An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Kelly Brodie
Biography & Interview Summary

Picture from Kelly Brodie
Interviewee:Kelly Brodie;
Glenwood, IA
Date of Interview:February 26, 2003
Location:Sacramento, CA

Kelly Brodie




Biography

Kelly Brodie began working in victim services in 1986 as the Iowa VOCA Victim Assistance Administrator. From 1989 to 1999, she worked for the Iowa Attorney General's Victim Compensation Program. Between 1999-2003, she served as the Director of the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. She is currently the Assistant Superintendent for Treatment Support Services at Glenwood Resource Center, a state hospital that serves mentally ill and developmentally disabled residents.

Initial Involvement in the Crime Victims' Movement

Brodie began her career in the corrections field, first as a probation and parole officer, then as a correctional officer in a women's prison. She went to graduate school and received her Master's degree. It was during her internship that she first learned about crime victims' issues. After setting up the VOCA program during her internship, she was hired as a half-time VOCA grant administrator and gradually became a full-time employee.

"As an intern in 1985, I was tasked with setting up the VOCA victim assistance grant program. And back then nobody was really very interested in state government with the VOCA program because the dollar amounts were so low. There was no administrative money and no agency or program wanted to take on that responsibility, so it was delegated down to me as an intern."

Interview Summary

Context of the Era

In 1985, when Brodie was setting up the VOCA assistance program in Iowa, the field was very underdeveloped. Domestic violence and sexual assault programs existed, but there was no other organized state network of victim services. Even the domestic violence and sexual assault programs organized locally and within their own constituent groups.

History of Crime Victim Compensation

Brodie was interviewed while she was the Director of California's compensation program. In her position at the time, she was asked about the history of crime victim compensation in the United States. Brodie recounts the following:

"Well of course I'm not as old as the compensation field is, but California created the first compensation program in 1965. We were having as I understand it, kind of a competition with New York State to see which state could create the first program. And California did create the first program in 1965, followed by New York the following year. And then throughout the 70s we had additional programs and states join the compensation arena. But it wasn't until the mid-1990s that all 50 states had state victim compensation programs."

Brodie also notes that California's compensation was established through an offender-based funding stream from fines and penalties. The philosophy was "offenders should pay for the damages that they caused to their victims."

Greatest Challenge

The early years of Brodie's career presented her with several unique opportunities. In addition to her work in corrections and setting up the Iowa VOCA assistance program, Brodie also traveled to the Northern Mariana Islands to help establish their juvenile justice program and VOCA assistance program. From those early experiences, Brodie recalls:

"I was just trying to impress upon the public and the political powers the importance of integrating the victim into the justice system. There was very little recognition of how victims and the justice systems could work together, how we could afford rights to victims without diminishing the rights of the offender, and trying to carve out concern for and a niche for victims within that very rigid criminal justice system."

Successful Strategies

Before Brodie left Iowa to work in the Northern Mariana Islands, she would have never thought she'd work for the compensation program. She saw "compensation as a bureaucratic structure that was almost a payment for the prosecution-oriented, very adversarial process for victims." After spending a year away, Brodie returned to Iowa to find that through the advocacy of service providers and victims, all of the victim service departments had been combined into a new agency in the Iowa Attorney General's office. Through the leadership of Attorney General Tom Miller, the staff was allowed to create a victim-centered program. They surveyed crime victims to determine their unmet needs. As a result, they created a less bureaucratic and adversarial program. In fact, Iowa's compensation program was one of a few in the country that was represented by a victim advocate. Brodie took her message to the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards. With the support of the Executive Director, Dan Eddy, other compensation programs began to change how they served victims.

Greatest Accomplishment

Brodie sees the increase in funding as the greatest accomplishment in the field. While she recognizes that the funding is still inadequate, and that gaps in services still exist, the funding has made "dramatic improvements in our services to victims."

Continuing the Field's Growth and Professionalism

Brodie would like to see the numerous victims' rights statutes and constitutional amendments enforced on the state and Federal level. Through enforcing existing laws, Brodie believes we will begin to have "equitable treatment of crime victims." Brodie also encourages everyone to remember to listen to crime victims, and take their lead from them.

"We make a lot of assumptions and prejudge what victims need or what we think victims should do and, in many cases, that's not the right way to approach it. We need to listen to the victims and take our lead from them and advocate on their behalf for the things they need. And too many times we don't do that."

Vision for the Future

As the Director of California's compensation program, Brodie played an integral part in the response to the September 11th attacks. Her vision for the future is linked to the response mounted not only by the eight state compensation programs directly involved, but by the entire country:

"I hope some day that all crime victims will get the kind of financial support and emotional support that we provided to the September 11th victims. They have had the benefit of the Federal compensation program, the charity funding and the outpouring of support from the public and I think that has really assisted them in their recovery process. But the majority of victims don't get that kind of support. We've got too many victims who are still alone and without services."

Greatest Fear

Brodie's greatest fear is the impact the current state and Federal budget crises will have on the victim services. In her many years in the field, Brodie has observed first-hand the effect that a lack of funding can have on our field. Sadly, as funding becomes scarce, competition increases that results in divisions within the field. Brodie's hope is that the field will start planning for funding decreases, including finding a way to continue to collaborate with each other.