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We are always pleased when victims' rights and issues make the news, even when the stories are troubling and challenge those of us who advocate for the interests of crime victims.  On other pages, you'll find media stories related to the topic of the page.

Contents of this page and Links:

Widow of murdered husband battles danger from  mental institution escapes


Latest murder statistics and sentencing figures on homicides in Illinois released


Violent repeat offender rapist is released by Illinois Department of Corrections and arrested again

bulletBloomington paper mentions IllinoisVictims.Org
bulletBritish media view of Chicago School Children murdered
bulletIllinois Federal Judge sentences East St. Louis area child pornographers to LIFE in Federal Prison
bulletWashington DC based public radio programming on victims issues and criminal justice
bulletHATE CRIMES in the news
bullet NATIONAL RADIO PROGRAMS, INTERNET and PODCAST, Programming for and about Victims
bullet With budgets in crisis, many states move to reduce number of prison inmates and parolees
bullet Domestic Violence Victims and Advocates Denouce Pastor Rick Warren, selected to give the Inaugural Invocation, for his dangerous views regarding divorce for women in serious danger from abusive spouses
bullet A national Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children submits a paper to abolish JLWOP to the ABA
bullet Holiday Security Tips from the US Dept. of Justice - avoid victimization
bullet The victim community celebrates OJ Simpson's conviction
bullet The Chicago Tribune reports that Halloween can be a difficult time of year for the grieving
bullet Sun Times Columnist Mary Mitchell writes about the need to help victims of crime
bullet Chandra Levy's Mother creates a support group for Parents of Missing Children
bullet How different states address Felon voting rights
bullet Download the 2008 Republican Party Platform on Victims Rights
bullet A Chicago Sun Times article applauds Illinois Victim Activists and friends of
bullet Chicago Heights Mother memorializes her son by helping others
bullet Victims speak out against gun violence in wake of Supreme Court ruling
bullet ART-RAGE! The Chicago Sun Times covers victim anger over inmate art show profits going to John Howard - read also our Letter to the Editor in response
bullet The latest demographics and statistics about crime and victimization from the Federal Government
bullet Massachusetts: Lives of Families, Children, Victims should trump offenders rights
bullet Warnings about dangers of guns in the home in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment
bullet Murder Victims Family in Illinois sues Waukegan police for failure to protect Domestic Violence Victim
bullet Help Child Victims of Polygamist Cult raid in El Dorado, Texas
bullet Miscellaneous headlines of recent victims issues of importance
bullet IMPORTANT New study warns of coming Crime Wave - several factors converging to create it - and offers solutions
bullet Preserve the oral histories of the lives of your loved ones in the Library of Congress for future generations
bullet Closing Prisons and changing prison populations have a significant economic impact
US News and World Report, December 2007, Giving Crime Victims More of Their Say
bullet Write to a soldier headed to the most dangerous parts of Iraq - the family member of a staffer from the Cook County States Attorney's office
bullet Extreme Makeover television show steps in to save a victims' family
bullet The Latest FBI reports show Police Officers dying at alarming rates
bullet OJ Simpson's Book is a travesty to Victims of Crime
bullet Children, Families and the Criminal Justice System
bullet The latest statistics on the nation's prison population
bullet How ridiculous it can get - over what is one prisoner wasting taxpayer dollars in a lawsuit?
bullet Victims of Gun Violence make their voices heard in various events, demanding action in Springfield
bullet Eric Zorn, columnist from the Chicago Tribune, writes about the work of
bullet The United States Supreme Court rules that Victims wearing photo buttons of their murdered loved ones during a trial is fully appropriate
bullet An article on our speaking at a memorial service in Rockford in the Rockford Register Star
bullet An article from WREX on the memorial service program
bullet National Center for Victims of Crime announces the Launch of VictimLaw
bullet Our response to the Washington Post editorial, Where Victims' Rights Go Wrong
bullet The Office of Justice Programs observes National Victim's Rights Week 2007
bullet Statement on National Victims' Rights Week 2007 by three prominent victims organizations
bulletVictims involved in Illinois Death Penalty controversy standing for Human Rights  

Widow fears husband's killer will escape from mental health center

By Barbara Vitello | Daily Herald Staff Contact writer

Barbara McNally's husband, Jim, was killed by a former family friend who was found not guilty by reason of insanity.


Daniel White | Staff Photographer

Barbara McNally's husband, Jim, was killed by a former family friend who was found not guilty by reason of insanity.   Daniel White | Staff Photographer In the 15 months since her husband's killer was found not guilty by reason of insanity, Barbara McNally has feared two things: That James Masino would escape from the Elgin Mental Health Center and that he would somehow make his way to her family's Bartlett home, located about 10 miles and one train stop from Elgin. On Sept. 19, a killer escaped from the Elgin facility and was picked up several hours later in Bartlett. It wasn't Masino. The escapee was a Chicago man named Maikobi Burks, found not guilty by reason of insanity for the 1993 murders of his parents and sister. McNally said the incident justified her concerns and confirmed her fears: that an EMHC resident acquitted of a violent crime by reason of insanity could escape and potentially pose a threat to the community. "It's not about placing blame. It's about what we can do to prevent this," said McNally, who also said she's heard unofficially that Masino had been transferred from Elgin's medium security facility to the maximum security facility in downstate Chester. State officials decline to discuss specific residents of such facilities and declined to say where Masino was being housed. Bartlett Police Chief Dan Palmer echoed her concerns. Palmer, who confirmed Burks' identity, worries for the safety of his residents and his officers who might unknowingly confront an escaped patient who may be unstable or violent. He said that's why prompt police notification of any escapes or "walkaways" is crucial. However, Palmer said Bartlett police were not immediately notified of the Elgin walkaway, which was discovered at 8:22 a.m. Sept. 19 after mental health center staff members noticed a patient missing, along with a key. "The patient escaped at night when staffing is limited," said Tom Green, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Human Services who responded to Daily Herald inquiries via e-mail. An internal investigation determined the individual left the facility about 4 a.m., said Green, who declined to name the person, citing patient confidentiality. The patient "acquired a key from the nurse's station that had not been returned to its secure location," said Green, whose agency refers to such incidences as "elopement events." Burks was assigned to the Elgin facility's forensic unit, which provides court-ordered treatment in a secure setting for people found unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity. In the 10 years since the unit moved to its new building, there have been a total of three escapes, including this one, Green said. The latest incident prompted several changes, he said. Before the incident, security, therapy aides and nurses could open unit exit doors. Now only security officers can open those doors, Green said. Before the incident, staff used two sets of keys, Green said. "One was in a locked box in the medication room. The other key was left in an unlocked box on the counter in the nursing station for the staff to use," he said. "Since the incident, there is only the key in the locked, wall-mounted box in the medication room," Green said. That box "is outfitted with a new tamper-proof, audio alarm." A buzzer on the unit exit door sounds when the door is opened, and the center has installed new photosensitive lights in the courtyard, Green said. Locks on the exit doors have been replaced with new ones requiring two different keys to open. The nurse's station has been modified so that staff members can better observe the patients. Security officers have increased checks, and staff members will undergo additional training. The individual who escaped was captured and returned to the unit, Green said. He has since been transferred to another mental health facility. Burks has been allowed to leave the Elgin center before. He requested, and the court granted him, unsupervised, off-ground privileges in August 2007. The court denied a November 2008 petition for his conditional release. On June 15 of this year, Burks petitioned the court for a transfer to a nonsecure setting, but that request was withdrawn Sept. 29, 10 days after the Elgin escape. When a patient escapes, security immediately notifies Elgin police, Green said. Elgin alerts local police departments and the Illinois State Police, who then alert agencies statewide through two different notification systems. Palmer said his department knew nothing about Burks until a village resident called about a suspicious person. Officers found Burks wandering in a private yard on the village's west side. He appeared to be lost, Palmer said. Because nothing indicated he had committed a crime, the officers had no reason to arrest him. Burks asked to leave, saying he wanted to take the train, and police drove him to the Bartlett station, Palmer said. After learning of the escape, officers returned to the station and took Burks into custody, Palmer said. "In my estimation, (the escape) probably shouldn't have occurred as easily as it did," Palmer said. "We've had a lot of questions, and we're waiting on some answers. We're hopeful they will come soon. I think (Elgin officials) understand how serious it was." Notification was an issue, said state Rep. Randy Ramey, whose 55th District encompasses portions of Bartlett, Hanover Park, St. Charles, South Elgin and Wayne. "There was a breakdown," Ramey said. "There is an ongoing investigation into how that went down. They're looking to tighten up that security issue." Elgin Mayor Ed Schock said he feels the mental health center has appropriate safeguards to protect the community. "The instances are so rare of someone escaping that one would have to conclude that the security is pretty good," he said. McNally remains unconvinced. The Illinois Department of Human Services determines where patients subject to court-ordered treatment are assigned. Masino - whose fixation with McNally's husband, Jim, led to the murder of the stay-at-home dad described as "everybody's friend" - was assigned to Elgin. That was too close for comfort for McNally, who fears if Masino is ever released or if he escapes, he might pose a threat to her children. She initially requested he be treated at Chester, hundreds of miles away from her family. State officials disagreed and reportedly sent him to Elgin. Burks' escape has McNally renewing her efforts to make sure such killers are not placed at a facility located only a few miles from the families they victimized. McNally had previously pushed for a law allowing victims and family members to read victim impact statements at commitment hearings for defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill, which McNally dubbed "Jimmy's Voice," into law in August. Ramey co-sponsored that proposal with Sen. John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican, and they plan to introduce the second bill in January. Currently, DHS decides placement based on the defendant's medical needs and the proximity of the facility to the defendant's family, Ramey said. A new law would also take into account the proximity of the victim and his or her family to the defendant's treatment center. "We need to be cognizant of the victims," Ramey said. "We are enhancing the law so they have that voice."




As commissioned by the Illinois General Assembly the Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee (CPRSC), chaired by Tom Sullivan, has been gathering significant amounts of information about what happens to offenders who commit murder in Illinois. The most recent statistics released by Dave Olsen, staff researchers for the CPRSC, and a Loyola Professor, show the following numbers of interest to Illinois' homicide victim family members:

From July 1988 through June 2009 there were 9,475 cases of convicted murderers who received a sentence.

Of those, 9,325 or 98.4% received a non-death sentence. Some life without parole, some far less.

And 150, or 1.6% received a death sentence. Of those 12 were executed. In 2003 Governor Ryan mass commuted most of the rest to life without parole following revelations of serious flaws in the state's death sentencing system. There are now 13 new death row inmates since Governor Ryan's action.

The CPRSC's final month of existence will be December 2009, and its final report on these and many other important legal practices will be released in the spring of 2010.



Here are some wonderful national resources for victims on the issue of Hate Crimes, given the recent series of hate-motivated murders.

