An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Kelly Brodie
Interview Transcript

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Interview Transcript

timecode Seymour: Thank you, Kelly, for joining the OVC Oral History Project. I want to start by just asking you for the record would you mind saying and spelling your name?

timecode Brodie: Kelly Brodie, K-E-L-L-Y, B-R-O-D-I-E.

timecode Seymour: Great. Thank you, Kelly. Can you start by just giving me a brief history of crime victim compensation in the United States?

timecode Brodie: 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.

timecode Seymour: The--say we're talking '65, that was way before VOCA...

timecode Brodie: Yes.

timecode Seymour: How was it funded? I mean, how did you get money to compensate victims?

timecode Brodie: Well, in California it was always set up as an offender based funding stream. So we received funding from criminal fines and penalties that have increased over the years as our benefits have grown. But the... the program was always set up based on the philosophy that offenders should pay for the damages that they caused to their victims.

timecode Seymour: And Kelly, I know you're not from California. How and why did you first get involved in the crime victims' movement?

timecode Brodie: Well, I started in Corrections. I started in, probation and parole and then moved into, working as a prison guard in a women's prison in the 1980s. And after having done, Corrections for several years, I decided that that was not my area of interest. I was finding I was much too empathetic with the prisoners and not complying with kind of the strict punishment mentality that was in effect at that time. So I went back to graduate school, got my Master's degree. And as part of my graduate studies I did an internship when Iowa received their first VOCA grant. And so 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. And after having spent six months setting up the process for the VOCA grants, I graduated, got my Master's degree and subsequent to that they moved the VOCA program to another agency because the first agency no longer was interested in housing it.

timecode And I was hired as a half time VOCA Grant Administrator under the new agency. So I gradually we worked into a full-time position with the VOCA Grant Program and I did that for I guess three years. And then I accepted a job over in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. I went over there as a Department of Justice consultant, I guess. Although I was... I was an employee of the government over there to set up their Juvenile Justice Program and VOCA Victim Assistance Program.

timecode Seymour: Wow. When you got in the field, I mean okay '85 you were an intern, what was the field like then, Kelly, including the context of the era? I mean, it was 20 years ago.

timecode Brodie: The field was very underdeveloped. We did have direct victim services for domestic abuse and sexual assault and limited services for child abuse. But there was no real coalition or statewide networking of victim service providers. The domestic abuse programs were probably--domestic abuse and sexual assault were organized within their own constituent groups but not on a statewide level.

timecode Seymour: Looking at, you know program start ups that you did VOCA, COMP Juvenile which is really cool, I didn't know that about you, what is the greatest challenge that you and your colleagues faced almost 20 years ago in affecting change for crime victims?

timecode Brodie: I think 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 system could work together, how we could afford rights to the victim without diminishing the rights to the offender, and trying to carve out concern for and a niche for victims within that very rigid criminal justice system.

timecode Seymour: Great. What were some of the secrets, Kelly, or the strategies that you all used in the early days that were successful? And if you don't mind I know in Iowa you all pioneered the really working with the Department of Corrections to get funding for victim services, which is pretty wild back then. Can you talk about some of the strategies you employed and maybe talk about that as well?

timecode Brodie: Well, the system that we ultimately ended up with in Iowa was the result of a lot of painful friction between the different advocacy groups and constituent groups. When I first started in compensation I didn't think I would ever work in compensation because I had very hard feelings about the compensation program as a result of my work in the victim assistance field. And it was only through chance that I ended up in compensation when I came back from the Northern Mariana Islands. I thought I never wanted to work in this particular arena because I saw compensation as a bureaucratic structure that was almost a payment for prosecution oriented, very adversarial process for victims. But in the year that I was gone, they ultimately consolidated all of the victim service programs in Iowa. They were in four or five different departments prior to my leaving. And through the effective work of advocates and crime victims, they were able to convince the legislature that they really deserved an offic--or a state level office for victims that would be devoted to their interest and one that would change the compensation structure to make it serve their needs.

timecode And so when I returned from Saipan, they had just consolidated the programs about a week before I came back and I had the opportunity to go work in the new agency in the Attorney General's Office. We were very fortunate in that the Attorney General of Iowa has... has a very strong customer service and constituent focus and he allowed us to create a victim centered agency that included participation, you know, between all of the impacted individuals from crime victims to their advocates and... and the legislature and Department of Corrections. Having his support allowed us to bring that coalition of people together to really create what I thought was a model program. And...

