that acts as an inhibitor to the healing process. If the state criminal justice system or the federal criminal justice system is going to be so difficult to deal with and where rights are not respected, can you imagine a person going through a violent crime and a family member is a victim or a violent crime and then now, they find that it’s just an impossible process in terms of getting the information that they need, getting the information that they seek, getting the respect that they deserve, and having their day in court, if that was not recognized, if that was not embraced. Then that victim is almost re-victimized, and I’ve heard that from crime victims before the constitutional amendments over and over and over again. The criminal justice system re-victimizes me by not respecting my rights.

Will Marling: You’re exactly right, and it’s one of the many reasons I like you, because you’re in tune with many different facets of the criminal justice system. What we hear as well is re-victimization, re-traumatization, common themes. Why? Because the system itself is a system. It’s a machine. It’s designed with sometimes harsh mechanisms that are without respect for humanity, that’s the system. But the people in the system are the ones that affirm the dignity and compassion that need to be affirmed for people who have suffered so egregious losses. And so, that’s all we’re doing, we’re wanting to affirm those things and we’d love for people just to do that automatically. We’d love for people in the system to affirm inalienable rights of crime victims, that actually many people believe are already there. They have no idea that they’re not there. But we know that those need to be affirmed. So that a victim can say I have the right to this, and I want to assert that right and I want that right protected.

Len Sipes: If you’re interested in additional information or if you would like to support the National Organization for Victim Assistance in terms of this endeavor,, Will, we’re going to move on to the next topic, distance learning with the victim assistance academy. You guys are doing an awful lot of training. You were doing training for the Defense Department in terms of training the trainers, if I remember a previous conversation. All throughout the history of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, you all have been involved in training victims’ advocates throughout the country, throughout the world. Then the next big step, a little while ago, last year was your work with the Defense Department and now you’re talking about a distance learning victim assistance academy. Talk to me about that please.

Will Marling: Yeah, thanks. Just stepping back a little bit just to you know quantify what we’re doing. You’re exactly right, we do a lot of training and it’s in particular in this area of victim advocacy and our side of house with crisis response. Lot of these things revolve around the skills necessary to advocate for people but also trauma mitigation, trauma education in working with those harmed by crime and crisis. With the Department of Defense, we are actually the secretariat for the SAC-P. The Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program. So we’ve actually collected subject matter experts and they are part of a committee built upon the national advocate-credentialing program that certifies victim advocates specifically in the United States military, all branches. And that’s been a wonderful experience for us of course and we’ve been grateful for the privilege of serving in that way, but also encouraged by steps, small and large, that are being taken in dealing with sexual assaults specifically in the military. And out of that kind of context of seeing needs and the like, we hit on this issue of a distance learning victim assistance academy. Now let me explain that one. Since the mid 80s, when we actually have the vocation of victim advocate emerge, there are a number of states who have developed their own victim assistance academies. And it’s kind of a standard approach, standardized approach, with a 40-hour basic training that touches very skill-based aspects of advocacy. And it’s a very important training, in fact, it’s foundational if you’re going to be a national advocate, nationally advocated credentialed person, you’re going to have at least a 40-hour basic, and what we discovered in our work was that not only are there a number of states that don’t have academies, but are a number of people who are far-flung who don’t have access to that kind of training very readily. And so we have recently launched NOVA’s national victim assistance academy, and it’s a distance-learning concept. In other words, it’s real time, with an instructor, using technology, so that there’s a classroom and people are logging in, in their remote sectors and they’re seeing the instructor as well as seeing a presentation and they can talk to the professor. In fact, we encourage that; we encourage live audio Q&A interaction. And the powerful thing about this is that distance learning dimension means that distance is removed. People are actually taking this training in all parts of the world. All across our country, they’re in Asia; they’re in Europe, and other parts. So we are not only pleased and honored by this, we find that people are extremely receptive to this, plus the instructors we’ve lined up are heroes in this field. Incredible subject matter experts, and many people simply wouldn’t get access to them otherwise, you know, we just can’t ship them around. So it’s a great step for us.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line is that anybody, anywhere in the world can receive this training and you have been on a previous program, we talked about the fact that you’ve been interacting with other countries throughout the world in terms of you know, this whole concept of a constitutional amendment. This whole concept advocating for victims, it’s not just an issue within the United States. You’ve been interacting with people all throughout the world.