The USDOJ National Criminal Justice Reference Service has an excellent series of web pages that address hate crimes, including definitions, responses, and how the many offices and bureaus within the DOJ address this important issue.  Check it out at
Ten years ago, the American Psychological Association published a great summary of hate crime, and its devastating impact on individuals and communities.  This is an important and timely read, and can be accessed at:
The Anti-Defamation League has a great tutorial in hate crime laws that addresses statutory protections for many different types of hate offenses (unfortunately, the list is long.....).  You can access this information at:


And here is a link to the son of the Holocaust Museum shooter on Good Morning American decrying his father's horrible murder of a security guard in June 2009 in Washington, D.C. We commend this man for his courageous stand for the victims against his father's evil choices.


Levi Page's National Broadcasts For and About Victims of Violent Crime



Pastor Rick Warren Denounced by National Victims Groups for Dangerous Views on Domestic Violence

Crime Victim Organization Network
For Immediate Release: January 9, 2009

Contact: Alexis A. Moore, President , Survivors In Action
Moderator, Crime Victim Organization Network

Victims and Advocates Denounce
Inaugural Pastor Rick Warren
For Endangering Women Victims of Domestic Violence
(Chicago)- Women who have been victims of horrific domestic violence and Advocates for their safety issued a stern denunciation nationally of the incredibly irresponsible statements made recently by Pastor Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist Preacher who will be delivering the Inaugural Invocation, eliminating divorce as a Biblically acceptable option for victims of abuse and domestic violence.

Pastor Warren says the Bible condones divorce for only two reasons -- adultery and abandonment. “‘I wish there were a third in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse,’ Warren said. ‘There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, 'If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.' Warren said his church's counseling ministry advises separation and counseling instead of divorce in abusive marriages, because it's the only path toward healing. ‘Separation combined with counseling has been proven to provide healing in people's lives.’”

Individual victims of domestic violence and a large national network of victim advocates and domestic violence experts expressed outrage at this dangerous and superficial misinterpretation of scripture that is likely to cost lives. Violence against anyone should not be condoned or accepted, men or women, in a domestic relationship, or elsewhere.

One advocate whose husband developed bi-polar personality disorder and who had been abused violently on many occasions, even after much professional intervention, and who left him after he almost killed her, responded to this news with stunned fear: “It is irresponsible in the extreme that this influential Pastor imply that divorce in these situations is not acceptable. If he can’t see that violence in a relationship in not only a betrayal of trust, but also the ultimate abandonment, Pastor Warren may have blood on his hands from this kind of misguided message.”

The Rev. Kathy Manis Findley, also an ordained Baptist Minister, and Executive Director of Safe Places, expressed special concern about the danger of Pastor Warren’s comments in light of the devastating impact of domestic violence on children living in abusive home environments. “I am an ordained Baptist minister who is livid at such uninformed remarks by a clergy person who has become a national figure. He is not only ignorant of the devastating dynamics of domestic violence and its impact on children, he is also theologically and Biblically uninformed. Obviously, he has not spent much time at all actually ministering to a family filled with violence and abuse. Perhaps we can be grateful if he has NOT had opportunity to counsel very many victims.”

Some of the many organizations and individuals in the national Crime Victims Organization Network signing on to this denunciation of Pastor Warren include Survivors in Action, The Beginning Over Foundation,, The Weaker Vessel, After The Trauma, Safe Places, the Franks Foundation, and others.


Holiday Security Tips from the US Department of Justice

Holiday Security Tips from the US Department of Justice

Historically, the holiday season is one of the highest crime periods of the year. Many people have their gifts stolen while they carry them out of stores, from their parked vehicles, and from their homes. The Information Security team encourages you to take the following precautions as you prepare for the upcoming holidays:

Before You Shop:

Consider using a fanny pack or deep pockets in clothing to hold what you need instead of carrying a purse
Carry small amounts of cash
Carry your keys, cash and credit cards separate from each other.
Be extremely careful using ATM machines. Try to use them in populated places and pay close attention to what’s going on around you.
If you’re not sure a shopping bag will be available to you, take one of your own. Consolidate as many packages as possible.

While Shopping:

If you do carry a purse or bag, carry it close to your body and always zipped. Do not sling the strap across your body, however. If the bag is grabbed you could be injured.
Park strategically – as close to the store entrance as possible. Park in well-lit areas. Avoid parking next to large vehicles, bushes, or dumpsters.
Remember exactly where you park your car. Make a mental note or write I down so you will know exactly where to go when you are ready to leave.

After Shopping:

Leave the store well before closing time. This way, there is greater assurance you will walk out with other people. There is safety in numbers.
Avoid shopping until you are exhausted. You are more alert when you are less tired.
When hurried or in a crowded shop, make sure you get all forms of ID and credit cards returned to you before leaving.
Ask for security to escort you to your vehicle if you have a lot of packages or if you are leaving at night.
Check around, underneath, and inside you or car as you approach it. You don’t want to be taken by surprise by a criminal
Keep your packages stored out of sight in the trunk of your car if you are going to continue shopping at another location.

At Home:

Keep gifts hidden from view through outside windows
After opening gifts, break down cardboard boxes to avoid revealing your purchase of expensive electronics or other valuable items

Why were so many in the victim community happy about OJ Simpson's conviction?

None of us at were surprised or sad to finally see some justice in the December 2008 conviction of the infamous OJ Simpson to 33 years for kidnapping and threats with a gun. He will be eligible for parole in a third of that time, but still the most interesting part to us is the flurry of e-mails among leaders in the national victim community totally focused in fascination with this one case. Why? We guess because so many victims have seen justice denied, as most believe it was when OJ was cleared of killing his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.  It is late, and it is not for the right crime. But we know most of America, that loves and values justice, is glad that this likely killer who has been free all these years is finally going to be behind bars. Bottom line, many times criminals who escape conviction often do themselves in with their own troubled behavior - now or later, justice sometimes still happens now and then. We are thinking now only of the Brown and Goldman families who have spent these years distinguishing themselves in good works and memorializing their lost loved ones - beloved members of the national victim community.

See the story on AOL of OJ Simpson's Conviction


1. Inmates, parolees, probationers, and ex-felons barred: Some ex-
felons may vote depending on the crime committed, date of the
offense, and other variables.(14 states)

and Wyoming

2. Inmates, parolees, and probationers barred: Felons vote upon
completion of all supervised release. (16 states)

New Jersey,
New Mexico,
North Carolina,
South Carolina,
Texas, West
and Wisconsin

3. Inmates and parolees barred: Felons vote upon completion of
parole. (5 states)

New York,
and South Dakota

4. Inmates barred: Felons vote upon release from prison.(13 states)
New Hampshire,
North Dakota,
Ohio, Oregon,
Rhode Island,
and Utah

5. No restrictions: Felons may vote from prison.(2 states)  - Maine  and Vermont


The Chicago Sun Times features the work of "Angels" who help Victims and Illinois Victim Activists,CST-NWS-HOLMES02.article

'He was like an angel God sent'
S. SIDE | Activist visits crime scenes, hospitals to assist victims of violence
September 2, 2008

Ed Note: At every single victim-related event we have ever attended in the Chicago area, Andrew has been there. We love Andrew and can't thank him enough for his dedication to innocent victims of violence and his devotion to preventing more victims!
BY ERICA L. GREEN Staff Reporter/
He's there with families as the city's youngest victims of violence take their last breath, but he's not a doctor.

He's the first on the scene of some of the city's most heinous crimes, but he's not a detective.

And he says he has helped bring to justice dangerous offenders, but he's not a prosecutor.

"I'm just a person who puts myself in the shoes of other people and feel their pain and suffering," said Andrew Holmes, a community activist and a staff assistant for Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) on the South Side. "I can't change things, but I can pray with them and hope for a good outcome."

Holmes, 47, said though he has a busy schedule, he does what he can to help victims and their families.

Holmes said he has helped authorities nab dozens of offenders. He also has helped many families by being a one-man, first-response team.

Police acknowledged knowing Holmes but did not elaborate about his work. But at least seven families spoke highly of Holmes.

Holmes also is CEO of Mothers Against Violence, which is a small organization of young single mothers who have lost children to violence.

Holmes said he combs the city daily visiting the loved ones of victims.

Holmes gets calls from sources in crime-riddled neighborhoods. They give him the five W's of the violent crimes most Chicagoans will hear about on the news.

As a teen growing up at 63rd and Indiana, Holmes had his own encounter with violence. A stray bullet pierced an artery in his right leg and he had to learn to walk again.

He said authorities eventually caught the shooter.

He tries to use that experience to teach others to never give up.

"I've seen the impact of a bullet on a child," Holmes said. "I've seen kids swollen from head to toe . . . asking their parents not to let them go to sleep."

And when they do go to sleep -- even if they don't wake up -- Holmes said he is there.

"I didn't know anything about [Holmes], but he was at the hospital immediately," recalled Yolanda Sepulveda, whose 14-year-old grandson, Michael, was killed last fall.

She said Holmes comforted her family at the hospital and constantly updated them with information about the shooting. He also helped them through the funeral.

"He was like an angel God had sent to us," she added. "I called him in despair."

Not only does Holmes help guide families, he also gets the community to assist them.

"When my son was murdered, I mentally wasn't there," said Pam Bosley, whose 18-year-old son, Terrell Bosley, was gunned down in 2006 outside Lights of Zion Missionary Baptist Church. "But they told me that someone was passing out fliers to catch who murdered my son, and that made me feel like someone cared."

Holmes, who said he has five adult children and an associate's degree as a medical assistant, said he just does whatever he can to help families cope with tragedies.

"He sits with us at the cemetery for hours every Memorial Day," said Ricky Martinez Sr., whose son, Ricky Martinez Jr., a U.S. Marine, was shot and killed while leaving a Cubs game in 2006. "He's even helped me other ways. I lost my job the same year I lost my son. Every time there's a job opening, he calls me."


Art from inside - ART-RAGE!
Ed. Note - does not disagree with inmate art, in fact we encourage it along with many other needed positive programs to help inmates rehabilitate. Any profits, however, should go to victims, who have a constitutional right to restitution. We strongly support vast improvement in prison programs, transfer options, and human rights care in terms of food and medicine. What the issue seems to be for these victims is where the profits of such art are allowed to go, and the unbelievably callous mis-understanding and misappropriation of victims by the John Howard staff. At the end of the article, see our Letter to the Editor of the Sun Times. We were offended that the John Howard spokespeople would invoke the names of victims in their rationale when they are the very same organization that has filed legislation to retroactively reduce determinate prison sentences for offenders while at the same time refusing to put one dime of their vast resources into notifying those victims of their plans or empowering their voices to be heard in the political process. John Howard has changed its agenda in recent years from prison conditions, a laudable task, to that of sentencing reform. Their reason for the mission change? We were told "better funding sources" . . .

A prison watchdog group will mount an exhibit of paintings and sculptures by Illinois inmates next month -- and relatives of some of their victims are furious 
July 20, 2008 
BY SARAH BARABA Chicago Sun-Times/ 
Charles McLaurin tries to create paintings that reflect what he considers his personal philosophy. "I have this belief about life that there is a balance between chaos and order," he says. "One cannot exist without the other." 

