An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Seymour: I'd like to start off by saying and spelling your name, if you will.
English: My name is Sharon English, S-H-A-R-O-N, E-N-G-L-I-S-H.
Seymour: Sharon, how'd you first get involved in the crime victims' movement or why did you first get involved in the movement?
English: Probably, there were a number of events that happened. And at the time I was a parole agent with the Youth Authority and after you carry a caseload for a long time you sometimes have a rude awakening about what the offenders are really doing. And I do remember, am I, can I say the name of a parolee?
English: Well, I remember one day, it was a parolee that we had really done a lot work with, his name was Anthony Montez. And one more time I had found him a job and I went over to tell him about this job. And I was gonna give him a ride to this new job and his girlfriend was sitting on the... on the curb beaten to a, she was just beaten badly. And she had, her hand had been broken and she was all black and blue. And it turns out that Anthony Montez had decided to... to beat her up that day. She was 14. He was 16. So, but he, that was probably one of the first times when somebody from my caseload was actually victimizing somebody in their family. And I sort of, I remember stopping and thinking, "What am I doing? I keep trying to help this offender and here's this young girl, you know, sitting on the curb just bruised and battered and beaten." And it was about the same time that a lot of the domestic violence awareness was starting. So I think that was probably the first thing. And the second thing, I... I then switched jobs and I was working in Orange County and I was one of the state monitors for money that was going to the counties and to non-profit organizations, primarily for delinquency prevention and community corrections.
And I met a woman named Pam Iles, who is now a judge in Orange County. And she was a prosecutor with the Orange County District Attorney's Office. And she was handling the child abuse caseload. And she got me involved in, when I would go to monitor the program that the state was funding, she would start telling me these, about these horrible cases that she was prosecuting. And then she was on my case about, "Well, you work the Youth Authority. How many of the people in Youth Authority were abused as children and are now you... youthful offenders?" So we started to think... think about that. So now we're about, that was like 1978, I started talking with her and she was confronting me about, "What is it that we know about the victimization of offenders?" And I didn't know anything. So, I started to look into that and Pam really was the one who encouraged me to look at, "What are we doing to help crime victims within the Youth Authority?" And she was so passionate about the issues of... of child abuse that we then teamed up and started to do a number of trainings.
We did trainings actually for the religious community, for school personnel for county social work people and we put together a whole string of different trainings about crime victims. And what I didn't realize at the time is my skill was to set up trainings. And what I was doing indirectly was learning about crime victim issues. So about the same time about, right after that then Jim Rowland was appointed to head the Youth Authority by Governor Deukmejian. And he wanted somebody to focus on crime victim issues and by that time I was raring to go. And I was all pumped up from the people I had met down in Orange County that this was an important field to look at. And Jim Rowland gave me the opportunity to... to make up, actually design, what did he, what did I think the Youth Authority should be doing? Little did I know, I was still pretty naive because I was still focusing on an offender focus about this and about child abuse.
So I went to a meeting at one point and I sat next to a woman named Barbara Bloomberg, who was actually a pretty new volunteer, MADD was fairly new then. This was probably 1982 now and I think MADD started around that time. But Barbara Bloomberg was a... a volunteer with MADD in the Los Angeles chapter. And I happened to set, sit next to her at a meeting and we introduced ourselves. And she looked at me and she said, "So you're with the Youth Authority." And I said, "Oh, yes, I am." And she said, "Well, I'd like to know something about the Youth Authority. I'd like to know, I'd like to find out where an offender is uh... offended by, an offender killed, a drunk driver killed my son. And I would like to know where he is and... and how he's doing. I'd like to know what his program is." And I said, "Well, we can't release information to the general public 'cause these are juvenile offenders."