timecode Seymour: And who was he? What was his name?

timecode Brodie: Tom Miller. Attorney General Miller. And he continues to lead that the Attorney General's Office in that mission. He's become very passionate about victim issues because of his experience listening to victims and participating in the crime victims' program. And so through that effort we started surveying crime victims and talking to homicide survivors and identifying what their unmet needs were. And with their help and their work as being part of our Board, we created very victim-centered compensation program. And through those efforts I became very passionate about compensation. That it did not need to be a bureaucratic structure. It didn't need to be an adversarial relationship between us and the victim and us and the advocates that served them. And I took that mission to the National Association because I was at that point running into a lot of resistance at the national level. There weren't a lot of victim advocates that were representative in the compensation programs. And it took me a number of years through the National Association to really start to see positive change for victims.

timecode Seymour: National Association, can you tell us a little bit. Dan Eddy's been doing this a while.

timecode Brodie: He started the year before I did. He started and he was one of the first people that I met because he was working for the National Association of Attorneys General. And since we were newly formed within the Attorney General's Office, we had that connection to NAAG. And he started in 1988. And so he moved over to the Association. I asked Dan who could help us, you know, reform our program and who would be a good ally to work with in compensation and he pointed us to our neighboring state Wisconsin. And that's where I first met, Rich Anderson who's now our Chief Deputy here. And with his strong Midwestern values and his passion for victim services, he was really very helpful for us as we... as we tried to define our role in Iowa. So he became a partner with me in that regard. And then he also became a partner as we tried to advocate change at the national level.

timecode Seymour: And do you see that as the purpose of the National Association in the early days because there were states without programs and also with nascent programs? What was the role of the National Association and leaders like you and... and... and Rich?

timecode Brodie: To provide networking and training and technical assistance. We...even though we each have a little bit different state laws, there--the majority of our underlying principles are common among all of the states. And rather than trying to work in isolation and create a state-specific policy, Dan has always been really good about hooking us up with other, you know, our counterparts in other states who have dealt with a similar issue or who are currently dealing with a similar issue. And through that networking I think we've be--been able to improve our policies nationwide and to develop a consistent attitude and philosophy. And that was our only opportunity for training that was specific to our work. A lot of the train--other training opportunities were... are more general victim issues, which I found very helpful because I hadn't had a lot of exposure to... to broader victim related issues. But compensation, it's like having-- it's a very unique relationship that we share among the other states and to help affect the change.

timecode Seymour: If you were gonna have to identify one greatest accomplishment that's promoted victims' rights and needs since you got in the field '85, what would that be?

timecode Brodie: I think increased funding and both at the state and Federal level. And that has allowed us to expand our services to meet the needs of victims. And although it's still inadequate and we have gaps in services and we don't have comprehensive services across the country for all crime victims, it has allowed us to make dramatic improvements in our services to victims.

timecode Seymour: Looking at the future of our field, Kelly, what do you think is needed today and in the future to continue our growth, our professionalism? Or is there anything missing that's gonna keep us sort of propelling forward, if you will?

timecode Brodie: Well, I'm still concerned that in a lot of states the constitutional amendments are just words on the paper and that victim rights have not been made a reality in all states and certainly not at the Federal level. And I think to really ensure equitable treatment of crime victims and integration in the justice system, we need to make those rights a reality across the country.

timecode Seymour: A lot of people are newer to our field than we are, than us old buffaloes. What advice would you give to professionals and volunteers who have more recently joined our field who don't really know the... the history of the past 30 years?

timecode Brodie: I think the history is really important but the one thing that I tell all of the staff that work here and the... and the staff or the individuals in the other states they really have to listen to the voices of the victims. 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 that they need. And too many times we don't do that.

timecode Seymour: Do you have any vision for the future of our field, Kelly?

timecode Brodie: My one vision, well I've got a lot of visions, but my one vision is 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.

timecode Seymour: September 11th, 2001, I had the opportunity in the immediate month that followed to work with the eight impact states including California and it was a--it felt rather extraordinary what you did here in this state and remains to this day, in my mind, pretty remarkable. Can you just tell us a little bit about how you were initially contacted and your role as a compensation organization but also working with OVC?