Janie Edwards has her own view of McLaurin's art. "He should draw a rope and hang himself in that cell," she says. 
McLaurin is a lifer at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet. Edwards is the south suburban Richton Park woman whose 17-year-old son, Jarrell Edwards, was killed by McLaurin in 1992. 
Paintings and sculptures created by McLaurin and other Illinois inmates within the confines of their cells are set to go on display at an exhibit in Chicago next month -- and Edwards and her relatives are not happy about it. But organizers of the exhibit argue it is a way to help rehabilitate the prisoners and provide recognition for something positive they do. 
"Their artwork is a way of showing people still have promise, even in a place where they're never going to be free again," says Shaena Fazal, of the John Howard Association, the prison watchdog group sponsoring the exhibit. Called "Lights From Inside," the exhibit opens Aug. 11 at the Chicago Cultural Center. 
"I think it helps me to grow and to get to know myself," says William Jones, 53, who stabbed a Mount Vernon woman to death in 1982. Like McLaurin, Jones saw his death sentence commuted to life in prison in 2003 by then-Gov. George Ryan. "Sometimes, you need to be locked up to really comprehend what life is about," Jones says. 
The inmates' subject matter runs the gamut -- flowery still lifes, landscapes, religious works, family portraits and depictions of prison life. Some can be viewed at While several of the prisoners have multiple pieces in the exhibit, some haven't made art in years. Facing budget cuts and public scrutiny, Stateville cut art, education and other inmate programs. 
"You get creative," says Hector Maisonet, 49, serving 30 years for attempted armed robbery. "I've rubbed the colors off newspapers and magazines in order to come up with something." 
Stateville inmate Patrick Palaggi will have a 26-inch-tall windmill built from Popsicle sticks in the show. Being in prison, he says he never knows when his work might be confiscated or destroyed. "It makes you feel violated, just like you violated someone else in life, now you know what it feels like," says Palaggi, 43, doing life for the 1987 murders of a mother and son from Country Club Hills. 
Creating a plasterlike substance from newspaper and water, inmate Cornelius Ames has sculpted model buildings, baseball caps, motorcycles and jets. Sentenced to more than 28 years for sexual assault and home invasion, Ames says he hopes those who suffered from his crimes would understand the exhibit. "I would say I'm sorry," says Ames. "I'm trying to better myself." 
For some, art is therapy. "A lot of us have mental issues and don't know it," says McLaurin. "Some of us don't want to acknowledge it." A sketch artist since he was 12, McLaurin, 42, does the preliminary sketches for other inmates' paintings. 
"We have some artists who want to skip the process," McLaurin says. "They don't want to draw, but they want to paint. You see them run into obstacles and stumbles. I keep telling them they have to learn the basics. "As if they're going somewhere tomorrow," he adds, laughing. 
McLaurin was not aware of his victim's relative's remarks about the exhibit, but he shrugged off a general question about whether anyone would object to putting convicts' work on display. "That's how we get," he says. "We don't see our faults. We see everybody else's faults." 
McLaurin was convicted of setting Jarrell on fire after slitting the boy's throat, slashing him with a razor and dousing him with gasoline during a burglary in Sauk Village. Prison art exhibits are not new. Works by serial killer John Wayne Gacy, mass murderer Richard Speck and mob hit man Harry Aleman have all gone on display. 
The John Howard Association stresses they are not trying to glorify the prisoners in their showing. 
"We're not trying to make heroes out of these guys," says Aviva Futorian, an exhibit organizer. "We're trying to rehabilitate them. That's good for society and good for the victims." ED NOTE - see below our Letter to the Chicago Sun Times in response to this.
A relative of the boy McLaurin killed says he believes art can be therapeutic for some criminals -- but not for McLaurin. "I don't think a murderer can be reformed," says Gussa Harris, Jarrell's aunt. "He cannot be helped. He should be in a dark room every day of his life." Another aunt, Ira Foster, hopes to attend the exhibit. 
"I hope the whole Chicago Police force will be there," she says. "I will tear every last piece of art off that wall." 

LETTER TO THE EDITOR from in response to "ART-RAGE" article:

Aviva Futorian says the John Howard Association's exhibit including art by convicted murderers is "good for victims." Can anyone imagine how callous that sounds to Janie Edwards, whose son was slashed and burned to death by one of the artists on display? Should grieving relatives attend the exhibit's opening reception, where the public is invited to sip wine at $30 per person while they view the art?

Note to John Howard: every penny of that ticket price should be donated to the victims' families. And do not dare tell victims what is good for them.

The latest statistics from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), 2006, are available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics at  This Report offers excellent data by type of crime and demographics of the victims.


Friday, July 18, 2008 
Researchers say that in homes with firearms, the likelihood of a violent fatality 
is greater.

Mike Stobbe / Associated Press
ATLANTA -- The Supreme Court's recent landmark ruling on gun ownership focused on citizens' ability to defend themselves from intruders in
their homes. But research shows that surprisingly often, gun owners use the weapons on themselves. 

Suicides accounted for 55 percent of the nation's nearly 31,000 firearm deaths in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

There was nothing unique about that year -- gun-related suicides have outnumbered firearm homicides and accidents for 20 of the last 25 years.
In 2005, homicides accounted for 40 percent of gun deaths. Accidents accounted for 3 percent. The remaining 2 percent included legal
killings, such as when police do the shooting, and cases that involve undetermined intent. 

Public-health researchers have concluded that in homes where guns are present, the likelihood someone in the home will die from suicide or
homicide is much greater. 

Studies have also shown that homes in which a suicide occurred were three to five times more likely to have a gun present than households
that did not experience a suicide, even after accounting for other risk factors. 

In a 5-4 decision, the high court struck down a handgun ban enacted in the District of Columbia in 1976 and rejected requirements that firearms
have trigger locks or be kept disassembled. The ruling left intact the district's gun licensing restrictions. 

One public-health study found that suicide and homicide rates in the district dropped after the ban was adopted. The district has allowed
shotguns and rifles to be kept in homes if they are registered, kept unloaded and taken apart or equipped with trigger locks. 

The American Public Health Association, the American Association of Suicidology and two other groups filed a legal brief supporting the
district's ban. The brief challenged arguments that if a gun is not available, suicidal people will just kill themselves using other means.

More than 90 percent of suicide attempts using guns are successful, while the success rate for jumping from high places was 34 percent. The
success rate for drug overdose was 2 percent, the brief said, citing studies. 

"Other methods are not as lethal," said Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore. 

The high court's majority opinion made no mention of suicide. But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer used the word 14 times in
voicing concern about the impact of striking down the handgun ban. 

Researchers in other fields have raised questions about the public-health findings on guns.  

Gary Kleck, a researcher at Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, estimates there are more than 1
million incidents each year in which firearms are used to prevent an actual or threatened criminal attack. 

Both sides agree there has been a significant decline in the last decade in public-health research into gun violence. 

The CDC traditionally was a primary funder of research on guns and gun-related injuries, allocating more than $2.1 million a year to such
projects in the mid-1990s. 

But the agency cut back research on the subject after Congress in 1996 ordered that none of the CDC's appropriations be used to promote gun

Family of Adelina Weber sues Waukegan police

July 10, 2008


The family of a murdered north suburban woman plans to sue the Waukegan Police Department and her estranged husband, claiming police failed to protect her from the man now accused of fatally stabbing her.

A civil lawsuit scheduled to be filed Thursday in Lake County Circuit Court in Waukegan on behalf of Adelina Weber’s family, claiming she obtained a court order of protection against her husband, Clarence Weber Jr., on May 5.

The suit alleges police were in the family’s far north suburban home on May 6 when they observed a note signed by Clarence Weber in big letters in the kitchen that said, “ Now everything is going to end.”

The couple’s residence was partially destroyed by fire on May 27, which was reported to the Waukegan Fire Department as a possible arson, Clifford Law Offices spokeswoman Pamela Menaker said.

The suit also claims Clarence Weber stalked his wife for several weeks prior to her death, according to a release from the attorneys.

Adelina Weber, 31, was pronounced dead at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville at 3 p.m. Saturday, about an hour after she staggered into Springhill Suites Marriott hotel off Milwaukee and Marriott Drive, just south of Half Day Road.

She had just finished waiting tables at the Walker Bros. pancake house in Lincolnshire when she was attacked. She made it into the lobby of the hotel, where she collapsed.

Adelina Weber had filed for divorce just two days before her death, the Lake County News-Sun reports.

The family’s complaint alleges the police department and Chief William Biang took no action to investigate her husband or protect Adelina Weber, the release said. The complaint claims police had a duty to arrest Clarence Weber upon learning of a violation of the protection order and to arrange for Adelina’s transportation to a safe place under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.

Clarence Weber was scheduled to appear in bond court early Thursday in Waukegan after he waived extradition from Lake County (Ind.) on Wednesday. He was arrested Tuesday morning in Crown Point, Ind., after a two-day manhunt according to Lake County (Ind.) Sheriff's Department spokesman Mike Higgins.

Bond is expected to be set at $2 million, the New-Sun reports.

Clarence Weber Jr. is also named as a defendant in the suit, the release said.

Further details about the suit are scheduled to be released at a press conference at 1 p.m. Thursday.

PRESS RELEASE - Help the child victims of the Polygamist Cult raid in Texas

Contact: Polly Franks, Executive Director
The Franks Foundation
Email Address:
Telephone: (804) 564-9196

"Comfort Kits" for the Polygamist Compound Raid Children

Friday - April 11, 2008

Exactly seven months from the launch of "Operation Fuzzy,"
the Franks Foundation announces the most comprehensive
phase of our program for sexually abused children to date.

The recent polygamist compound raid in Eldorado, Texas, has
gripped the nation with allegations of rampant physical and sexual
abuse. Young girls, some as young as their early teens, are suspected
of being victims of rape and incest. Many are known to be pregnant.
The 416 children taken from the FLDS compound are frightened and traumatized.
Having been torn from the only home environment
they've ever known, their needs are many.

The Franks Foundation proudly announces our outreach to these
416 now-homeless children. After consulting with Ms. Debra Brown,
the Director of the Children's Advocacy Center in San Angelo, Texas,
the Franks Foundation shipped the first installation of stuffed animals and "comfort kits"
to the children of the polygamist compound raid this week.
These "comfort kits" include pads of drawing paper and crayons, all wrapped
up in child-themed pillowcases. In instances where sexual abuse is
suspected or alleged, these pads of drawing paper allow a child to convey
their history of their abuse through art therapy. The stuffed animals not only
offer comfort, but allow the child to communicate how and where they have
been harmed in a nonthreatening way.

Polly Franks, Executive Director of the Franks Foundation, is encouraging
concerned Americans of all faiths to reach out to these children. "All
indications are that we're dealing with large numbers of crime victims;
some may be victims of lifelong physical abuse, many others may be
victims of sexual abuse - all at an extraordinarily tender age. As
Americans, we have to do everything we can to make their young lives
a little easier."

Polly Franks, Executive Director
The Franks Foundation
P.O. Box 11407
Richmond, Virginia 23230
(804) 564-9196



Miscellaneous Recent Headlines of Interest to Victims

Preserve the stories of your loved ones' lives in the Library of Congress

The federal government threatens to take money collected from criminals for their victims-
Keep VOCA funds for Victims - tell the Administration not to use our money to pay your bills!