Will Marling: Indeed. In fact, we’re starting really a consortium non-profit international and enterprise called Victims of Crime International and I know that isn’t especially creative, but what it does represent this true focus of many people in other parts of the world understanding that victims, victims of crime specifically need support, they need resources, and their voices need to be amplified to their national, their local and national leaders. And that’s what this enterprise is about, specifically Victims of Crime International. And I think the training is going to contribute to that, hopefully as we give people, basically anybody that can get access online can be part of this.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program. I want to re-introduce Will. Will Marling is the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, Will, I do want to ask you in terms of your interactions with people in other countries; I would imagine everybody has the same issue. I would imagine there’s not a lot of difference between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Katmandu. I would imagine when you’re victimized; I would imagine the criminal justice system is often times not the most receptive place to, not the most supportive place in terms of dealing with victims, dealing with their trauma, dealing with the emotional aspects of being victimized, dealing with their informational needs. I would imagine those problems exist wherever you are in the world.

Will Marling: I would agree. There can be varying reactions to, and you can understand that from the standpoint of even countries that maybe aren’t strong on human rights, we’re experiencing that. I think it’s kind of funny, you name two places, I actually have talked to people about this very issue. Katmandu and New Mexico, of course all across the country there are incredibly gifted and committed people, and even in Katmandu, it’s fascinating the young lawyer that I talk to there, who is really trying to propel the notion of victims’ rights in the context of humans’ rights and he’s just an amazing fellow. The challenge that we do face in varying ways, and I say we, because the human collective represents a commitment to justice anywhere and everywhere. And what we see is sometimes there’s a difference in resourcing, that can be an issue. And that can be here, you can find remote locations in the country where there aren’t as many resources to assist victims of crimes, or you can find locations here where people aren’t maybe well oriented as professional to the needs that victims face, but certainly that is in other parts of the world. That’s why we’re really trying to propel a global voice and a global concept for folks, so that we can shout on behalf of other people in other places that their voice should be heard, we believe that can be beneficial for them. As well as for victims here.

Len Sipes: But it does get back once again to whether you call it a US constitutional amendment, or embodied within the law in different countries, if it’s not embodied in code, if it’s not part of law, if it’s not part of the training of the judiciary, the law enforcement, individuals within the court system, individuals within corrections, if it’s not embodied within law, it tends to be ignored. Or not taken as seriously as it should be taken.

Will Marling: Indeed. And in fact the European Union passed incredibly powerful legislation to affirm victims’ rights and services, and this is, it’s called an EU Directive in that context because the European nations don’t have a constitution as such, they’re a union. Essentially it’s a confederation of states. So they have to have treaties between all of the member states, the 28. And yet their highest level at this point is an EU Directive and the most, this victims’ rights EU Directive that’s being implemented over the next year specifically. There has to be a plan put in place by every member state, but then of course promoting and implementing that goes well beyond. And so that’s what we’re seeing, you know, Europe is seeing the need for this.

Len Sipes: The steam is picking up; the momentum continues to move forward. Just in the United States and throughout the world.

Will Marling: That’s exactly right. The word momentum is a great word, Len, because it represents what we’re trying to see happen and what we are see happen.

Len Sipes: Alright, we’ve talked about the philosophical underpinnings of victims’ rights in the United States; let’s get down to something very practical and very real. Target credit cards, now the National Organization for Victim Assistance has been involved in cybercrime for the last two or three years. You told me on a previous program that you’ve got so many calls from so many people regarding cybercrime that the National Organization for Victim Assistance was willing to move beyond its traditional role in terms of what I refer to as garden variety street crimes and domestic violence and sexual assaults and robberies and burglaries and those sorts of things into cybercrime because simply there was a demand for it, correct?

Will Marling: That’s right. What we were seeing was cyber of course is an extremely popular type of crime, and naturally, the cyber permeates everything we do. We’re all inter-connected. And so we’re getting victim assistance calls, we take thousands of victim assistance calls on our toll free victim assistance line and every year, and when we began to see this uptick, definitely in request for help and assistance, we said ok, we need to pay attention to this. Quite honestly, it just meant, definitely boning up on a lot of the dimensions that are impacted here. So we began to train ourselves internally. We did a lot of training with staff, so we do victim assistance that way. And the Target breach represents, quite candidly, one of many different types. It was a high profile event, and we had calls on behalf of folks who had experienced compromise there. Ironically, Target itself is considered one of the stronger security committed companies, and they have a lot of appropriate and meaningful policies in place, but when you’re talking about a breach that as I see it or understand it occurred, you’re talking about mechanisms that were able to break into basically vaults of information. So it’s very profound and it scared people.