And she said, "I am not the general public. I am the mother of a dead little boy." Well, that was like my first wham in the face about, wait a minute. We're talking all this stuff, pretending we're developing programs and yeah, we treated the crime victims of the offenders that we had with no respect. We had nothing written. We don't even, we hadn't even thought about what we should do for them. So about 1980, late '80, '83 then we started to develop, "Well, what is it that, what do victims want?" We didn't have the slightest idea. What victims wanted were information. They wanted to know where these institutions were. What did we do there? What are the programs that the young offenders are involved in? Why couldn't they talk to the Parole Board? I didn't know the answer to all that and here I was going around saying, "I'm the coordinator of victims' services." So Barbara Bloomberg, what I'd learned was that if people had issues, my strategy was to bring them... them to the table and say, "What do we do? You gotta help me do this."
You know, I have the access to the Director. He wants to develop a policy. We can get some stuff done, but I need you to tell me what it is we that need to do. So Barbara Bloomberg was one of the original people who sat down with me and... and said, "We need to develop a brochure that is written for crime victims." And we developed that brochure called, He Got CYA, which is mainly what people say whenever you ask, "Well, do you know what happened to the offender?" And people will say, "Yeah, well, he got corrections. He got CYA. He got probation. He got county jail time." So we named our... our brochure, He Got CYA. And from that then we continued to do trainings, continued to find crime victims who would meet with us on an advisory basis of what other things they should do. About 1985 then, Jim Rowland, who was such a visionary in all of these things and I, you probably heard his name throughout, you know, this project about impact statements and leadership that he provided. But he one day was on a rampage about what are offenders doing at night, in the evenings?
He didn't want 'em lifting weights, playing dominoes, playing cards, watching television, playing ping pong. He wanted to know, "Why can't we teach 'em about crime victims?" So I said, "Well, we can." I didn't know how we were gonna do that. But I thought, "Well, that does make sense." So what we, I... I had pulled in from my people, Barbara Bloomberg was one Martie Crawford who runs victim witness in Riverside County and a number of other people as advisors and I said, "Let's develop a program about the impact of crime on victims. And we make it an educational model and that we have this available to young offenders within the Youth Authority." So in 1985 we did a pilot, '86 other institutions adopted that. We had a number of people within YA that were willing to go to bat for me to put this into the mix because these people were not interested in anything that wasn't offender-related to their needs. They were not pretty much, they were not interested in any kind of accountability for young offenders.
They saw that as being mean. And they saw that as confronting them and... and embarrassing them about their behavior. And there was a whole mind... mindset about young offenders. So what we did is we developed this curriculum and from then we just kind of went on and on and on and sort of built a following of people that were supportive. Those kinds of programs were mainly successful because of the victim volunteers that would come and speak about their stories and how they would talk with the young offenders about what their impact was on similar crimes of, similar types of crime victims. That, I just walked through a whole decade. That's probably way too much. So here I am today.
Seymour: That's how you got involved. Can you describe the... the field of victims' rights and services. I mean you were there almost in the very beginning when you first entered the field, including sort of a little bit about the context of the... the era, the '70s, the '80s.
English: I guess, well, say, let's start the question again. I'm not sure.
Seymour: What was the field like when you first got into it, the field of victim assistance, victim advocate, a little bit also about the context of the era. The field, you know, 30 years ago, big dip.
English: The... the field back 30 years ago, 40 years ago, was sparse. Right around that time, you know, the late '60s, early '70s there was an, there were a lot... a lot of movement within the United States sort of a follow-up to the, some of the women's rights activism, the anti-war activism, the Civil Rights activism. And it was just, the timing was right for people to say, "We're sick of this and we're gonna take some action." And people became active. On the heels of... of victim, on the heels of the women's rights issues, where a lot of people working with domestic violence victims, child abuse victims, sexual assault victims and these people were very much activists and they knew how to... to motivate people, how to use, you know, im... important stories to go for resources. So the timing was really right to get involved on the ground floor with a lot of people, a lot of shelters, some of the early training, Gail Abarbanel, down at the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center.