US News and World Report, Dec. 2007 year end article, "Giving Crime Victims More of Their Say"

Read a press release from November 2007 and update about a touching plea from the mother of a murder victim to try to free the innocent and dying man that is serving a wrongful life sentence for her daughter's murder

The Chicago Sun-Times quotes us regarding Restorative Justice principles in a column about former Gov. George Ryan

The Chicago Tribune publishes an OpEd from a local victim and advocate, November 15

Human Rights Watch has been interviewing for an upcoming report on Victims Rights

The National Crime Victims Report published our article about the attempt to reintroduce parole to Illinois and our efforts to give victims a voice in the process

New Study warns of coming "Crime Wave" due to convergence of several factors and offers solutions

Project Safe Neighborhoods works well to prevent crime and more violence

Police Officers are dying at alarming rates - a danger sign that is a wake up call  

The Birth of a Victim Activist: A special tribute by the Chicago Tribune

Chicago area program holds helpful classes to prevent and cope with victimization


An important story for all of us to read:

Group, Governors Warn Of Impending Crime Wave And Offer New Agenda To Fight It   02/23/08

Third Way Paper Identifies Four Dangerous New Trends; New Poll Shows Public Concern Growing

Washington, DC – At a press conference with Governors from around the country, Third Way today released a paper that warns of a coming wave of crime and offers more than 100 federal, state, and local policy options to handle the impending problem. The group also released the findings of a new national poll revealing that public concern over crime is high and growing.

The paper and poll were released at a Washington press conference that included Governors Kathleen Sebelius (KS), Janet Napolitano (AZ), Phil Bredesen (TN), and Martin O’Malley (MD). Pointing to the findings in the paper, the Governors announced a 21st century crime-fighting agenda to combat this wave.

In The Impending Crime Wave, Third Way describes the convergence of four new and menacing sociological trends, which, together with the recent federal disengagement from crime-fighting, threaten a new and devastating wave of crime in America. These trends include:

•The Reentry Explosion: A massive group of prisoners are poised to reenter their communities over the next several years. In the 1980s, 2.5 million prisoners were released; in this decade, it will be nearly 7 million, with 700,000 in the next year alone.

•The Lengthening Shadow of Illegal Immigration: With more that 12 million illegal immigrants now in the country, a shadow economy that both serves and exploits illegal immigrants is large and growing, and a small but violent minority of illegal immigrants are themselves offenders.

•The Sprawling Parentless Neighborhood of the Internet: Technology, in particular the explosion of online social networking, is exposing increasing numbers of young children and teenagers to a surge in sexual predation on the Internet.

•The Surging Youth Population: Young people commit far more crimes than the general population, and the demographic bulge in young people, if not effectively addressed, will account for about 2.5 million more crimes by 2012.

The Third Way paper notes that crime, a major political issue in the 1980s when rates were high, receded from the political radar as national crime rates fell for 14 years. But a new Third Way poll, conducted by Cooper & Secrest Associates, reveals that crime is returning to the national consciousness: by a five-to-one margin, Americans believe there is more crime in America than one year ago, and by a margin of 69-19%, Americans feel that crime is more of a threat to their own safety than terrorism.

At the press conference, each of the governors pointed to work that they and their colleagues at the state and local level were doing to confront the growing crime problem, noting the uniquely 21st century nature of the challenge. They noted that the dozens of policy ideas enumerated in the Third Way paper showed the innovation and effort on crime fighting going on in the states, and they stressed that they were getting ahead of the problem and offering concrete solutions. Each also called on the federal government, which had been a major partner in crime-fighting in the 1990s, to restore the programs and funding that had made a major difference in anti-crime initiatives nationwide.

Governor Sebelius, who chairs the Third Way Governors initiative, stated in her remarks: “State and local governments face new and dangerous trends that, without significant federal support, will have a devastating impact on communities around the country. We urge the federal government to re-engage in America’s crime problem and join Governors in advancing a 21st century crime-fighting agenda.”

Rachel Laser, Director of the Third Way Culture Program and co-author of the paper, noted: “The danger of a return to the old days of high crime rates is real, and Americans understand that. We applaud the work that Governors are doing to combat these 21st century crimes with real policy solutions that can ensure that we get ahead of this impending wave.”

The paper and poll can be found at Third Way’s website:

Associated products:

bulletThe Impending Crime Wave:
bulletThird Way Crime Poll

Contact: Matt Bennett (202) 775-3768 x212



PRESERVE THE STORIES OF THE LIVES OF YOUR FAMILY AND LOVED ONES - sent by a victim advocate friend of ours in Tennessee - what a great way to help the future generations to remember those we have loved and lost:

"StoryCorps is a national oral history project created to celebrate and preserve one another's stories in sound.  Tens of thousands of people have visited StoryBooths, like the one here in Nashville, to interview their loved ones.  They leave with a copy of their interview on CD, and another copy is archived at the Library of Congress for future generations.  In addition, a select few interviews are edited down from 40 minutes to about 2 minutes, and are aired on NPR weekly."\


VOCA UPDATE FROM THE NEW PROPOSED BUDGET: 2008 will see some severe cuts to VOCA victim assistance grants.  Congress lowered the VOCA cap from $625 million to $590 million.  Because of increases in the other VOCA programs and new administrative costs being assessed against the Fund for the first time, state VOCA assistance grants could be cut by as much as $81 million.  That would be on top of the $25 million cut suffered in 2007.
Now, the Administration's 2009 budget would wreak havoc on VOCA victim assistance programs even more.  For the fourth time in as many years, the Administration wants to wipe out the Crime Victims Fund by transferring $2 billion in to the General Treasury, leaving the Fund empty at the beginning of 2010.  The budget retains the VOCA cap at $590 million, but includes $50 million for the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve under the cap.  With expected increases in other VOCA programs and continuation of the administrative charges, it is expected that state VOCA assistance grants could be cut by another $52.8 million.  The cumulative cut to assistance programs would be $159 million -- 47 percent -- since 2006.

Write your Congressional Representatives - tell them hands off VOCA funds!


January 27, 2008 
Plan to Close Prisons Stirs Anxiety in Towns That Depend on Them 


Ed. Note - this article brings light to one of the significant complications with regard to the economics issues in the prison system and the changes in sentencing practices.

GABRIELS, N.Y. — After 17 years of marriage, Joy and Richard Gonyea managed to save enough to trade their trailer in November for a cozy prefabricated home with a room for each of their two children and a pool in the backyard. The home overlooks the pine trees on the edge of their two-acre property in rural Vermontville, eight miles from the secluded state prison where Mrs. Gonyea works. 
“This home is all we’ve ever dreamed of,” said Mrs. Gonyea, 43, a registered nurse who runs the medical department at the prison, Camp Gabriels, a minimum-security facility in this minuscule hamlet in Franklin County, at the northern end of Adirondack Park. 
“This,” she said, “is the place we always wanted to have for our kids.” 
Then she began to cry. 
On Jan. 11, the Spitzer administration announced plans to close Camp Gabriels, two other corrections camps and a medium-security prison, all of which have been operating below capacity since 1996 because of a decline in the number of nonviolent felons, the state’s corrections commissioner, Brian Fischer, said. 
Closing those prisons, Mr. Fischer said, would save the state millions of dollars, free up money for the treatment of sex offenders and mentally ill inmates, and finance programs like anger management and vocational training, meant to prepare prisoners for their release. 
But for Mrs. Gonyea, her neighbors and co-workers, the prospect of losing Camp Gabriels has stoked fear and doubt — about their future and about the future of their communities, which have come to depend on the prison over the years to survive. 
As rural economies across the country crumbled in the 1980s and the population of prison inmates swelled, largely because of tougher drug laws, states pushed prison construction as an economic escape route of sorts. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, an average of four prisons were built each year in rural America; the rate quadrupled in the 1980s and reached 24 a year in the 1990s, according to the federal Agriculture Department’s economic research service. 
The boom, experts say, provided employment, but it also fostered a cycle of dependency. Depressed rural communities came to rely on the prisons as a source of jobs, economic sustenance and services, with little effort devoted to attracting other viable businesses. 
“What we’ve seen in New York and other states is that one prison led to another prison and led to another prison, creating the notion that there’s no other economic development option than to build prisons to foster stability in rural areas,” said Tracy Huling, an independent consultant in New York who has done extensive research on the role of prisons in rural economies. 
None of the 584 workers at Camp Gabriels and the other prisons slated to close — Camp McGregor in Saratoga County, Camp Pharsalia in Chenango County and the Hudson Correctional Facility in Columbia County — are expected to lose their jobs; state and union officials have said the workers will be able to transfer to other prisons. 
But when that will happen, where the new jobs will be or even whether there will be jobs for everyone, are bound to remain open questions for months to come. 
The uncertainty has gnawed on residents here and in several other communities in this remote, challenging region where below-zero temperatures are the norm this time of year. The correction industry is big business in Franklin County, which has five state prisons and one federal prison in its 1,678 sparsely populated square miles. In the town of Brighton, which encompasses Gabriels and five other hamlets, the prison is perhaps the only place where someone with a high school diploma can earn a decent wage and benefits. 
“There ain’t much else the local people could do for gainful employment,” said Peter Martin, 48, the town’s supervisor and a corrections officer at Camp Gabriels for 22 years. 
The camp employs 136 people, including 85 corrections officers. 
The reliance on Camp Gabriels extends well beyond jobs. Small businesses have staked their survival on the prison workers who patronize their stores. Local governments and charities, meanwhile, have come to depend on inmate work crews to clear snow from fire hydrants, maintain parks and hiking trails, mow the lawns at cemeteries and unload trucks at food pantries. 
Every winter, the crews help build an ice palace in the nearby village of Saranac Lake, cutting thick blocks of ice that can weigh up to 700 pounds. The palace is the main attraction of the village’s Winter Carnival and attracts thousands to the area. 
“All those services, when you put that into dollars, there’s no way we’d be able to hire people to perform them,” said Mary Ellen Keith, supervisor of the town of Franklin, which relies on the crews to cut overgrown brush from the sides of 67 miles of local roads, among other tasks. (Franklin is just south of Brighton and another of the 19 towns that make up Franklin County.) 
Four of Mrs. Keith’s nine children work in state prisons, she said, including a son and a daughter at Camp Gabriels. 
“Everyone around here either works in the prisons, or has a relative who works in the prisons, or knows someone who works in the prisons,” said Mrs. Keith, 78. “My kids were able to build their homes and raise their families here because of the prisons. If it weren’t for the prisons, they would have had to leave the area.” 
Prisons are also a valuable political tool, because inmates are counted as local residents, allowing communities to receive more state and federal aid for emergency services. Mr. Martin said that he was not yet sure how the town of Brighton stood to lose if Camp Gabriels closed, but he added, “We’re concerned about losing any kind of aid here.” 
Inmate-inclusive population counts are also used when drawing legislative and Congressional district lines. 
Franklin County has struggled to find its economic footing. The terrain is carved by mountains, streams and lakes, with limited farmland. Much of it falls inside Adirondack Park, so development must abide by strict rules. Tourism is strong, but concentrated in a few areas. Winters are long and the wind so cold it seems to slice the skin, like tiny razor blades. The soil is frozen for most of the year; the growing season lasts from May through September, yielding potatoes and some grain crops, but little else. 
In Gabriels, which has about 800 residents, including the prison’s 186 inmates, the closest thing to Main Street is a half-mile stretch of state highway, Route 86. It has two mini-markets, two farms, a general store, a cafe, a temporary post office (the permanent one burned last winter) and a few dozen homes. Camp Gabriels is set back from the highway, shrouded by tall pines. 
The camp opened in 1982, in a building once occupied by a sanitarium. It has no fences; trees delimit its perimeter. At its peak, it held 336 inmates. 
“There’s no doubt that closing prisons could bring short-term economic distress to some areas, but the question is, is that a justification for refusing to make changes? The answer should be no,” said Edmund J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a conservative group. “There should be other ways of improving the economic situation in upstate New York that doesn’t involve filling upstate New York with prisons.” 
Gov. George E. Pataki tried to close prisons in New York each fiscal year from 2002 to 2006, but he faced intense pressure from upstate legislators and union leaders, who are already objecting to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal. 
This is Mr. Spitzer’s first try to close prisons and, officials say, it is a necessary step to help the state bridge a projected $4.4 billion budget gap and adapt its corrections system to the number and types of inmates it now serves. The closings, scheduled for January 2009, would save the state more than $40 million in operating costs over the next two years and $30 million over five years in repair costs. 
“This is as much a budget issue as it is a management issue,” Mr. Fischer, the corrections commissioner, said in an interview. “I’ve got a finite budget and I’ve got a finite work force, and I have to use them where my needs are, and that’s in the larger facilities.” 
The number of inmates housed in the state’s maximum-security prisons increased by 18 percent from 1996 to 2007, while the inmate population in medium-security prisons declined by the same rate. During that period, the number of prisoners in minimum-security facilities — most convicted of larceny, burglary, minor drug possession and other nonviolent crimes — decreased by 47 percent, officials said. 
Six months before closing Camp Gabriels and the other prisons, the state must detail what it plans to do with the emptied facilities. Mr. Fischer said that it was too early to tell what those plans would be, but that the state would consider public and private uses for the properties. 
Union leaders and many Camp Gabriels workers said they would not give in easily, though. They organized a rally in Saranac Lake on Thursday and a letter-writing campaign, hoping to convince state legislators that the prison was worth saving. 
“I told my wife we should hang in there,” said Mr. Gonyea, 44, who retired in 2005 after working for 23 years as a corrections officer, 17 of those at Camp Gabriels. “The anxiety, all this doubt, it’s killing us. But it’s not over yet.” 