Len Sipes: The Washington Post the other day editorialized that it’s time to embrace the European model, and from what I understand in terms of the European model is that it’s a chip and code based system. So if you don’t have the chip and if you don’t have the code, you don’t have access to the information in the card, but the really interesting factor is, is right now, if you’re victimized through your credit card, you’re not liable. You don’t have to pay those credit card bills. In the European model evidently, once they market the move over to the chip and the pin system, then suddenly you’re stuck with paying those bills if a bad guy gets a hold of your credit card information. Is that correct?

Will Marling: That’s right. Well, the chip and pin is a significant mechanism to protect information. In our country, of course, a credit card compromise like that is considered technically a crime against the bank. That’s why it gets a little complicated because people’s lives are impacted by it. When my credit card number was breached, I didn’t lose track of my card, they got the number from somewhere, the bank was the one that took on the liability. Now under federal law if you report your loss, you can be liable. It’s three days, you can be liable for $50 up to three days, between that and 60 days, your liability can be $500. I’ve never heard of any bank charging that you know to that consumer. So they consider it, I think, a cost of doing business. But what the chip and pin can do, and I used to live in Europe where the chip and pin was important, that chip and that pin have to be, you know, they have to work together. And that significantly limits the risk associated with breach. And it also means there’s, for the bank’s sake, it’s an opportunity to detect when the consumers are actually committing the fraud because you know, in some ways, they have to say, I’m taking you at your work. I had to sign affidavits, I basically swear that I didn’t cause this, I’m not making a false claim, you know, to affirm that I didn’t make those charges, that somebody else had. I actually think that it could be helpful for everybody. But you know, in our society, it’s an issue of convenience and that’s what we’re trying to encourage people to think about. Ok, so it takes a little bit more time to make a transaction. That’s ok. So it’s takes you another 15 seconds. That’s ok.

Len Sipes: Give everybody and those of us in the criminal justice system the three quickest tips to keep ourselves safe from this sort of crime.

Will Marling: Well, yeah we kind of work from a principle, we try to use principles that kind of can be a little pithy that can help people remember. We tell people you are your data. Think about it in that way, when you get a call and it’s a voice, you don’t actually know who that person is. You think you do, because you want to believe what they’re saying to you. But you have to think, they want your data and they’re going to try to get that out of you. Another principle is very simple. If it has a lock, use it. If your phone has a lock, use it. If anything electronic has a lock, your computer, use your lock. Very few people, even if they would say they live in a safe neighborhood, they lock their car when they get out of it. They use their remote, lock it up. We also, this is a really important one in my view, if somebody asks you for information; it’s perfectly acceptable to say, what for. And when they tell you what for, you can decide, mmm, I don’t know if that’s important enough.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line is being unbelievably judicious in terms of providing that information to anybody and if you have questions as to whether or not you’re talking to the real deal, if you’re interacting with the real deal in terms of an internet message, is to call the bank, call the store, not through the telephone number that they provide, but you look it up, you go on the internet, you look up the number, and you call them and you call the billing department and say ok I’ve got this email message from supposedly you guys, is this legit?

Will Marling: That’s right. There are all kind of scams. I’ll give you one that just came to me yesterday. I got an email, allegedly, from the Arizona court of appeals.

Len Sipes: Really?

Will Marling: Yeah. So the idea was that’s terrifying, what’s going on? Well, I knew it was bogus, but you know, we’re busy, you’re not paying attention and so, even there, you say, when asked for, they asked me to click this link and follow up. Well, I’m saying to myself, well what they want that for? Why would they be emailing me? Of course they wouldn’t be. So once we even stop, most of the time, if we just stop and ask a couple of basic questions, wait a minute, then it all rings false, and then we can just stop, but it’s easy to get paranoid these days. Especially if people telling you stuff like this.

Len Sipes: All of us in the criminal justice system, even those who are suspicious of everybody because we’ve been in the criminal justice system for so long, we still get fooled.

Will Marling: Oh yeah. I mean, it’s a common, primarily because we’re busy people and there’s a lot of data passing. And so if an email gets your network and somebody doesn’t reject it and they forward it on to you, that could be, right there, the lynch pin pulled to access your network. How does that happen? It’s not hard. I mean, again, we’re busy people. So it’s diligence.