So it was the first programs to try to help. There was another program in Seal Beach I think it was called, a woman named Mary Walton started a domestic one, one of the first domestic violence shelters. And also in Pasadena there was another one, one of the first domestic violence centers in here in Sacramento. Gail Jones started the WEAVE program. And they have become models for the United States. But back then there were a handful of programs trying to handle thousands of victims. There was a woman named Theresa Contreras, who started the East L.A. Rape hotline and one of the first Hispanic serving organizations in the United States, also. And what I was able to do was to find that, we were like this merry band of activists that sort of, wherever we went we would, we got so excited about talking about the possibilities. And it was fun to be part of something that was new. Be kind of like, you know, talking to jewelers now. It didn't, don't know anything about what happened to the Gold Rush, you know. So the excitement of the people that were running the Gold Rush, they never understood what... what it was gonna turn into. And that's what happened with crime victims back then.
There were, there was a lot of momentum among people. We had a lot of crime victims willing to speak out. And guess what? At the same time a number of people were elected to office at the Presidential level and the... and the governor's level who said, "We are interested in this issue and we're gonna put some people in place to make things happen." Now if those things had not come together that (a) we had the issues that were important; (b) we had policy people that were willing to put some resources to things; and (c) we had people who knew how to put programs together, none of this would have happened. We would have had three people. You have a Governor who wants to get something done. You don't have anybody to do it. Well, guess what? In this state we not only had a Gov... Governor, at the time we had a President who was issuing reports through Lois Herrington about crime victims' rights in the United States, about family violence in the United States. We ended up luckily with a Governor who was interested uh, at that time who appointed a Director of Youth Authority who was interested, who then hired me and some other people to make things happen.
About the same time, also, I think that the VOCA money came about and there was a Federal funding, made it also possible to develop, not only the compensation programs, but the assistance programs. But back 30 years ago, 35 years ago, it was pretty, the meetings were small. I remember doing a couple of tr, I remember doing one training about these impact classes and there were only three people in the room and I was one of 'em. And... and I was the trainer and one of the three people was the monitor, Susan Laurence. So we had me doing the training. Susan was the monitor and this other woman who was in the wrong room. She thought, wanted to go to a different workshop and didn't, and we wouldn't let her leave. We said, "Okay," but, you know, I just sort of speeded on my presentation. You can throw out the evaluation form. You can go to the workshop you wanted to go to, which was on restitution I think. So it took a long time to shift people's attitudes, especially in the criminal justice system. I have to only speak for that, the correctional system, the juvenile justice system. But it really took a long time to begin even, had people begin to think that there was another way to look at how to help youthful offenders.
Seymour: What were some of the challenges or maybe the greatest challenge, Sharon, that you and your colleagues faced primarily in the earlier days in affecting change?
English: I think for the justice system most, I would say, I wouldn't, I would say most people that were trained in the criminal justice system were only trained on offender issues. And that's maybe why they call it "the criminal justice system." If it were truly a justice system, then you would have equal weight to who the people that are harmed are and what services we need to provide to them. But it is a criminal justice system, continues to be a criminal justice system. At least with juveniles, it's called "the juvenile justice system," and sometimes that's a littler broader because the courts also handle the dependency kinds of cases I think. But the biggest change I would say was trying to get people to think from the victim's side of the crime. And in the early days we were told, "Don't even read the files because you don't want to be prejudiced about this offender. You know, you don't want to, you don't want to let anybody know this guy's a child molester, 'cause it'll make him feel bad, you know." It was those... those kinds of things. It was all about, it was part of the medical model of treating offenders, that there's something wrong with that person and, therefore, you tre, you need to treat them.
And how you treat them is by trying to find out what are all their needs, a menu of needs and a menu of programs to meet the needs. And it doesn't have anything to do with "what have you done? And do you feel bad about that? And what are your values? And do you have pro-social values? Do you have criminal values? And what are some ways for us to help you to better understand what you've done to another person." So I think that took a long time. And the way we did that was to bring in the people like Jean O'Hare, like the Bar... Barbara Bloomberg, like John Gillis, like, there are so many that were... were willing to come in and tell their story, which personalized the crime. And most offenders have an amazing ability to discount what they've done, to forget the severity of the injuries and to just kind of go off into la-la land about their own needs. But it was the strength of the stories of the crime victims that were willing to come and tell their story that got to these kids. And MADD was a major contributor.