Giving Crime Victims More of Their Say
A federal law has created tensions in the legal system
By Emma Schwartz
Posted December 13, 2007

W. Patrick Kenna felt cheated. In 2000, he invested $20,000 with a currency trading company, hoping to earn enough to start a new business. Instead, he lost nearly the entire sum, defrauded along with dozens of other investors. A Los Angeles businessman, Kenna took some comfort in knowing that the two men responsible—father-and-son owners of the company—would spend significant time behind bars, but he wanted to make sure the judge knew just how much trouble they had caused.

Patrick Kenna won the right to speak against those who defrauded him.
(Chick Harrity for USN&WR) Related News
A Debt Hard To Collect
Gitmo Prisoners' Rights Reviewed (Nov. 30)
Video: Supreme Court Reviews Gitmo Prisoners' Rights
Kenna made his anger clear during the father's 2005 sentencing, but when the son's day in court arrived three months later, the federal judge denied Kenna's request to speak. "I listened to the victims the last time," Judge John Walter said. "There just isn't anything else that could possibly be said." Kenna was furious. "We didn't feel that the judge was taking into consideration the victims in the case," he says. So he turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ordered the judge to let Kenna speak at a new hearing.

The reversal in Kenna's case reflects the growing influence of crime victims since the passage in 2004 of landmark federal legislation granting them new and expanded rights. Three years later, the changes are beginning to have an impact, shifting the balance of a legal system that historically has been solely a two-party affair. One result is tension between legal parties and concern among defense attorneys who fear that a greater role for victims conflicts with the right of defendants to a fair trial.

Historically, the adversarial legal system has carved out roles in criminal cases only for the prosecutor and the accused. Victims have been relegated to the sidelines unless they were testifying. Although the interests of prosecutors usually align with those of victims, they are not always the same: for instance, when victims want tougher sentences than prosecutors do. Victims' rights advocates hope the changes are just the start and are pushing to put victims on an equal footing with defendants and prosecutors. "What our goal should be is to put the victim back into the position as if no crime had been committed," says Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who resigned this year to advocate for victims.

Crime victims began winning rights at the state level decades ago, but the 2004 legislation brought the protections to the federal level for the first time. Victims now must be notified about court developments. They must be allowed to speak during bail and sentencing hearings. And most important, the law gives them the ability to appeal rulings when they think their rights are being violated, as Kenna did. The Justice Department is even funding three legal clinics, in Maryland, Arizona, and South Carolina, to help victims assert these rights in court.

Bias. But defense attorneys say that changing the adversarial system further would have dangerous consequences. Most problematic, they say, would be allowing victims more control over prosecutorial decisions. Victims can be biased, attorneys say, and they sometimes fail to understand how their case fits into the system as a whole.

It's often hard to define a victim in the first place. For instance, is a woman a victim in a marijuana-dealing case because her boyfriend beat her while he was high on drugs he bought from the dealer? A court said no. Could an Arizonan tell the judge he opposed the death penalty at the sentencing hearing for the man who killed his wife? That judge, too, said no.

Defense attorneys are also wary of the influence that victims may have on plea agreements. And they point out that a victim's testimony, in bail or sentencing hearings, is not subject to the same cross-examination as is the testimony of other witnesses. Overall, they worry that inserting victims more broadly into the process pits the defendant against not one, but two, adversaries.

Victims' rights advocates make just the opposite argument. They say the victims' rights laws are not uniformly enforced on a federal level—and are almost nonexistent in many states. Instead, they say, victims often get little guidance from the government. Mindful of such problems, a small group of advocates is helping victims with appeals and other legal issues through the federally funded clinics. "Having the attorney there is starting to turn the rights into more than rhetoric," says Meg Garvin, a lawyer at Lewis and Clark Law School who coordinates the clinics.

One satisfied client of the clinic is Marylander Tracy Palmer, a 41-year-old mother of two who had been trying to escape her ex-husband since 1994, when he first was convicted of assaulting her. In 2001 he was sentenced to 15 years in jail, but it was only by chance that Palmer found that a judge was about to release him after just four years. She protested that she was not notified of the hearing. A judge rebuffed her, butthe federal clinic helped her win another review of her ex-husband's release, a decision now on appeal.

The victims' rights laws are changing the system for prosecutors like Trey Gowdy in Spartanburg, S.C. He now may have to make an extra phone call to keep victims' lawyers in the loop, but Gowdy says he's never had a major conflict. Still, he thinks the best service for victims—as for defendants—is the government doing its job well. "The better the prosecutors," says Gowdy, "the less you will feel victims having needs."



Write to a soldier just sent to Iraq:

This email comes to us from a staffer at the Cook County States Attorney's office:

My  brother, Tim, is a Commander in the U.S. Navy and is leaving for Iraq (in December 2007) anticipating arrival at Camp Victory, Baghdad. He leaves behind his wife and four children to eventually command the Navy's EOD forces in Iraq. This is one of the most dangerous  assignments because, basically, his troops are charged with dismantling or  detonating bombs, land mines, etc. to ensure the safety of our troops and the  citizens of Iraq.  As you can well imagine, many of these devices are new  technology or handmade and ingenious.  Because he will not be here for the holiday season, I thought I would ask all of my friends to send him a card as a way of letting him know how much we appreciate what he is doing for  us and to let him know he is thought of. I thought it would be a fun thing for him to all of a sudden hear from a ton of people  unexpectedly.  If you are able to help out, I appreciate it so  much. If you  know of others who might be willing to send him a card, could you pass this  email along?  Tim's contact info is below.  Thank you so much!  MM

Mail Address:

CDR  Timothy Richardt
Unit 42007
APO  AE  09342


Our Friends at POMC in Minnesota send us this heartwarming story:

Swenson Family Gets New Home Courtesy Of ABC's Extreme Makeover

Thousands of volunteers, thousands of spectators, a brand-new house built in a week. "I think it's Extreme Minnesota Nice," said Carolyn Gonzalez shortly before the unveiling Tuesday of a new house built for the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" television show in Minnetonka for the children of Gonzalez's best friend, Teri Lee.

Lee and her boyfriend Tim Hawkenson were shot to death by Lee's ex-boyfriend in her West Lakeland Township home Sept. 22. Lee's four children are now being raised by Lee's sister Vicki Swenson and Swenson's husband, Erik. But with their three other children, the family of nine could barely fit in their three-bedroom Minnetonka house.

Their story caught the attention of the producers of the ABC television program, which blitz builds houses for deserving families while the cameras roll. In the case of the Swensons, who are both high school teachers, their old house would be demolished and replaced by a seven-bedroom home by volunteer crews working round-the-clock.

Tuesday was the tearful climax of the effort, what the show-biz types called "the reveal," when the family would return from a free week in Disneyland and be driven in a giant black stretch SUV to their address on Park Lane South. A big bus was parked in front of the house, so the family didn't get to see their new digs until a frenzied audience of star-struck fans and volunteers was cued to chant "Move that bus!"

"I think this is one of the most deserving families I've ever seen on the show. I'm going to cry right now," said Amanda Weidner, a Minnetonka resident who was among the throng that waited for hours for the big moment.

Police officers on hand who had to direct traffic and help with crowd control estimated a couple thousand people had showed up - including the University of Minnesota dance team and Goldy Gopher - despite occasional rain and repeated rehearsals of the arrival of the family.

"Another practice run," said Weidner as an SUV limo pulled up in front of the house.

"Got to get the camera angles," said Marjorie Knutsen, a spectator from Lakeville.

"That's a practice family," Weidner said, as a group of people posed in front of the house.

"You'll know when it's the real thing," Knutsen said. "Ty will be there," she said, referring to show host and heartthrob Ty Pennington.

"I've lived here since 1965, and this is the most excitement we've ever had," neighbor Emily Reichel said. "Everybody is in love with Ty." Neighbors said they've had to put up with spectators coming at all hours to watch the Hollywood house raising, crowds spilling onto their lawns and strangers asking to use their bathrooms. But they also were swept up into the excitement, perching on their rooftops to watch the spectacle, which will air in November. One neighbor even cut down a tree to make way for a VIP tent.

"It's like a dream. It's just like a dream. The family can finally have some space," said Shirley Seliger, Vicki Swenson's mother. Seliger said she was grateful to the neighbors and the volunteer builders.