Len Sipes: Just a couple minutes left Will. You know, when I did auto theft campaigns years ago, we recognized that if the auto industry just implemented certain security procedures in cars it would drive down auto theft considerably and auto theft over the past five, six years has plummeted because of that. There are many people who are basically saying, look, they’re out there stealing iPhones, they’re out there stealing iPads, they’re stealing my electronic devices, why aren’t the companies making these devices to the point where they can be completely worthless, the companies can shut them down. People are saying why can’t the credit card companies make a credit card in such a way that it’s useless if somebody steals it or steals the information. Do you guys get involved in those sort of endeavors working with the automobile manufacturers, working with the credit card companies, working with Apple and other smart phone manufacturers to improve the security of devices?

Will Marling: Well, we sure would. We’re willing and committed to speaking into these issues, not just from a victim’s standpoint but from a potential victim or consumer standpoint, but you find a lot of forces at work. We know right now that within any given cell phone, you can have basically a kill switch. And there are pros and cons at different levels on that. Some people would be concerned that my phone could be killed if somebody decided to do that outside of me. But we know that technology is available. One of the areas where we kind of stumbled into this is an area where cell phone contraband is making it into prisons. And that is making inmates accessible, it’s giving them access to the outside world, we know that they have committed significant crimes, they’ve called contract hits on perspective witnesses, they’ve harassed, they’ve stalked, and that’s the kind of thing, it’s actually a big problem. And one sweep in a California prison, it was 6,000 phones that were found. So it’s things like that that have ancillary effects as well, not just some of the things that even you named, I lose my phone and all my information is on there, man I’d love for that thing to be destroyed, you know, remotely. Because I don’t want anyone to have access to it. And I don’t want them to have access to your phone, Len, because you might have, we might have been talking about sensitive things, you might have an email from me, my contact information, that’s private. So it behooves us all to pay attention to that very thing.

Len Sipes: Well, I’m going to let you have the final word on that topic. I really do wish that the National Organization for Victim Assistance and everybody who supports victims’ rights throughout the United States to be supportive of a United States constitutional amendment for victims of crimes currently working its way through the House of Representatives and also we are all supportive needless to say of additional, every state in the United States should have a constitutional amendment protecting victims’ rights and I think Will would completely agree on that. Ladies and gentlemen, our guess today has been Will Marling, the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance,, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Crime Victim Compensation and Services in Washington, D.C.

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes for our first show of 2014, a show topic that’s very near and dear to my heart; crime victim services in the District of Columbia. Also be talking about crime victim’s issues throughout the United States. We have two guests at our microphones. Bonnie Andrews, she is the Victim Services Program Manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, We also have Laura Banks Reed. She is the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court,, and to Bonnie and Laura, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Bonnie Andrews:  Hello.

Laura Banks Reed:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Now both of you do two different things and I do want to talk about a larger discussion of what’s happened, what happens in the District of Columbia, a larger discussion about what happens throughout the United States, but first of all, Bonnie, we represent a parole and probation agency and you represent victims coming into our parole and probation agency looking for assistance, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Tell me a little bit about what you do.

Bonnie Andrews:  Our office assists victims that are, have been victimized by the offenders that we supervise at CSOSA. So any victim that has been either victimized or re-victimized by an offender under the supervision of CSOSA can receive services in our program.

Len Sipes:  And the whole idea in terms of victim services across the board is to cut through the clutter, to have a friendly voice to guide you in terms of dealing with your victim issues, as it pertains, in our case, to people under our supervision, right? So there’s somebody there, specifically you, who help people get through the maze, get through the confusion and get the answers they need. Correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct. You know, sometimes we have to get that, the trust of that victim or, because they think that we are probation officers or we are CSOs, that’s community supervision officers and the information that the victim might share with us is going to get back to that offender. So we have to get the trust of the victim and reassure them that whatever information that they provide to us is going to be held in confidence and no information will be shared with either the probation officer, the offender or anyone else, for that matter, unless it’s going to hurt that person or someone else.

Len Sipes:  And that’s something I want to talk about further in the program, because people have a concern. They’re frightened of the criminal justice system. They’re frightened of any bureaucracy. They’re frightened about any governmental entity and you know, we need to reassure people that we have specialists on board throughout the criminal justice system who will act as their advocate, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. I do want to talk about that in a couple seconds, but first I want to talk with Laura Banks Reed. Now Laura, you’re with the, you’re the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court. Give me a sense as to what it is that you do.

Laura Banks Reed:  The compensation program for the District of Columbia provides assistance to victims of violent crime with the financial expenses that they often suffer as a result of being victimized.