timecode Brodie: At first, when the attacks occurred I didn't think about the impact on California. And as you know Aileen Adams, is living here now and she's the Agency Secretary that I report to and work directly with. And within an hour or two of the attacks, Aileen called and asked me what we were doing to help the California victims. Since all of the the four airlines or airplanes were headed here, she knew that we would have a number of California families that were impacted by that event. And initially I had told her well I don't think we need to do anything. New York will take care of them. Well after I talked to the New York program, I knew that was not going to be the best answer. And so within a day of the attacks, we drafted special legislation that would allow us to take primary jurisdiction over any California family member who had a victim who was impacted or any California victim who was impacted regardless of their state of residence. And typically we're the payer of second resor--or the secondary payer after the state in which the crime occurred helps the victim.

timecode In this particular case, we wanted to take primary jurisdiction to alleviate the burden on New York and make sure that our family members got help. We also included in that legislation mental health counseling for all of the California search and rescue workers who went to the scenes of the terrorist attacks. I was particularly concerned about the search and rescue workers after looking at the long-term impact that that had had on the rescue workers who had assisted in Oklahoma City.

timecode And so we added mental health benefits for the search and rescue workers. We expanded the definition of who qualified as a family member. Prior to that we had a pretty narrow definition of family members and we wanted to make sure that we included domestic partners, in-laws, you know children, step children, the whole range of family members that we typically see now. And then we also sent a donation to the New York compensation program. So within one day, we gutted and amended, that's what we call our legislative process, we gutted and amended the Hate Crimes Bill that we had been trying to get through the legislature for two years. And it was very near and dear to Aileen's heart but we were in the closing week of the legislature. And so we had to take a bill that was still out there that we could amend. We eliminated the hate crimes provisions and put these provisions in. And I forgot, we also added money for hate or group crisis counseling and hate crimes tolerance education because we were concerned that there was going to be a backlash against the Muslim community. We knew we had hundreds of people at the LA Airport and the San Francisco Airport that were in crises. So we added money for those two things as well.

timecode And within one day, after the bill was introduced, it had unanimously passed our Assembly and Senate and the Governor signed it on September 17. And so from September 17, forward we have been actively involved with all of the family members. We're currently working with about 400 family members, whose loved ones died; about forty individuals who were in the towers and escaped the towers with psychological and physical injury; and 300 search and rescue workers who responded to the sites. Our initial contact with the families and the search and rescue workers were on October 9 of 2001. The Governor wanted to hold a statewide memorial recognizing the impact this had had on all of California. And so he tasked us with finding these folks and inviting them to the memorial. And by October 9, we had located well over 300 family members who had been impacted. They came up to the Capitol and at that point we thought that was going to be our only involvement with the families. But when we got all of the families up here and we had the opportunity to talk with them, they asked us you know to please provide ongoing support and services for 'em. They felt very isolated being here with the majority of the attention being focused on the East Coast. And they personally asked the Governor if he would let us help them.

timecode And he, of course, said,"Yes." And so immediately following the day of remembrance we identified 5 staff members who we appointed as case mangers. And they started communicating with the family members about what their needs were. Through our communication with the family members we learned about problems they were having with the charities, legal problems they were having, custody problems they were having, problems they were having with their loved ones, employers. I mean just a myriad of problems that they were having. And through those discussions we set up weekly conference calls with all of the charities -- Red Cross, United Way, both the local chapters as well as the two organizations in New York that had been created to coordinate the benefits. And every Friday we would get on the phone with the charities and advocate on behalf of our families and... and were--ended up being very successful in getting both Red Cross and United Way to assist the families. We also through those discussions with the victims realized that they needed legal assistance. There were too many issues that we were unfamiliar with and unable to advise them on.

timecode And so we worked with the Bar Association of California and the local Bar Associations in San Francisco and Los Angeles to develop a pro bono attorney program for the families. And currently we have close to 300 family members who are being provided with pro bono legal assistance through some of our largest law firms in California. The legal community really rose to the challenge and agreed to help these families. And of course these law firms, most of them had never interacted with a crime victim in their life and so they were rather terrified. And we've done a couple of trainings with them on victimization related issues, trauma issues, how to talk with and respond to the family members. And I think that all of the attorneys that are working with the families, have really grown through that experience. And I just was very pleased at the outpouring of support from the legal community. And then we've continued with the help of two grants from OVC to provide ongoing support group meetings for the family members and the search and rescue workers. We received the first year we received a $200,000 grant from the anti terrorism fund to provide monthly support groups for the families and we currently have a support group every month in the San Francisco area and then one in Orange County, southern California, and we're working with a wonderful group of therapists form the University of San Francisco. They were funding a pilot program through our compensation program with the University of San Francisco, a trauma recovery program for underserved victims of crime and they agreed to take on the work of providing the support groups for the September 11 and search and rescue workers as well. (Tape Change)

timecode Seymour: Kelly, after September 11th, a lot of things sort of came together very, very quickly in a way that still surprises me from my vantage point. Could you just talk a little bit about how and why you think that all happened with OVC, the impact states, some other folks who just kind of made things happen, including yourself?