"It's Minnesota people pitching in when someone needs help. They want to see a family have their dream come through," she said.

But for Rachel Lemke, the dream was Ty Pennington. The Big Lake woman and her friend Marti Ammend showed up to the job site Saturday to volunteer. They waited for four hours, then got a chance to pick up garbage for 20 minutes, but still didn't see Pennington.

"It was cool to see the house. The way they put it up so fast," Ammend said.

"There was a house?" Lemke asked.

Lemke and Ammend returned Tuesday and waited for hours to see if they could see Pennington, despite being late to work and parking illegally.

"Can we go?" asked Lemke's 12-year-old son.

"No," she replied. "We're looking for a new dad for him. So I pick Ty."

Finally, the big moment came. The Swenson-Lees arrived. And most important for Lemke, Pennington emerged. "Oh, my God, how hot is he?" Lemke said.

The Project At A Glance

Old home: 2,300 square feet, three bedrooms, 2½ baths

New home: 5,600 square feet, seven bedrooms and five baths

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" airs at 7 p.m. Sundays on KSTP-TV, Channel 5. The show featuring the Swenson-Lee family is scheduled to air Nov. 25.
By Richard Chin – 08/29/2007. Reprinted from Pioneer Press
Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. Minnesota Hope Chapter
PO Box 516, Circle Pines MN 55014
Mary Stimpson - Chapter Co-Leader & Newsletter Editor

Police Officers in More Danger Than Ever Before:

The FBI released the 2006 Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report. The report indicates 46 officers were feloniously killed last year by a firearm, and 4 killed by accidental shooting. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) had preliminarily reported 52 firearm deaths last year.

According to the NLEOMF, 61 officers have been feloniously killed with a firearm in the line of duty in 2007. The last time 60 officers were killed in a year was 2001, when 61 officers were killed, and prior to that 1997, when 68 were killed. We are on pace to have the highest number of officers killed by firearms in over a decade.

Also, the number of officers assaulted with a firearm increased. There were 2,278 incidents of assault on an officer with a firearm in 2006, up from 2,157 incidents the year before. This is the highest number of assaults on law enforcement with a firearm in the past ten years. Improvements in training and body armor may have saved many of these officers lives.

Here is the chart of officers killed over the past 10 years by weapon type
Here is the chart of officers assaulted over the past 10 years by weapon type

This is a very disturbing trend. The combination of criminals having easy access to high powered weapons, and law enforcement not having the
tools to effectively fight illegal gun trafficking is having an impact. The gun pusher lobby has a lot to answer for.

OJ Simpson's Book Is Published - Join the Boycott

Dear Family and Friends:

Here's your chance to make a difference and let your voice be heard. I was speaking with Denise Brown's assistant yesterday (Denise is the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson). We were discussing the ongoing fight to keep the O.J. Simpson book "If I Did It" from being sold. She asked me to tell everyone about the on-line Petition. You can access this by logging onto There is a link on the Home Page to the Petition under the heading "Current
Event." They are needing 100,000 signatures , but so far have less than 5,000. Please take a few minutes out of your busy life and let your voice be heard. Here's your chance to exercise your right to free speech and "draw a line in the sand" and fight this evil.

Thank you SO much!!

Y'all have a great day,

Polly Franks, Executive Director
The Franks Foundation
P.O. Box 11407
Richmond, Virginia 23230
(804) 564-9196

National Coalition of Victims in Action has issued the following news release:

Contact: Polly Franks, Executive Director
The Franks Foundation
Email Address:
Telephone: (804) 564-9196


Contact: Gordon and Elaine Rondeau, Executive Director
The National Coalition of Victims in Action (NCVIA)
Email Address:
Telephone: (770) 977-3028

August 27, 2007


The ongoing saga of O.J. Simpson is like a recurring nightmare that refuses to go away. It's been over 13 years since the butchered, blood-drenched bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found lying dead on the sidewalk of Ms. Simpson's Brentwood, California home. Now it appears that O.J. Simpson's book, If I Did It, is indeed going to see the light of day.

Ronald Goldman had the horrible misfortune of having his life brutally ended as he was returning a pair of sunglasses to a friend. Nicole Brown Simpson's death was preceded by years of being threatened, stalked and repeatedly beaten by her former husband. Tragically, she had predicted her own murder and it's judicial aftermath by stating, "O.J.'s going to kill me and then he's going to get away with it."

The Franks Foundation and the National Coalition of Victims in Action (NCVIA) - national crime victim advocacy organizations - are calling for a
nationwide boycott of O.J. Simpson's book. We applaud the decision of the bookstore chain Barnes and Noble for refusing to promote or
sell this book and we are hoping that other bookstore chains will follow their lead. We call on this boycott because (1) we believe that
O.J. Simpson should NOT stand to profit with additional publicity and (2) because of the inevitable revictimization of Nicole Brown Simpson's
children that this book is going to cause.

The Franks Foundation and the NCVIA also call for the boycott of any company involved in this book's publication, sale or promotion. "Thereis a word for books of the nature," states Polly Franks, "the word is filth and anyone associated with it should be mortally ashamed of themselves. We find it morally reprehensible that O.J. Simpson - or anyone else, for that matter - should profit in any way from the cold-blooded murder of two innocent human beings. Let's remember these murders for the horrifying crimes that they were, and NOT as a form of entertainment."

Contact the National Coalition of Victims in Action to join the boycott.


Prison Population Statistics

More than 2.24 million people are now incarcerated in America's prisons and jails. "Prison and Jail Inmates at Mid-year 2006" also offers data about increases in both state prisons and local jails. You can access this Report at:


Children, Families, and the Criminal Justice System

"Children, Families and the Criminal Justice System," just released by the University of Illinois at Chicago presents findings from a key national study that examined kids whose parents have been incarcerated or had interactions with the criminal justice system. This is a really interesting study -- check it out at

Inmate Asks for Sex-Change Operation

Massachusetts Case Tied Up Over Question of Who Pays for Surgery
Posted: 2007-06-27 02:23:54
Filed Under: Crime News, Nation
BOSTON (June 27) - A trial that opened more than a year ago has become bogged down in Boston federal court. There have been hundreds of hours of testimony from witnesses, including 10 medical specialists paid tens of thousands of dollars. The judge himself even hired an expert to help him make sense of it all.
The question at the center of the case: Should a murderer serving life in prison get a sex-change operation at taxpayer expense?

The case of Michelle - formerly Robert - Kosilek is being closely watched across the country by advocates for other inmates who want to undergo a sex change. Transgender inmates in other states have sued prison officials, and not one has succeeded in persuading a judge to order a sex-change operation.

The Massachusetts Correction Department is vigorously fighting Kosilek 's request for surgery, saying it would create a security nightmare and make Kosilek a target for sexual assault.

An Associated Press review of the case, including figures obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews, found that the Correction Department and its outside health care provider have spent more than $52,000 on experts to testify about an operation that would cost about $20,000.

The duration and expense of the case have outraged some lawmakers who insist that taxpayers should not have to pay for inmates to have surgery that most private insurers reject as elective.

"They are prisoners. They are there because they've broken the law," said Republican state Sen. Scott Brown, who unsuccessfully introduced a bill to ban sex-change surgery for inmates. "Other folks, people who want to get these types of surgeries, they have to go through their insurance carrier or save up for it and do it independently. Yet if you are in prison, you can do it for nothing? That doesn't make a lot of sense."

But advocates say in some cases - such as that of Kosilek , who has twice attempted suicide - sex-change surgery is as much a medical necessity as treatment for diabetes or high blood pressure.

"The duty belongs to the prison to figure out how to fulfill its constitutional obligations to both provide adequate medical care and provide a fundamental security for all inmates," said Cole Thaler, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a gay- and transgender-rights group.

Kosilek , 58, was convicted of strangling his wife in 1990. He claimed he killed her in self-defense after she spilled boiling tea on his genitals.

Robert Kosilek legally changed his name to Michelle in 1993, and has sued the Correction Department twice, arguing that its refusal to allow a sex-change operation violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

In 2002, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to medical treatment for gender identity disorder, but stopped short of ordering the surgery. Kosilek sued again in 2005, arguing that the hormone treatments, laser hair removal and psychotherapy she has received since Wolf's ruling have not relieved her anxiety and depression.

"I would not want to continue existing like this," Kosilek testified.

Kosilek 's second trial, which began in May 2006, has featured expert testimony from 10 doctors, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Wolf has not indicated when he will rule.

The Correction Department has spent about $33,000 on two experts it retained to evaluate Kosilek . Both Cynthia Osborne, a Baltimore psychotherapist, and Chester Schmidt, a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University, said Kosilek does not need the surgery. Schmidt's fee alone was $350 per hour.

Two other doctors retained and paid for by the department's outside health provider, the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health Program, at a cost of just under $19,000 said they believe the surgery is medically necessary for Kosilek . Two other doctors who work for the health provider agreed with that.

In addition, two psychiatrists who testified for Kosilek recommended the surgery. A Boston law firm representing Kosilek for free paid for those experts but would not disclose the cost.

In Wisconsin, five inmates sued after the Legislature passed a law that bars Correction Department funding for hormone treatments or sex-change surgery. The case is expected to go to trial in October.

Those who argue against allowing the surgery say it could open the floodgates to other inmates who want sex-change operations or other treatments considered elective.

In Massachusetts, 10 inmates have been diagnosed with gender identity disorder and are receiving hormone treatments. Two other inmates besides Kosilek have asked for sex-change surgery.

Corrections officials say their decision to deny the surgery has nothing to do with costs or the politics of crime. They cite the testimony of their experts and Kosilek herself that her feelings of depression have diminished since she began taking hormones.

Former Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy testified that allowing Kosilek to complete the transformation into a woman would present a security problem. Whether she stays in a male prison or is transferred to a female prison, she could become a target for sexual assault, Dennehy testified.

Dennehy also said prison officials cannot be influenced by Kosilek 's talk of suicide.

"The department does not negotiate or respond to threats of harm or suicide in an effort to barter," she said. "You couldn't run a prison with that kind of leveraging going on."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
2007-06-26 23:38:26

EDITOR'S NOTE: We believe Illinois, and all states, should promptly pass laws forbidding these kinds of lawsuits by prisoners. When we think about the fact that police, victims, and other citizens in strong financial need for support from the state cannot get the funding they need, it just is devastating to see precious resources eaten up by this kind of ridiculous legal action by an inmate.

With the warm weather increases in violence all over the city and suburbs, many groups led by victims are taking action. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Mike Pfleger are marching with victims on gun shops that illegally traffic guns that end up on the streets and in the hands of gangs. Victims are marching in 4th of July parades in Evanston. Plans are in the works for national marches on August 28, the anniversary of Dr. King's March on Washington, in 25 cities all across the nation. Call 847-446-7073 if you would like to sign up to join any of these events or just to get more information.

Anti-gang rallies in city, suburbs

Activists say guns fuel youth slayings

By John Keilman, Tribune staff reporter

June 17, 2007

Perched on BMX bicycles in their South Side neighborhood, Kenneth Brown and Vincent Richardson felt perfectly safe Saturday morning, thanks to dozens of police officers and community activists filling the street for an anti-violence march.