Len Sipes:  People can get money back if they can prove that they cooperated with the criminal justice system – money for injuries, money for God forbid, funerals, money for hospital bills, and so the DC Superior Court administers that program, correct?

Laura Banks Reed:  That’s correct. But it’s not, excuse me, money in the sense that if you’re assaulted we pay you a certain amount. This is a program that provides assistance to victims and the payment of their expenses. So if they let’s say that someone is assaulted and they have to go to the hospital.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  If they have insurance, their insurance will pay for the their medical care. But if there’s a copayment that they have to pay, that is something that they can make application to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so funds that are not being reimbursed for, they can make application to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program?

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So we have, in essence, two distinct forms of victim services within the District of Columbia and I do want to add the fact that the Metropolitan Police Department has victim’s representatives, United State’s Attorney’s Office, our prosecutor here in the District of Columbia, they have a victim’s representative, the Attorney General’s Office, and all of the other federal agencies, whether they be the Park Police or whether they be the FBI or whatever, all of us, all the criminal justice agencies in the District of Columbia have victim assistance, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  That’s correct. That’s correct. And we all work closely together.

Len Sipes:  Right, and you all share information and you all point out problems to each other and propose solutions for the entire criminal justice system.

Bonnie Andrews:  Well, we try to work together for the victim, making sure that the victim’s needs are always out in the front of us and how we can best serve that person and help them heal through what has been, in most cases, a very traumatic experience.

Len Sipes:  Right, right. And I also want to get on to the trauma part of it, but people listening throughout the United States, every large criminal justice agency, it doesn’t matter where they are, they could be listening to this program in Honolulu, they could be listening in Des Moines, Iowa, they could be listening in France, for that matter. Most larger, criminal justice agencies now have a victim’s representatives throughout that structure. So there is a place where people can go to if they feel that they have questions, they feel that they have issues, that they don’t have to be frightened of us with in the criminal justice system. There’s always a friendly face and a friendly voice somewhere in that criminal justice bureaucracy who can help them.

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely, but you know, more times than not, I’ve had victims that will come to me and say, you know, they might be at the end of this judicial experience and they’ll say, “I wish I’d had known that this office was here, before now, or no one every told me that these services were here. And you’re absolutely right. Most agencies that either prosecute, supervise, or police the judicial or are in the judicial process will have a victim’s services advocate to serve victims.

Len Sipes:  Okay, I mean, that’s the thing that frightens me the most, is people sitting out there and saying to themselves, “You know, I wonder, I just laid out $3,000 out of my own pocket for medical expenses because I was injured during that robbery. Is there anybody who can help me? I wonder what the police officer is doing to solve my case? I wonder what parole and probation”, in this case us, Bonnie, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, “I wonder what they’re doing in supervising that person when they come out of prison or while under probation.” They don’t have to wonder, all they have to do is pick up the phone, call the main number for that agency and ask for their victim’s representative.

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely, or ask for a victim’s advocate, ask for someone that can help guide them through the judicial process. But we rely a lot, even though we provide services for victims and resources, we rely heavily on Laura’s program.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Bonnie Andrews:  You know, I can’t imagine this process without her program, or how we would serve victims without her program.

Len Sipes:  Well, people expect me to say this because I represent in one small way, the District of Columbia Criminal Justice System, but the Superior Court, people need to understand this who are listening to this program beyond Washington DC, the Superior Court is an extraordinarily comprehensive entity. I mean, I’ve never seen a court system with so many specialty courts and so many judges who are active in the community, active in these special courts. And so it seems to me that victim’s compensation and victim’s services would go hand in hand with the role of the DC Superior Court. But I think that the quality of the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia is not only higher, but much higher than I’ve seen in other cities. Do you think that’s correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  I agree, absolutely.

Laura Banks Reed:  I think so.

Bonnie Andrews:  I might be a little prejudiced of that –

Len Sipes:  Yeah, we might be just a tad prejudiced about that.

Bonnie Andrews:  But I do agree. I was having a conversation with Laura and I was saying, “Heaven forbid I’m ever a victim, but if I ever were to be a victim, I would want to be one in DC.”

Len Sipes:  Yeah, I understand that. And I understand exactly what you’re saying. All right, so Bonnie, you’ve been doing this, did you say for 17 years?

Bonnie Andrews:  20.

Len Sipes:  20 years!

Bonnie Andrews:  I’ve been in Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency; this is my 13th year at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

Len Sipes:  Right, but you were in victim’s issues before that?

