ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT MARKS NATIONAL CRIME VICTIMS WEEK;
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft today honored recipients of the 2004 National Crime Victims' Rights Week Awards at a special ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act. The Attorney General also paid tribute to those who have experienced personal losses resulting from criminal acts and recognized significant accomplishments of the nation's victims' rights movement.
"These men and women we are honoring today epitomize the efforts everyone in the justice and victims' rights community is undertaking every day to see justice done," said Attorney General Ashcroft. "We are bound by commitment, to do what is needed to fulfill the promise of justice to crime victims. May our resolve to fulfill the promise of justice remain as strong and as unwavering as the commitment we have witnessed from those we honor today."
The Attorney General presented the awards at a ceremony marking National Crime Victims' Rights Week, observed this year from April 18-24, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of Justice Programs' Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). A total of 13 recipients received awards in six categories:
Crime Victim Service Awards were presented to Carroll Ann Ellis from Fairfax, VA; Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, CA; Alan Ping-Lun Lai from Seattle, WA; SafePlace of Austin, TX; Susan Schechter (posthumous) of Iowa City, IA; and Lynn Shiner from Harrisburg, PA.
The Attorney General announced that in 2004, the Department of Justice will award over $542 million in victim assistance and compensation funds. The funds to support crime victims come from the Crime Victims Fund, which was established in 1984 by the Victims of Crime Act, landmark legislation that significantly improved support to crime victims nationwide. To date, the Crime Victims Fund has provided over $5.5 billion since the first awards were made in 1986.
The Victims Fund is derived from fines, penalty assessments, and bail forfeitures collected from persons convicted of federal crimes. Victim compensation programs provide reimbursement to, or on behalf of, crime victims for crime-related expenses such as medical costs, mental health counseling, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages or loss of support. State victim assistance programs fund local victim assistance services such as crisis intervention, counseling, emergency shelter, and criminal justice advocacy. More information about these and other funding opportunities is available on the OJP website, www.ojp.usdoj.gov
"During the past 20 years the Victims of Crime Act has been a driving force for the changes made in this country in improving the treatment of victims," said John Gillis, Director of the Office for Victims of Crime. "We are grateful for the many partnerships made during these years which have enabled us to reach out to those who need reassurance, protection and support."
OJP's Office for Victims of Crime provides vision, leadership, and substantial funding to community- and system-based victim assistance programs to enhance victims' rights and services.
Since 1984, OVC has developed our nation's capacity to assist crime victims as well as to support activities and organizations which promote justice and healing for crime victims.
OJP provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and two offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, and the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed program.
2004 NATIONAL CRIME VICTIMS' RIGHTS AWARDS
National Crime Victim Service Award
On Christmas morning 1994, Lynn Shiner discovered her ex-husband dead, having taken his own life after stabbing their son, David, and daughter, Jennifer. She later learned that, shortly before, her ex-husband had been arrested for stalking a female disc jockey. Unaware of his behavior, Shiner had complied with the custody order granting him visitation with the children on Christmas Eve. Four weeks after the murders, Shiner worked with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Widener University School of Law to win enactment of the "Jen and Dave Law," which allows a parent involved in a custody case access to information about criminal charges against the other parent, and permits that information to be used in custody decisions. She later served on the Pennsylvanian Victims' Services Advisory Committee, where she managed the Victim Compensation Program. She eliminated a backlog of more than 1,100 claims and reduced claims processing time from 26 to eight weeks. Her success in streamlining the program involved an automated information system that she helped to design and that was named by the staff for her son--Dependable Access for Victimization Expenses, or DAVE.
SafePlace is the primary provider of direct and comprehensive services to women, children and men who are victimized by rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence in the Austin/Travis County community. For almost three decades, SafePlace and its predecessor organizations have provided comprehensive intervention and prevention services to break the cycle of violence. Services range from crisis intervention through a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter and hospital accompaniment for rape survivors, to longer term services, including counseling, legal advocacy and transitional housing. SafePlace also offers outreach, education and prevention programs to help community members better identify and address sexual and domestic violence issues.
Alan Ping-Lun Lai
Alan Lai serves as a liaison between the international community of Seattle and the law enforcement and criminal justice agencies that serve it. More than 50 languages, most of them various dialects of Chinese, are spoken in the Chinatown/International District, and the many immigrants who make their homes there often distrust law enforcement. Lai has played a critical role in helping victims and other residents overcome the cultural barriers that prevent them from receiving the help they need, and his service has been invaluable in gaining law enforcement officials access to this closed community, where it is believed that only a fraction of the crimes are ever reported.
Identity Theft Resource Center
Founded in 1999 by a victim of identity theft, the Identity Theft Resource Center serves as a repository of information and direct services program for victims, consumers, businesses, governmental agencies, law enforcement, legislators and the media. The staff and the center's pool of volunteers respond to 200-250 telephone calls and e-mails per week from victims, and the website averages 45,000-60,000 visits a month. Among its resources are a score of self-help guides, verified scam alerts, and information for law enforcement, businesses, the media and consumers. The center has served as a technical advisor to state and federal legislators as well as governmental agencies, and its staff members have testified at numerous legislative and governmental hearings at the state and federal levels. Among the results of its legislative advocacy are California laws that outlaw information trafficking that clear victims' records more rapidly and effectively give victims access to application and credit information on accounts opened in their names. Their efforts have also given victims access to application and credit information on accounts opened in their names .