It was an unusual sense of security. The boys -- 12 and 13, respectively -- said they normally stay inside with their video games to avoid the gangs and gunfire that are an all-too-common affliction where they live in Burnside. The march was meant to enlist support to stop violence. Kenneth was skeptical.

"It can make a difference, but some people, they just don't care," he said.

The event was one of several area rallies Saturday meant to focus attention on a plague of bloodshed that, among other victims, has taken the lives of 33 Chicago students since the 2006-07 school year began. From Burnside to Evanston, activists said they were speaking out against gangs, guns and a culture of cruelty that shows no sign of abating.

"This city and this country doesn't even know what's happening," said Phillip Jackson, an organizer of a downtown march in protest of the death toll. "All across this country, children are dying just like they're dying in Chicago ... It's a declared war. We want to let this city know, this country know, that it is time to value the lives of these black and Latino children."

Gathering on Michigan Avenue near the Art Institute of Chicago, Jackson and about 100 others recalled the students who have died, solemnly reading their names and then releasing balloons meant as symbols of their lost lives.

Keith Nunnally, who came from the Beverly neighborhood on the South Side to join the march, said he worries that even his honor-student children could get caught up in street violence.

"Literally, we have to take them everywhere they go so they won't get caught in the crossfire, they won't be mistaken for being in the wrong crowd," he said.

Miles to the south, marchers in a line 3 blocks long wound through the Burnside neighborhood, hoisting placards and chanting slogans. Mayor Richard M. Daley and Police Supt. Philip Cline joined the walk, which was organized by the city's community policing program.

Rev. JoAnn Long, of the New Covenant Life Church on Cottage Grove Avenue, said that despite the heavy police presence, many people in the area had little respect for the law. Her church has been broken into and its members robbed on their way home from services, and once, when church officials bought a building, they found a dead body in the adjacent lot.

Activists in Evanston held a "lie-in" as part of a nationwide statement against gun violence. One by one, organizers said, 32 people clad in black and wearing orange and maroon sashes lay on the bricks of Fountain Square in remembrance of the Virginia Tech massacre.

Jennifer Bishop, who lost members of her family to a pistol-wielding teen in 1990, said the rally also was meant to stir state legislators to vote in favor of gun-control proposals.

ED. NOTE - There were 7 families of gun violence victims "laying down" at this event to commemorate the 2 month anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings.  For more information on these lie-ins being done all over the nation go to There were also many elected officials there including Cook County Comissioner Larry Suffredin, State Representatives Harry Osterman and Julie Hamos, and four members of the Evanston City Council.

Another political demonstration came just over the city line in south suburban Riverdale, where Rev. Jesse Jackson led a rally outside Chuck's Gun Shop, a Jackson spokeswoman said. The store has been a target of protesters, who call it a source of weapons used in crimes.

Though the crowd denounced what they called too-easy access to guns, store owner John Riggio responded that with firearm owners' cards and background checks, it is the government that determines who is eligible to buy a weapon.

"It's pretty hard to predict where it will go when it goes out the door," he said.


Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune has written a powerful statement bringing light to our efforts in the May 31, 2007 edition of his column.  As usual, he is continuing the discussion on his blog.  We encourage you to post your comments and provide feedback on this important issue of abolishing Life Without Parole in Illinois. The appropriate role of victims' voices in public discussion of sentencing issues is being debated there.

To read more about the threat to Life Without Parole in Illinois, click here to go to the Long Term Prisoner Study section of our website.

From the Rockford Register Star

Published: April 20, 2007

COLUMNIST: Judy Emerson
‘Trauma is always in the now,’ even if it’s years old

It’s silly, nationally known victims’ advocate Jennifer Jenkins admits, but she sees parallels between processing traumatic memories and what happens in the familiar “I Love Lucy” episode where the ditzy heroine works at a candy factory wrapping chocolates streaming by on a conveyor belt.

“As the candy is coming along nice and slow, she can neatly wrap them and get them moving on down the line, but as they come faster and faster, all she can do is grab them and shove them in her mouth and in her pockets and down her shirt,” Jenkins said.

So it is with traumatic memories. The horrific news and awful images come at homicide victims’ loved ones so unexpectedly that there’s no logical place to put the information in the brain.

“They are in shock,” said Jenkins, who started to advocate for victims and their families. “There is no time or ability to process information in any pattern, which is why it stays with you forever. Later on down the line, when anything comes up that’s the smallest reminder, it brings it back in a visceral way.”

Jenkins and her husband, Bill, author of “What to Do When the Police Leave,” will speak at the annual Homicide Survivors’ Support Group Memorial Service next week. This year’s service is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Riverside Community Church, 6816 N. Second St., Machesney Park. Participants are asked to bring a picture of the person who died, and each victim will be recognized.

Anyone who has suffered a traumatic loss is welcome, even it was a long time ago. Last year, 32 victims were represented and remembered in a candle-lighting ceremony and balloon release, said Barb Stone, a victims advocate with the Winnebago County state’s attorney’s office.

“There were people who came whose loved ones were murdered 20 years ago,” said Stone, who helps organize the annual event. “My feedback was that they were grateful because they feel it’s not forgotten. They still have an opportunity to put a face to the loss.”

Jennifer Jenkins’ sister, brother-in-law and their unborn child were slain in 1990 in a home invasion. Bill Jenkins’ 16-year-old son had been on the job at a fast-food restaurant for only two days when he was shot and killed by an armed robber in 1997.

“My trauma is 17 years old and I still can’t tell the story without bursting into tears,” Jennifer Jenkins said. “Trauma is always in the now, which is why you don’t get over it.

“My husband likens it to a sleeping tiger that you as a victim have to spend all your life tiptoeing around. The tiger is always at your feet, and you don’t know when he will wake up and be right there in your face with claws and fangs.”

Bill and Jennifer, who met and married after their individual traumas, will tell their stories at Wednesday’s ceremony and go through a checklist of what survivors can do to try to deal with the loss. They also will talk about victims’ rights and what families should expect from the justice system.

They are particularly concerned about an effort in Illinois by prisoner-advocacy groups to change sentencing laws in a way that could result in early release for hundreds of inmates serving life or long-term sentences for heinous crimes.

For more information about the Homicide Survivors’ Support Group, which meets monthly, or about the ceremony, call Carol Peterson McFeggan, 815-877-6788.

Support Group Offers Help to Victims' Families

April 27, 2007
By Smita Kalokhe
13 News

The loss of a sibling, spouse, or child is perhaps one of the most trying emotional hurdles a person faces. But the aftermath of homicide, including bringing a criminal to justice, can complicate the grieving process even more. An event in Machesney Park aims to help the healing.

Death isn't easy no matter what side of the police tape you're on. For the second annual Homicide Survivors' Support Group memorial service, families and investigators came together to honor the victims. Gerri Flynn, who's son Eric was murdered, says, "It's an opportunity to bring together those who suffered a unique loss."

Eric was killed more than 2 years ago. Today, Gerri finds comfort as she consoles others who have experienced similar pain. "Let them know they're supported, cared about. Their loved ones are remembered."

Dozens of people gathered at Riverside Community Church to keep victims' memories alive. Pastor Bill Kerr says, "We just hope they know their loved one isn't forgotten."

Each candle lit, each balloon released, a tribute to one of them and a reminder to never forget.

But the grieving doesn't end here, and neither does the support, especially for families concerned about the court system. Bill Jenkins, who founded, says, "Legislation started to appear in Springfield that would alter the sentences of people who were long term prisoners."

The bill doesn't require victim's families to be notified of the changes, so Jenkins founded a group dedicated to keeping victims up to date. "We decided that if they weren't going to do it, somebody had to. So we formed the website as a venue for coming out."

The Homicide Survivors' Support Group started up about three years ago. It meets every month and is open to any one who is grieving.

copyright WREX, 2007

April 23, 2007

Announcing the Launch of VictimLaw

In case you had difficulty with the previously sent hyperlink, please try the link below; it should activate smoothly.

Dear Colleague:

Today the National Center for Victims of Crime launched VictimLaw , a comprehensive, on-line database of state, federal, and tribal victims' rights laws and protections, developed with funding from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

VictimLaw is a unique and groundbreaking resource, offering free, user-friendly access to information that until now has been difficult to locate. The database ncludes more than 15,000 victims' rights statutes (state and federal), tribal laws, constitutional amendments, court rules, and administrative code provisions. Future additions to the database will include state attorney general opinions and summaries of court decisions related to victims' rights. VictimLaw will offer regular updates to the information in the database.

Researchers can search under each of the following rights: the right to attend, to compensation, to enforcement, to be heard, to be informed, to protection, to restitution, and to the return of property. VictimLaw offers four ways to search: by topic, legal term, jurisdiction, and citation. Visit at  

The launch of VictimLaw coincides with National Crime Victims' Rights Week, April 22-28, an annual observance commemorated in communities throughout the country.

For more information about VictimLaw and opportunities to promote use of the database, please see  

The Washington Post published an editorial recently questioning the need for rights for victims.  Here is our response:

A Response to Where Victims' Rights Go Wrong:

I am troubled by the patronizing tone and misinformation in the editorial "Where Victims' Rights Go Wrong" (Barry Boss, Monday, April 23, 2007). I am a murder victims family member, active in victim advocacy, and in the spirit of this national week that we try to pay attention to the needs and concerns of victims, especially one week after the Virginia Tech tragedy that has traumatized the nation, one has to question the wisdom of the message, and the timing of this article. Red flags should go up anytime anyone says "I sympathize with victims . . .BUT . . .".

Further, the author is quite wrong - the right to speak in court (victim impact statements), the right to consult (be told what the prosecution is planning and share their own points of view) and the right to be supported and informed throughout the entire trial is NOT tantamount to being on the prosecution team.

Victims remain some of the most neglected members in our society and the advances in recognition of victims rights do not even come close to placing victims in a position of inappropriate "influence" on the cases being tried.

One need look no farther than the current headlines in Chicago where States Attorney Richard Devine has sought the death penalty in the infamous Brown's Chicken murders in Palatine, despite the fact that the victims families, 5 out of 7 of them, want no death penalty in that case.

And victims families will often want harsher sentences, as well, for the offenders. It is not uncommon that victims will feel that no punishment can be hard enough, because often it can never come close to what they have suffered.

These cases are always tempered by the full and whole judicial process that represents the entire citizenry.

Mr. Boss is a defense attorney who clearly has come to see victims families as the enemy, likely because he has not been properly trained how to understand and react to their trauma.

I have worked in training with Defense Attorneys so that they can learn to understand and not be threatened by victims' trauma. They must learn not to see them as adversaries in the case, but, if the victims so choose, as participants.

It is incredibly important to remember that victims were made participants in the case by the choices of the offender, not by their own choice.

Even the most basic understanding of psychology reveals the deepest links between the well-being of the victims and the fate of the offender. That horrible relationship, created by the offender, has to be handled with the utmost compassion and delicacy and respect.