Bonnie Andrews:  I spent two years with the United States Attorney’s Office, right up the street.

Len Sipes:  Ah, okay.

Bonnie Andrews:  An prior to that I was in private practice. I worked with crime victims.

Len Sipes:  Fun. And Laura, you’ve been doing this for how many years?

Laura Banks Reed:  For 17 years.

Len Sipes:  17 years, you’re the one that’s been doing this for 17 years. So we we’re talking about 37 years, close to 40 years between the two of you in terms of serving victims of crime. What’s your principal impression of this issue in terms of that near 40 years experience that I have sitting at this table right now? What is your principal perception of this issue of crime victims and what government is capable or not capable of doing?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, in Washington DC, victim services has grown incredibly over say, the past 15 years. As you mentioned, there are victim service providers in all of the law enforcement agencies. And there is a wonderful cadre of non-profit organizations.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about those. I didn’t realize that we had a lot of non-profit organizations out there. Tell me about those.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do, and they are very, very, very good at what they do.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Laura Banks Reed:  As you mentioned earlier, the court has a lot of special programs for the community and one of them is the domestic violence intake center, which is, there’s one located in Superior Court, and there’s also a satellite office located in the United Medical Center, in Southeast, what used to be greater Southeast Hospital is now United Medical. And there’s a satellite Domestic Violence Unit there. And it is comprised of non-profit organizations, advocates from law enforcement agencies, and it creates a one stop place that a victim of domestic violence can come to the courthouse and get all the services that they really need. One of the services that the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program provides is the cost of temporary emergency shelter. And so because we are part of the court and we are so close to the main courthouse, domestic violence victims can walk the block and a half from the main courthouse directly to our office and receive services right there on the spot.

Len Sipes:  That reminds me, there are layers to all of this. There is the issue of sexual assault, rape and sexual assault. That issue has an array of non-profit organizations that advocate for that particular issue. There’s domestic violence, people advocate for that issue. There’s child abuse – people – so that’s what you’re talking about in terms of the non-profit community, and you’re right, there’s a whole endless series of organizations out there, around those three areas; child abuse, domestic violence and rape and sexual assault. But the principle number of people, I’m assuming, that you’re going to see, are what I refer to, not out of disrespect, but to garden variety crime victim in terms of being the victim of a robbery, the victim of a burglary, the victim of somebody stealing their automobile. I mean, the chances are the numbers are much greater that you’re going to be the victim of those sort of crimes than either rape or child abuse or domestic violence, correct?

Bonnie Andrews:  I wouldn’t say so.

Len Sipes:  All right, tell me, go ahead. Please, correct me. Feel free to correct me.

Bonnie Andrews:  In our office, at least in our office, 90% of the victims that we see are victims of domestic violence.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Laura Banks Reed:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Bonnie Andrews:  Last year, our numbers increased as far as gunshot victims.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Bonnie Andrews:  We had quite a few young men that came into our office to get services for, as a result of gunshot wounds that they received in the District of Columbia.

Len Sipes:  Really?

Bonnie Andrews:  And those services, those men were referred to Ms. Reed’s program for
counseling, for you know, PTSD as a result of being shot on the street; medical services, they needed physical therapy following their treatment in the hospital; in some cases they needed to relocate because they had concerns of their safety. So the victims that we see, we have a variety of victims that we see, but the majority of the victims are a result of domestic violence.

Len Sipes:  All right, I stand corrected.  We’re going to take this opportunity to reintroduce both of you because we’re more than halfway through the program. Bonnie Andrews is the victim services program manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, She’s by our microphones. Laura Banks Reed, she’s the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court,, Laura, so people when they come to you and they say to themselves, “Okay, insurance took care of a lot of it, but I have about $2000 in out of pocket expenses. I have this amount of property damage done or God forbid, I need to bury my son and I don’t have the money to do it. That’s when they do come to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court, right?

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes, absolutely. And they’re, the program is operated under a statute and so there are certain eligibility requirements. First of all, well, let me also share with you that there are crime victim compensation programs in every state in the United States.

Len Sipes:  Throughout the country, yes.

Laura Banks Reed:  And there are many foreign countries who also have compensation programs. So there, in order to be eligible for the compensation program in DC, the crime has to have occurred in DC.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  If the crime occurs in Maryland but you live in DC, you go to the Maryland compensation –

Len Sipes:  Right, and there’s that, after working for 14 years for the State of Maryland, there is a Crime Victim’s Compensation Board for the State of Maryland, under the Maryland Department of Public Safety.

