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Voice: Observing Victims' Rights Week

April 23, 2001

April 22-28 is National Victims' Rights Week, a time to honor those who have been hurt by crime and to celebrate the many successes of the victims' rights discipline in the United States.

Our field has, for years, consisted of eternal optimists — activists who wouldn't take "no" for an answer when victims' rights and dignity were at stake; who believed victim safety, information and involvement in the justice system could provide a strong foundation for our pursuit of justice and offender accountability.

A quarter century ago, most courtroom doors were shut to victims, their voices unheard, their pleas for information unanswered. There were no victim-assistance programs in the justice system and the few community-based programs struggled to keep their doors open. Domestic violence was considered a "family matter," rape victims were blamed for the violence they endured and drunken driving was not even considered a crime.

It was 25 years ago that the first victim impact statement was heard in court, in Fresno County. Since then every county in California has implemented a victim/witness assistance program. The Imperial County Probation Department opened the doors to it victim/witness program in January 1986. Since then hundreds of crime victims have been provided information and support and have had their voices heard throughout the system.


Through collaboration with the SURE Helpline, Center for Family Solutions, Child Abuse Prevention Council and many other local agencies, we continue our efforts to reach for safety and justice for victims and all community members.

Through grants, donations and the support of the Board of Supervisors, these agencies are able to continue to provide services in our community. Our local victim/witness assistance program maintains an emergency fund to provide emergency shelter, clothing, food and other essential needs of crime victims.

In 2000 and 2001, through the joint venture program at Calipatria State Prison, a substantial amount of funding was donated to this fund. Joint venture was established through legislation and authorizes private companies to operate in state prisons using inmates as employees. Calipatria State Prison employs inmates through "On Display," making wire racks for grocery store displays, etc. Inmates working at "On Display" are paid prevailing wages.

Twenty percent of their monthly after-tax earnings are earmarked for court-ordered fines and restitution. Another 20 percent has been designated to the Imperial County victim/witness emergency fund. This funding will greatly impact the lives of crime victims in Imperial County and at the same time holds offenders accountable.

During Crime Victims Week we celebrate the numerous rights and services provided to crime victims in Imperial County.


Chief probation officer


Division manager

Probation victim/witness

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