timecode Brodie: Dan and I start...once we agree to take primary jurisdiction of any California family member or California victim that raised issues about coordination of benefits between the different states that were impacted, we had California residents that were at the Pentagon, California residents that were on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. And we wanted to make sure that we weren't duplicating services between the multiple states that were involved with trying to provide assistance to the families. And through that effort Dan requested that OVC help us coordinate and define the role for each of the states who had impacted family members. And as a result of that we also had a weekly conference call with OVC and Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, New Jersey and New York to try to ensure that we were coordinating benefits and not duplicating payments. And we were also able through those conference calls to identify funding that we needed through the anti-terrorism monies.

timecode And I know that a number of states, you know, receive monies for that through the anti-terrorism grants in addition to California. I'm not as well versed in what the other states use the money for. I think primarily their funds were used to offset the amount of compensation that they were having to provide to the family members. We chose to use ours for direct services. Now the second-year grant we do have some direct compensation dollars that were included in that as well as the continuation of our support groups, but we had a number of families who had unmet, loss of support needs or additional mental health needs that OVC provided additional funding for through that supplement grant.

timecode Seymour: And you know, I don't even want to think about the event of another terrorist act, but do you think the work that you and your staff and others have done have I'm not sure how to ask this question. How has this work, I think, helped us think ahead if, God forbid, something else happens, there's now some processes that are in place. I mean do you think this has been, the good response is gonna be helpful in the future?

timecode Brodie: Yes, but I think we need to quickly capture those lessons learned. Several years ago after the school shootings started, we at the compensation or, through the Compensation Association created a mass protocol or a crisis response protocol for incidents of mass violence. And that was primarily geared towards smaller incidents, which at the time seemed like massive incidents, Columbine, Jonesboro, Oklahoma City. However, in looking back at that protocol during September 11th, I found that it was really not sufficient to address all of the issues that we were confronted with during September 11th, primarily now coordination among victim services and the rest of the disaster response systems. You know, offices of emergency services have their own protocols for responding to crises. Now we have homeland security and a whole range of other agencies that are cropping up to deal with terrorism. And it's critical that victim services be integrated into those disaster plans across the country and that in California we've been able to leverage our role in September 11th to get involved in and part of the disaster recovery plan, which is really remarkable.

timecode But most states haven't even thought about that. And as I understand it OVC just provided or in the very near future will provide a grant to the National Association to update our mass crises protocol and build in the lessons learned from 9/11. I mean, I've got probably 8,000 e-mails just from that one event and a bookcase of, you know, issues and lessons learned. And we need to get all of that recorded so that the next time a massive incident occurs we're better prepared to respond quickly.

timecode Seymour: Kelly, is there anything else that I haven't asked you that you want to add in terms of anything we've talked about, compensation, the field of victim services in general?

timecode Brodie: Well, I guess my one fear and... and I'll close with this, I'm really concerned about the impact of the state and Federal budget crisis on the continued funding of victim services. And one of the things that we've seen over the years that I've been involved in this field, is that when money becomes scarce that creates division within the field. And for instance, because our compensation payments in California have increased so significantly the last three years, our Federal grant has gone up from $22 million in 2000, to $44 million this year and $64 million next year. And that increase has a negative impact on funding for VOCA victim assistance because less money rolls over from the compensation dollars to the available victim assistance dollars. And we need to start planning for those decreases in funding. I'm at the state level and I haven't seen this at the Federal level yet, but we're already running into competition for funding. And, you know, funding streams being changed and things hap, you know, these things happening in the dark of night that we're not well, you know, that we're not tracking. And I just am really concerned that the funding will diminish and that we'll start to see division in the field and I really hope that we can find some way to continue to collaborate and build partnerships because we still have gaps in services and unmet victim needs.