Parents of Murdered Children chapters were major contributors. They would come in and they would, you know, talk about the trauma. And most of the time the young men would start, at the end of the sessions, would talk about their own families and how... how much people have been murdered in their family. Their mothers were dangerous situations with domestic violence, that their sisters had been rape victims. And so it really became, it started out as an educational model, became a broader treatment model that was much more balanced than just, "Gee, have we finished school? Did we fix your teeth?" And, you know, "Do you... do you, are you rid of your, whatever disease you had?" And it was more now. What is it that you owe in restitution? How are you gonna treat people? What are you gonna do about the harm that you've caused other people?
Seymour: Any secrets or tactics or strategies that you employed or others that you worked with employed that were particularly successful?
English: Give up secrets. Is it still a secret? I think that the word, "secret" probably isn't quite right. What's a, it was a strategy that I didn't know I had. And the strategy was this, sort of saying about, you know, you don't want the camel outside your tent. Bring the camels in the tent. What we tried to do in YA, in Youth Authority, was to say, "Let's get all the people at the table. We need to bring people into the tent and see what we need to do, what needs to be done." Prior to involving crime victims we would occasionally have pickets at our institution. The Parole Board would be picketed. They would make statements to the press about how horrible we were and how we didn't care. And guess what? Since that time we have not had any of those kinds of statements because people know that they could call me directly. They could call the Director directly. They... they were able to have some influence on policy and most people don't feel that they have any ability to influence governmental policy or public policy.
In this situation and the way the Youth Authority tackled this project was to say, "We are interested in our, in changing our policies." I heard a quote once that somebody said that there will always be tens of thousands guarding the gates of tradition. And that's exactly what happens in the criminal justice system. There are always going to be people saying, "Well, we can't do it that way. We've never done it that way. You know, what's gonna happen if we do it that way?" Well, what we've found is that that was just wasn't true, that we were actually were able to meet their needs and our own needs and in the long run what the offenders tell us is that the programs and the opportunities they have to talk to crime victims, are the most important programs they get 'cause they can get school in the community. They can get job training other places. They don't have an opportunity to really talk about what their behavior has been and how they can change their values.
That's a secret though. So the secret was to bring people (laughter). The secret was to bring in people, don't pretend that you know, the government doesn't know unless you talk to people, the value of advisory groups and of getting out and doing cross-training, that we would do training to victims' groups about our department. We would have them come in and train our top management about crime victim issues.
Seymour: And CYA was actually, if not the first, one of the first groups to have a Victim Advisory Council. How'd you come up with that idea?
English: The Victim Advisory Council was just, it was a natural offspring from meeting with people and them being so excited about, "Hey, you're... you're serious about doing something about this. Why don't we all, I'd like to meet Gail and Barbara and Barbanell. I'd like to meet Collene Campbell. I'd like to meet Jerry Tello. I'd like to meet John Gillis." And we'd like, let's bring everybody together then, quarterly, and we will run by you the letters that we are going to be developing for crime victims, any of these written materials that you really can help us edit, you know. You tell us what you need in here. You run it by your groups. Take it back to your groups, find out what is it, how does this come across to you? Uh, and so the advisory group was just kind of a, and we brought in the people that were speaking at the impact classes. We found that we needed, they needed almost their own support group in a way, that there were some things that come up, when you're working in an institution, working with young offenders uh, sometimes the young offenders would... would try to manipulate them and sometimes the volunteers got too close to the young offenders.
They'd end up coming up on Saturday and, you know, bringing a picnic lunch and helping 'em run the institution barbecue and it would, it became too, it became, they became too close. That was not their role. So we also became concerned about safety for volunteers. And we tried to do some things, train the volunteers. Here's what you do if you're starting to be manipulated, if you become frightened, if you, you're switching in your role. You're forgetting that you're talking about victimization. And you're, he's pulling you in to feeling sorry for him putting money on his books, things like that. So the Advisory Group was very good because they didn't feel they weren't isolated. They weren't alone. They could actually talk, "Well, gee, how do you handle this situation?"