Victims Rights are Human Rights. We cannot expect the human and constitutional rights of the offenders to be respected in any system that does not also respect the rights of the victims.

Victims need to know what is going on with their case. They need to feel heard. They need support. They need to be able to understand.

And offenders have rights - the right to counsel, trial, due process, all of the constitutional protections.

And if all those things happen, then the judicial system, which does not and should not make decisions based on what are the wishes of the victims families alone, but on what is just for society as a whole, can know that it has helped to heal the injuries done when people choose to do evil things - to hurt each other.

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins

And the original editorial:

Where Victims' Rights Go Wrong

Washington Post By Barry Boss
Monday, April 23, 2007; A17

Since 1981, the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime has dedicated a week in April to recognizing crime victims' rights. The week -- this year's observance began yesterday -- is usually marked by rallies, candlelight vigils and other activities intended to promote victims' rights and to honor crime victims and those who work on their behalf.

Victims deserve the recognition that this week provides, and they deserve sympathy and compensation for their losses. But I am increasingly concerned about what I believe they do not deserve, which is the right to serve as de facto prosecutors, a practice that is quietly insinuating itself into the legal system.

Our desire to increase victims' rights is closely related to our national obsession with being "tough on crime." While this mantra makes for good political rhetoric, it often leads to illogical and irrational criminal justice policies. Being "tough on crime" has led to harsh mandatory minimum sentences in federal drug cases that have disproportionately punished minorities. It has resulted in first-time offenders serving life sentences even though their crimes involved no weapon and resulted in no physical injuries; in 6-year-olds being arrested for tantrums at school; and, worst of all, in innocent people on death row.

Courts have increasingly become more cognizant of the rights of victims. In 1996, restitution became mandatory for a variety of federal crimes. In 2002, Congress provided the victims of violent crimes and sexual abuse the right to speak at a defendant's sentencing, even though courts already had latitude in any kind of case to permit victims to speak at sentencing or to receive information from victims before sentences were imposed. And last year, the issue reached the Supreme Court in a murder case in which the victim's supporters had attended the trial wearing buttons that displayed a picture of the victim (the court avoided addressing whether such conduct is prejudicial).

The latest manifestation of our "tough on crime" policy comes in the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which will implement the 2004 Crime Victims' Rights Act. One U.S. district judge ruled that the statute renders victims "independent participant[s] in the proceedings" and "commands that victims should be treated equally with the defendant, defense counsel, and the prosecutor."

Under the act, victims have the right to be heard in court on questions of bond, plea agreements and sentencing, and they have the right to confer with prosecutors about a case. If victims are unhappy with how a prosecutor or trial court has treated them, they are permitted to seek relief in the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the appellate court must rule on their application within 72 hours (an unprecedented remedy).

Thus, under the act, victims at a minimum become a member of the prosecution team and, indeed, have significant leverage over the professional prosecutors. The president and many in Congress support an amendment for crime victims' rights that would incorporate several of these points into the Constitution.

While we may support the notion that victims' rights should be at least as strong as those of defendants, within the context of the criminal justice system these rights are mutually exclusive. Any rights provided to the victim must come at the expense of the rights provided to a defendant. Indeed, providing the victim with a role in the prosecution assumes a crime has been committed, despite the bedrock constitutional proposition that the accused is presumed innocent.

When we turn victims into members of the prosecution team, we distort a process, so carefully constructed more than 200 years ago, that eschewed vigilante justice or prosecution for personal ends in favor of prosecution by the sovereign with significant rights afforded to the accused. We expect prosecutors to make decisions about whom to prosecute and what types of sentences to seek based on myriad considerations, including, but far from limited to, the interests of victims. Where victims play a controlling role in the prosecution, the consideration of those factors no longer focuses on what is best for society but rather on what victims need or want as "justice."

I sympathize with individuals victimized by criminals. I understand their anger, outrage and desire for vengeance, particularly when faced with the kind of malevolence displayed last week at Virginia Tech. Securing assistance and compensation for victims is an unquestionable priority, and we need to promote healing to the greatest extent possible.

But the criminal justice system cannot focus on the victim; rather, it must follow its rich tradition of protecting society as a whole, ensuring that justice is achieved in accordance with the Constitution. As we appropriately focus on improving the plight of crime victims this week, let's not forget about the plight of the falsely accused or of the criminal justice system itself.

The writer, a criminal defense lawyer in Washington, is a former assistant federal public defender and former co-chairman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission's Practitioners' Advisory Group

OJP Observes National Crime Victims' Rights Week

In observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, April 22-28, 2007, Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, has issued the following message:

"As we observe the 27th Annual National Crime Victims' Rights Week, our hearts go out to the families of those killed and injured at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. We share their loss and their pain. Fortunately, we live in an America where love and sympathy extend beyond idle emotion, and take the form of kindness, support, and a comforting hand. We are working with law enforcement, victims' advocates, and others in the Blacksburg area and across the country to provide services to those affected by the tragedy at the university on April 16.

"Although we take just one week to bring the public's attention to crime victims, recent events are an unfortunate reminder that violent crime and its impact on individuals and communities is an important issue every day of the year.

"We will remember and honor the victims in Blacksburg and all those who have suffered losses because of violence when we gather in Washington, DC, for our National Observance and Candlelight Ceremony on April 19. Our guest speaker at the Candlelight Ceremony will be Mark Lunsford, whose young daughter Jessica was murdered in 2005, and who since has become a staunch advocate for protecting children. On April 20, we will present awards to recognize the courage, generosity, and compassion of crime victims and advocates around the nation. We also will be supporting events around the nation to recognize victims' rights.

"We all are saddened by the magnitude of the tragedy in Blacksburg and, yet, we remain hopeful that the programs we support will help make our communities safer and, when necessary, our efforts will bring comfort to the victims who need our assistance."



April 22 – 28, 2007 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The theme for this year is “Victims’ Rights: Every Victim, Every Time.”  As victims, and survivors, we strongly support efforts to ensure that the needs of victims’ don’t fall through the cracks or fall prey to politics.

 The death penalty does not serve victims’ families.  It draws resources away from needed support programs, law enforcement and crime prevention.  And the trials and appeals endlessly re-open wounds as they are beginning to heal, and it only creates more families who lose loved ones to killing.

 Alternatives to the death penalty provide the certainty and punishment that many families need while keeping our communities safe.  Critically, alternatives ensure attention is cast where it is needed most – on the survivors – and not on sensational trials or suspects.

 As murder victim family members we also share the same concerns as other Americans with the death penalty.  We are concerned about innocent people being sentenced to death, about racial and economic disparities and about arbitrariness.  But for us the stakes are higher because an innocent person might be executed in a misguided attempt to give us justice.  Losing one innocent life to murder is one too many, the taking of another innocent life because of the first is beyond comprehension.

 Those who argue for the death penalty often claim to do so on behalf of us, the victims’ families.  They say it will give us “closure.”  We don’t want the death penalty, and closure is a myth.  Every victim, every time needs help, understanding, resources, and support.  We don’t need more killing. 

Pat Clark
Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation

 Bill Pelke
Journey of Hope 

Renny Cushing
Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights

City council delays vote on amended gun law

Family's murder prompts two sisters to speak out for restrictive gun laws to remain
The Daily Northwestern 7-30-08   Berlin, Kyle

Evanston aldermen motioned to delay a vote on an amended handgun law after several advocates from pro-gun control groups spoke before the council, asking that the council wait to make a decision until more amendments to the law were considered.

After a recent US Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, ruled D.C.'s handgun ban unconstitutional, the NRA sued municipalities around the country, including Chicago, Morton Grove, Oak Park and Evanston, that had similar bans on the private possession of operative handguns. In order to avoid the costs of a lawsuit that some Aldermen viewed as unwinnable, the council voted unanimously to repeal the city's 27-year-old ban. Although the council was scheduled to vote on a new, revised ordinance, Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) called for more time for discussion when it came time to vote.

This delay followed impassioned testimony by three pro-gun control advocates, two of whom had a personal connection with gun violence.

Jeanne Bishop, Medill '81, who was accompanied by her sister Jennifer, told the council of the story of her sister, Nancy Bishop, who was murdered, along with her husband and unborn child, in their home in Winnetka in 1990. The perpetrator was a local teenager who got a hold of his lawyer's handgun, Jeanne Bishop said. "(The teenager) got a hold of a legally owned handgun in an unlocked drawer and a few days later, my family members were dead. We can't simply repeal this ordinance and not have in place very tough restrictions," she said.

Jeanne and Jennifer Bishop have both devoted their lives in the aftermath of their sisters' murder to advocating for restrictive gun ownership laws and helping victims of gun violence. Jeanne is the head of the North Suburban Chicagoland Chapter of the Million Mom March, a non-profit organization devoted to preventing gun deaths and injuries, and Jennifer is the national program director for victims and survivors for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Jennifer Bishop pointed out that the council has a record of supporting victims of gun violence.
"At the two-month anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre several of you all laid down with us and other gun violence victims right in your town square in solidarity with victims of gun violence," Jennifer Bishop said. "I hope you will wait ... I hope you'll find a good way to solicit input from your residents so that you can make a fully informed, rational decision - not out of haste or fear, as other communities, I'm afraid, have done - but to do something that truly reflects the will of the specific circumstances of a city like Evanston."

Jeanne Bishop cited the example of Wilmette, which recently voted to repeal their gun ban even though the NRA has not filed a lawsuit against the village. She noted that the Supreme Court decision has not yet been applied to any non-federal municipalities and that any test cases could take years of legislation to push through the court system. The council should not make any decisions until they are forced to, she said.

"In the meantime," she said, "why rush? The NRA is saying, 'we'll sue you if you don't repeal this.' And my question is, 'do we want the NRA to dictate Evanston's policy on handguns?' or, 'do we want the safety of Evanston residents to dictate the policy on handguns?' To me, it's a no-brainer."

Halloween Decorations Can Be Difficult for the Grieving

From the Chicago Tribune Letters to the Editor,0,929372.story

Halloween decorations no fun for the grieving
October 25, 2008
This time of the year, the world around us is plagued with various aspects of death. There are dummies hanging from trees, gory monsters jumping out to scare people and tombstones planted on lawns.

Some of these Halloween decorations can upset people who are surviving the tragic death of a loved one from suicide, community violence or military service. For them, there is absolutely no lightheartedness to these images. It can anger survivors to have images of death portrayed in such a fashion.

I counseled a surviving spouse years ago. She had found her husband hanging in the garage. After months of counseling, she was coming to grips with his death. Halloween came along and her neighbors put up a dummy hanging from the gutters. This woman would sit in her favorite chair after a long day and she would have to look right at the Halloween decoration. This upset her, and I suggested that she talk to her neighbor. She did, and the neighbor was very embarrassed and quickly removed the decoration.

I don't think that people want to go around hurting grieving people. It just takes a little education and a gentle reminder and most people are going to respond positively.

This Halloween, think about the feelings of people around you who are hurting and may see no humor in a lighthearted portrayal of death.

—Rev. Charles T. Rubey, associate director of programs, Catholic Charities, Chicago