Laura Banks Reed:  There is.

Len Sipes:  Same thing in Virginia.

Laura Banks Reed:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Laura Banks Reed:  And the crime has to occur in DC, the maximum that we can pay for an entire event is $25,000; the victim cannot have been engaged in illegal conduct, which caused his injuries. That would disqualify them from help.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Laura Banks Reed:  The crime has to be reported to the police, but there are several exceptions and there are exceptions for domestic violence victims, if they seek a civil protection order, then they are eligible for the compensation program; for sexual assault victims, if they seek a sexual assault examination, then, and don’t have a police report, then they would also be eligible. And in child cruelty cases, if a neglect petition has been filed, then it’s not necessary for that family to have to bring in a police report. The crime has to be reported to the police within 7 days, if that’s at all possible. There are some circumstances where that’s not possible to do. And the application has to be filed within a year of the crime or at least within a year of learning of the program.  If there was some legitimate reason that you did not know about the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program, then you would have a year from the point when you reasonably should have known, to file your application. And so we help out with medical bills, yes, unfortunately, we help with funeral expenses, the coast of mental health counseling, lost wages, if a victim is so badly injured that they can’t go to work anymore.

Len Sipes:  Who helps you guys out?

Bonnie Andrews:  We help each other.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do.

Len Sipes:  That’s the question –

Laura Banks Reed:  We really do.

Len Sipes:  That’s the question I want to ask. I mean, it’s like, when I was a police officer, dealing with victims of crime was very difficult, because it was right at that moment and they had a thousand questions and I had four or five more calls stacked up to get to and I really couldn’t give all the time. Now, to my own credit, a lot of times I would go back to that person two or three days later and say, “I couldn’t answer all these questions that night, but I’ll try to answer your questions now.” But it takes a toll, does it not, dealing with victims and their circumstances?

Bonnie Andrews:  Absolutely.

Laura Banks Reed:  It does. There have been times when I have called Bonnie and said, “Bonnie, I need to talk to a supervisor.” But there is, I think, a strong sense of camaraderie in the victim services field that has developed over the years. Many of us who are in this field have been in it for a long time and –

Len Sipes:  Is there ever a compassion burnout, fatigue? Compassion fatigue?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, it’s a deep thing.

Len Sipes:  Ever get to the point where, “My God, if I talk to one more victim of crime, I think I’m going to go to Timbuktu.”

Bonnie Andrews:  You know –

Len Sipes:  Sit in the bathtub for two weeks.

Bonnie Andrews:  It comes periodically, but you get that one case that comes in just right on time. And I say right on time, because it puts into perspective of why we are still doing this or why we come to work every day. And see these people that are at probably the worst day of their life on that day that we’re seeing them. And you know, what can I give that person to help them feel a little bit better when they leave my office? And so when that person comes in and they leave with a smile on their face, or they can breathe a little better, or they can say, you know, “I feel like I’m going to be okay now.” Or, “Thank you. I didn’t have this information when I came here and you’ve helped me. You’ve given me some light at the end of this very dark tunnel.” Then it puts into perspective of why we continue to come back every day and do this all over again. And when that day doesn’t come, then of course, I call Laura and say, “Can I come and sit on your couch for about 30 minutes during my lunch break?” [Laughter]

Len Sipes:  Well, I mean, when I was there, as a police officer, I found myself feeling profoundly inept, because this was before the day and age of victim representatives in agencies and they had a thousand questions, and I remember a woman yelling at me, one night, basically saying, “Don’t you understand what this means to me? Don’t you understand how this is has destroyed my life? And I have a thousand questions. Who’s going to answer these thousand questions? And by the way, when I have a thousand more tomorrow, who’s going to be there for me? Who represents me?” And I remember that. I remember that to this day. “Who represents me?” Now we have people who represent them.

Bonnie Andrews:  We are, we do.

Laura Banks Reed:  We do, and it is very rewarding work when you can, because these, for most people, these are life altering events.

Len Sipes:  Yes, they are.

Laura Banks Reed:  There’s life before the crime, and then there’s your life after the crime. And things are, you end up with a new normal. Things are never quite the same again. And it’s nothing that can be cured. But if you have people who are willing to talk with you, and help you with the issues that they can, they can’t make your life like it was before the crime, but we can certainly make the life that you have after it a lot better, a lot less stressful, a lot better in form. And –

Len Sipes:  Because if somebody has questions about what happened on the law enforcement side or what happens, Bonnie, on the parole and probation side or what happens in terms of victims compensation programs, or what happens in terms of the prosecutor’s office, you can pick up the phone and call the victim’s rep for that agency and say that Mrs. Johnson is really confused about this and she really needs some assistance, can you call Mrs. Johnson and straighten her out on these particular issues?