Seymour: Sidebar, you were one of the early leaders in what's called, "the crime victims and corrections field." As a matter of fact, you were on the original ACA Committee and I believe the First National Conference was held here in Sacramento, California. Can you talk a little bit about what's up with that? How did that come to be an issue, 'cause it was pretty far after law enforcement and courts and prosecution had been tackled.
English: I think that the reason that corrections was the last on the list is, well, it's always last on the list, anything to do with post-conviction is last on the list, you know. It's sort of like you have this much crime. This many people are arrested. This many people are convicted. This many people go to probation. This many people go to prison and this many people go to their death penalty. So I think corrections has always been because there's fewer in the larger scheme of things, fewer offenders that some other things happen. The Victims' Bill of Rights was passed in California, Prop Eight. And there were a number of, like the... the federal report that came out and when that federal report came out, this administration, the administration at that time, said, "What do we do with these recommendations?" And about the same time Prop Eight was passed which gave crime victims more rights. Well, that forced the issue. It forced the issue about impact statements at Parole Board hearings, about notification, about restitution, mandatory restitution. Now what it didn't really talk about was the juvenile piece of this.
But we made an argument that it did include juveniles. I'm not sure we made an argument. We just did it actually. Said, "You know, you're talking offenders then we think that includes juveniles." And so California took the initiative to mirror the criminal system with the juvenile system to say, "You should not be discriminated against because of the age of your offender. You, as a victim, should not be discriminated against if your offender was 12, 13, 14, 15 or if they're 40, that you should still have a right to make a statement to the imp, to the board. You should still get restitution. You should still have some way to be involved in the policy and to be notified." And so I think that in California, we just decided that juvenile sys, juvenile offenders should not be singled out, carved out as some other specialty and that what's good for one is good for the other.
Seymour: Looking at the field as a whole, have there been any failures that you think have plagued us?
English: Failures in the system?
Seymour: Failures in our field, in the victim assistance field, could be in the system, anything where we haven't succeeded.
English: I think that this field is still evolving and so it's sort of like, you know, we're always learning and needing to improve. And one of the things I think we failed at early on is training of people. We just assume because we're advocates and we feel so strongly about things that everybody else gets it. Well, they don't. And in one of the early impact classes we had teachers that were to ask the question, "Are fish victims?" Well, we thought hmm, "I think we're off track here a little bit. Are fish victims?" But he, we never trained that guy. We just assumed that he knew all the stuff that we were going around giving speeches about. So I think the training early on and that it continues to be a problem. If you don't do ongoing training and get people up to date on what the issues are, what the imp, what do you do with the impact of all of this stuff that we're learning? And then translate it into the programs. People will just go off on their own tangent and you don't have the slightest idea, they don't have the slightest idea of what you expect them to do. So I think that we don't do enough focus training on every level. I think most of the training is still probably for law enforcement, the courts, some of the early responders, first responders.
And that again, the further you get into the system, the less training there is on crime victims because you have less contact with crime victims. So by the time you get to prison you very seldom see crime victims, unless you have specialized programs. Even with the specialized programs, in the Parole Board hearings you have very, very few, maybe one percent even participate in the Parole Board hearings. So the more you're removed from it, the more you don't think about it as comparing to be a police officer and you're confronting crime everyday. So I think that was one failure. I think the training issue is a, is... is, I wouldn't call it a failure, but it's something we need to still work on. Number two is getting people ready to be in the field. The mentoring issue that probably like any kind of advocacy, emotional kind of involvement in a cause, it come... comes and goes with the personality. When the personalities leave, they retire, they do other things. They die. They go away. They get tired. Who's gonna replace 'em? How do you keep the momentum going... momentum going? And it's happened with Civil Rights. It's happened with almost any cause you can think of --even though the women's rights issues.