Susan Schechter (posthumous)
As a pioneer of the battered women's movement, Susan Schechter helped to change the way criminal justice and social service agencies respond to violence against women and children. She gained national recognition in 1982 through her groundbreaking work, Women and Male Violence: The Visions and Struggles of the Battered Women's Movement a chronicle of the early history of the domestic violence movement. Over the years, through her work and writing, she focused on the intersecting problems of domestic violence, child abuse, poverty and substance abuse. She founded the first program in the country to address child abuse in homes affected by intimate violence. She won the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators Award for Leadership in Public Child Welfare in 2003, among other honors, and was a member of the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women. Schechter died on February 3 of endometrial cancer.
Carroll Ann Ellis
As director of the Fairfax County Police Department, Victim Services Division, Carroll Ellis serves victims in four jurisdictions. Services provided under her direction include crisis intervention, counseling, support groups, court advocacy and escort, educational programs for schools and community groups and witness preparation for court. Her responsibilities include developing special programs to meet the specific needs of victims, making policy, and providing training and technical assistance. She founded the first in-house police shelter for domestic violence and rape victims by facilitating the collaboration between law enforcement and practitioners in the communities. She also provides training and technical assistance to communities on the impact of homicide on family members and on state legislation and public policy issues.
Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services
A collaboration between the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and several community based organizations, Project Ujima is a multidisciplinary, hospital-based model of youth violence intervention. Services begin in the Children's Hospital Emergency Department where volunteer peer liaisons and paid community liaisons provide youth victims with crisis intervention and support. The community liaisons follow up with visits to the homes of victims and their families, where they assess needs and offer guidance in seeking services. Project staff continues to offer ongoing psychological support and referral to victim and community services. In addition to treating physical wounds, the Project offers support groups, educational classes and therapeutic recovery activities to youth victims.
Sergeant Gregory Scott Waldron
An advocate for sexual assault victims, Sergeant Greg Waldron has built and strengthened a partnership between law enforcement and the victims' community. Sergeant Waldron began working on behalf of sexual assault victims when he became head of the Arlington Police Department's family violence/sex crimes unit in 2001. He implemented a new agreement between the department and the Women's Center Rape Crisis and Victim Services Program that places a rape crisis therapist in the criminal investigator's unit one day a week. Not only has Waldron frequently called upon the expertise of the therapist and staff of the Women's Center, he also appears at the center to answer questions from both victims and staff about the criminal justice system.
Volunteer for Victims Award
Jose L. Villegas, Sr.
Appointed by the Santa Fe Police Officers Association as its police chaplain, Jose Villegas, Sr has helped victims and law enforcement officials deal with the emotional aftermath of violent crime. Chaplain Villegas has volunteered countless hours to assist victims of violent crime, providing counseling, leading peer support discussions and serving as a mentor to youth. He has also contributed his time to responding to families and colleagues of officers killed in the line of duty. As the only certified law enforcement chaplain in northern New Mexico, Villegas is on call 24 hours a day and responds to emergencies in a region covering seven large counties. He carries out this volunteer work in addition to holding a fulltime position with the New Mexico Department of Corrections.
Special Courage Award
Rosemarie Louise D'Alessandro
Thirty years ago, Rosemarie D'Alessandro's neighbor raped and murdered her 7-yearold daughter, Joan, while she was delivering Girl Scout cookies. When Joan's killer became eligible for parole in 1993, Rosemarie D'Alessandro organized a letter-writing campaign that led to its denial. The idea that a murderer could be released from prison spurred her to work for passage of a mandatory minimum sentencing law. After three years of lobbying, a bill denying the possibility of parole to offenders who murder while committing a sex crime was passed by the New Jersey legislature and signed into law in April 1997. Following this victory, she spearheaded a successful campaign for a federal version of "Joan's Law," which President Clinton signed in October 1998. She also helped design a bill eliminating New Jersey's two-year statute of limitations on suing murderers, which was passed in November 2000.
Federal Service Award
United States v. Brandau, et al. Trial Team
Indictments in United States v. Brandau, et al., included 17 defendants and more than 100 assets for forfeiture. The defendants defrauded some 4,000 victims in the United States and Europe of more than $117 million. The victims, most of them elderly, were conned into investing in non-existent viatical insurance policies from which they were to receive 42% profit from their investment. Through the work of the prosecution team, 12 individuals and four corporations were convicted.
Crime Victims Fund Award
Financial Litigation Unit, Office of the United States Attorney, Southern District of California
As a result of the increased specialization and focus of the Financial Litigation Unit staff, the collection of criminal fines and restitution has increased significantly. Criminal collections in fiscal years 1998-2000 were about $3 million. The FLU's fiscal year 2003 total criminal collections were approximately $58.7 million. Restitution collections for FY 2003 were $57.5 million vs. $11 million in Fiscal Year 2001. These outcomes are a result of a unit redesign to aggressively pursue significant high-dollar cases.
Financial Litigation Unit, Office of the United States Attorney, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Despite a mounting caseload and increasing debt collection duties, the Financial Litigation Unit collected more than $17 million in restitution in fiscal 2003. The unit that year also collected more than $25 million in criminal fines. This group has had a positive impact on others, such as prosecutors and probation officers, in ensuring that defendants convicted in this district comply with the financial portions of their sentence.