Bonnie Andrews:  And I have no problem with doing that, because I know what my limitations are, and I think that that’s what makes a good advocate, knows that we all have certain limitations, we all have an expertise and to operate within that expertise. And you know, if there’s any information that I don’t have,  I can pick up the phone, I can walk upstairs to MPD, Victim’s Services and ask someone on that staff. I can walk down the street to the US Attorney’s Office Victim’s Services, ask someone on that staff, or either in Mrs. Reed’s office, and what’s so unique about the District is that within one block we have the US Attorney’s office, we have the District of the Court, we have the MPD Victim’s Services and of course CSOSA within that one block. So –

Laura Banks Reed:  And OAG too.

Bonnie Andrews:  Right. And so the victim can go through the judicial process without ever leaving the block.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing. And there is, and people sometimes will kid me, they say that I’m overplaying my hand, but there is a level of cooperation within the District of Columbia Criminal Justice System that I don’t think I have seen elsewhere from not just victims but even at the highest levels of agency heads talking to each other. But you know, it’s just that it is, it is a life shaking, Laura you said it, it’s a life altering process for that person to go through, and they’re very frustrated with the criminal justice system. Bonnie, you know, you’ve taken a look at the national levels, out of the 7 million people who are involved in the correctional system, 4 of those 7 million are under community supervision. Throughout my career, and now, people will call me up as the spokesperson for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and say, “Why is John Doe on the street?” I said, “Well, ma’am, he received a sentence of probation.” “Probation? Well what does that mean?” Sometimes it’s a matter of explaining basics to individuals as to how the system works, right?

Bonnie Andrews:  Right, and we get those questions quite frequently. I got a call Monday from a victim. Her daughter was sexually abused by her long time boyfriend. And she had heard that the offender was released, well, he wasn’t, he was released to a halfway house. So you know, I can’t answer all of her questions, but I could refer her to someone who could answer her questions and that’s part of being a good advocate, is having the resources to send that victim to when I don’t have the answers.

Len Sipes:  Uh huh, but you can also explain what a halfway house is. I mean, to a lot of people they have no idea what a halfway house is.

Bonnie Andrews:  I could give her information that she did not have when she called me.

Len Sipes:  And you can say, “If you have additional questions, call me, or call our, call MPD or call the United States Attorney’s Office.” We only have a couple minutes left in the program ladies. What have I not mentioned that I need to mention about this issue of crime victim services, not just in the District of Columbia but throughout the United States?

Laura Banks Reed:  I think that what DC, the victim services in DC represents is an effort to provide what we call a continuum of care for victims. And it’s a model that’s very effective, but the victim is not left alone to fend for themselves. I mean, when one hand finishes, the other hand grabs the victim and then we pass the victim on to the next set of services that they need.

Len Sipes:  So a continuum of care throughout the criminal justice system and the fact that all of you work with each other on a day to day basis, talk to each other on a day to day basis –

Bonnie Andrews:  Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  I mean, so, and you guys have been around for quite some time.

Laura Banks Reed:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  So you –

Laura Banks Reed:  Dinosaurs.

Len Sipes:  [Laughter] So my point was that you also have the experience to help a person out and you also have the sensitivity to help a person out or you wouldn’t have been doing it for as long as you have.

Bonnie Andrews:  Right, and I think we were doing this collaborating before it became popular.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Bonnie Andrews:  You know, we have been doing this, when I was at the US Attorney’s Office we were collaborating with each other.

Len Sipes:  Good.

Bonnie Andrews:  So we bring the definition of collaboration to the table.

Len Sipes:  Good. Well, Laura, final comments? 15 seconds?

Laura Banks Reed:  Well, I just would like for your listeners to know that the, the compensation program does have limits for many of the expenses that it can pay, but the overall maximum is $25,000.

Len Sipes:  Okay. I want to thank you both for being on the program today. I think it’s an issue, victim services is an issue that’s very important to all three of us in this room and to our agency, so I thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today have been Bonnie Andrews; she is the Victim Services Program Manager for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Laura Banks Reed, she is the Director of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program for the DC Superior Court, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]