Across California, correctional staff and the incarcerated population raised funds and awareness while supporting April’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The following represents only a sample of these events.
DJJ, former incarcerated youth gather at Capitol
As part of restorative justice and giving back to the community during National Crime Victims Week, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) staff, along with formerly incarcerated youth from the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), took part in a march at the State Capitol. The youth helped set up various booths and assisted with other tasks. DJJ also donated $8,000 to Victims of Murdered Children and the Luis G. Alvarez Foundation.
Submitted by Mike Sicilia, DJJ Deputy Press Secretary
CIM hosts crime victims’ symposium
On April 28, California Institution for Men (CIM) held a symposium for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Both CIM staff and incarcerated people participated.
CIM Community Resource Office, in collaboration with Healing Dialogue and Action, welcomed five crime survivors. There were five groups sharing stories, helping with acceptance, to move forward with healing.
The surviving victims as well as the participating incarcerated population expressed their gratitude and appreciation to all CIM staff who participated, including Warden (A) John Merchant and his executive team.
Submitted by Lt. Manuel Vega
CTF supporting Crime Victims’ Rights Week with 4 events
The Correctional Training Facility (CTF) staff, incarcerated population and volunteers held their 11th annual National Crime Victims Week events.
Hosted by the Amity Foundation, four events were held at CTF. Throughout the last week of April, the incarcerated population as well as staff listened to victims’ stories. Coming from various backgrounds, they shared their personal experiences of crime impacting their lives.
In addition to the guest speakers, some of the incarcerated population spoke about their crimes. They described first-hand about the trauma, physical pain, emotional suffering and other experiences innocent victims and their family members sustained.
The event’s goals are to:
- give victims a voice
- effect change in the incarcerated population
- prevent future victimization
- provide the incarcerated population with an educational experience contributing to a change in their attitudes and perceptions about their crimes.
By Lt. Wil Landrum
CMC staff raises money for Lumina Alliance
In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the California Men’s Colony (CMC) held a salsa tasting contest on April 23, raising $1,030 dollars to benefit Lumina Alliance of San Luis Obispo.
By following their own recipes and without using commercially produced salsa, CMC employees made gallons of homemade salsa.
The job of dividing the spicy condiment into sample cups fell on CMC records personnel.
As employees arrived to work, they were offered a small bag of tortilla chips and 12 samples of salsa. Donations were accepted, allowing the donor to vote for their favorite salsa.
Lumina Alliance provides around-the-clock assistance to those in crisis due to domestic violence, offering advocacy assistance, emergency shelter, transitional housing, legal services and therapy for those in need.
Submitted by Lt. John Hill
Ventura incarcerated youth hear from crime victims
Multiple events were held at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VCYF), spearheaded by Emily Evans, Victims Services Coordinator.
The week began with an opening ceremony and lunch on April 25. Attendees included VYCF youth and staff, representatives from the Ventura County’s Board of Supervisors and members of the Ventura County Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children.
Aimee Sosa, Senior Victim Advocate from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, spoke of addressing the root causes of violence and trauma while providing knowledge, services and programs to victims.
Heather Abbott-Gonzalez, from Ventura County VOICES, spoke of breaking the cycle of generational sexual abuse and the ripple effect of trauma. Although her daughter was the main victim nine years ago, her son is still dealing with trauma.
Ventura County Parents of Murdered Children speak
“We are willing to endure the pain of what we have lost, speaking up so no one forgets the trauma we endured. We speak out because we want to make a difference,” said Julia Campos.
Cindy Harbor encouraged incarcerated youth to continue their quests for a better life.
“Please make healthy decision for your community and those who love you. Pray for wisdom to make right decisions and the strength to do it,” Harbor said.
Barbara Serrano said the pain continues even two decades later.
“There is nothing that eases my pain after 20 years. I have to live for my daughter and grandson. I need to help whom I can in my son’s name,” she said.
In addition, youth participated in an interactive video session with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Dawnette Kinsley-Smith, Program Director.
Kinsley-Smith, who lost her sister to a drunk driver, shared powerful and encouraging words.
“Choices have a ripple effect with life-ending consequences. Think about all the people you love and how your choices impact those around you. Know you are loved and your life has purpose. Whatever your family trauma, you can change that for yourself,” she said. “Make a plan for whatever you want your future to look like and reach out.”
The experience of sharing the impact of crime had a profound influence on participating youth expressed compassion and remorse.
VCYF incarcerated react to speakers
- “My experience going to the victims conference was very enlightening. I got to hear and understand the struggles and the heartbreaking situations that they and their families were put through. It is very brave and strong for them to speak about what had happened in their families and the pain it caused them. It has motivated me to want to do better even though I can’t change my past or what I’ve done or caused. But, I can do better going forward to change my ways, my environment and the people I surround myself with,” Anh T.
- “I want to thank you for coming and sharing not only your story but your children’s story. That takes a lot of strength and bravery. You have encouraged me to do better things with my time rather than letting my time get the better of me. So thank you again for your courage, strength, vulnerability and your bravery. I hope you know that it did not fall to an empty ear,” Victoria B.
- “Thank you for giving me perspective on how much victimization impacts not just the survivor but the community as well. I would like for the victims to know that we hear your voice, we see your strength, we feel your power and we thank you for helping us along our path of change. Because of your courage to speak, you gave us the courage to change. There is no greater gift than the awakening you have given me,” Josohamy M.
By Karette Fussell, Supervising Casework Specialist
WSP-RC staff walk for victims; incarcerated post letters
This year, Wasco State Prison-Reception Center (WSP-RC) staff were busy supporting National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
On April 25, the District Attorney’s Office had a captive audience of close to 100 staff members. The speakers told staff it was important for them to be their own advocates when they are victims of crime while performing their job duties. Jamila Ha, Deputy District Attorney for Kern County’s prison cases, stressed the importance of how vital it is to write descriptive and detailed reports of incidents on prison grounds.
Also attending was Bakersfield Police Capt. Jeremy Grimes, who is also the board president of Kern County Secret Witness, a non-profit organization. The Secret Witness group provides reward money for information leading to arrests and convictions for crimes committed in Kern County. David Manning from the Open Door Network, previously known as the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, also spoke, outlining services available to victims of domestic violence in Kern County. Other activities included a bake sale and walk-a-thon. Proceeds from both events benefit Kern County Secret Witness.
For the incarcerated population, they wrote notes describing what they have learned about victimizing others while going through the rehabilitation process. Their notes were displayed in the visiting room from April 21-30.
Story by CRM C. Saldana
Submitted by Lt. Joshua Farley