I mean a lot of that was built on the personalities of people driving the issue. With crime victims I think that everyday there's a horror story. And unfortunately, every time there's a new horror story sometimes there's a new group that gets formed around it. And then after a while, after the publicity and all of the initial horror is gone, the group goes away. And we could probably all list thousands of groups that started all well, very well intended and named after, you know, a crime victim for example. And yet, where are they now? And so it becomes very fractionalized and it becomes very, I see a failure for some... some sort of coordination about that, but I understand why it's a problem because everybody feels so strongly about their case. And they don't want this to happen to anybody else. They want something to be done. They want their person to be remembered, so you put a name on it. But then what happens? And some people go on to have laws named after them. And that's all good, those are good things. But I think there is a failure within the system and maybe because we aren't institutionalized in a... in a governmental way that, so you end up with those kinds of separate efforts. And then I wonder what happens to people whenever it doesn't go on to become a forever thing? You know, what happens to those people? What do they think? Do they feel they failed the person who died for example? Do they feel that, you know, it was not worth their time, that they're burned out? I don't know. I think that we need... we need to look at some of that and I think Janice Harris Lord started to look at some of that with self-help groups if I remember correctly. So I think that's, those are two failures. One's training, the mentoring and I think there's a failure to help policymakers understand that this isn't a flash-in-the-pan thing, that they've gotta put some money and put some clout behind their rhetoric. And that everybody that runs for office says they like, think they like crime victims, but when you press 'em, "What are you gonna do about it?" Then they're not sure. (Change of tape)
Seymour: Sharon English, what do you perceive to be the one greatest accomplishment that's promoted victims' rights in these?
English: The one accomplishment that, boy, that's... that's really a tough a questions, but I think it's probably the strength of crime victims to speak up. I call it "the power of the personal story." That they're willing to come forward and say, "Here's what happened and here's what needs to be done." And without the victims' voices we would not be doing much and we wouldn't know what to do. So I really think it's a tribute to the strength of crime victims who want to get something done, to see if there's a way to make the world a better place.
Seymour: What's needed today to continue the growth and professionalism of our field or... or is there anything missing to ensure our future?
English: The-- we've... we've gotta continue to focus on people that might see this as a profession. I get, one of my hopes would be that people that work with crime victims aren't seen... aren't seen as oddballs, that going into this field is not an oddity, that it would become so commonplace it would be actually a career choice. The people would want to be involved in this work. Everything from people right out of high school if they want to be involved in this kind of work to people that become, get professional degrees. If they would see this not as an add-on, but as something that they would really focus on and continue the professionalism of the... of the field. On the other hand, the people that really make it work are those people who have the stories. And so I think that we need to continue to work on a way to involve them, to not cut them out, to be, to like their stories. People get upset when they hear stories. They don't want to be emotional about what's happened to other people. So we need to make sure that we continue to involve them in whatever we develop.
Seymour: You usually have a lots of advice so for people who are more new to the field, the past couple years, who don't know about, you know, 30 years ago. What advice can you give to professionals and volunteers today from someone who's been around a while?
English: The advice that I would give to new people coming into the field is to not make this work become routine. That if you lose the passion and you lose the personal commitment to what you're doing, it will show. People know when you're sincere and they know when you're just pulling a... a shift. And the other thing that I would say to people that want to be involved in work that makes a difference is that this is the place to be. That it's nice to get up and know that you're going to work today and that's going to make a difference to somebody somewhere along the line. And it's important to be involved in work that makes a difference in people's lives and that you have this opportunity. Now you probably won't, you'll never get rich, but you will have a different kind of richness in that your life will be fulfilled that you've actually accomplished something. Instead of pulling thirty years and you get a watch and go home and you say, "Well, what the heck did I do for thirty years?" People who are now involved in this field can list exactly what they've done in their 30 years.
And they know what they've accomplished. They know what the changes are and they might get mad that the people who came after them didn't do it like they did it or that they've let it start to fall apart. But there are other ways to backdoor that and continue to support the people who have become advocates, people that you've mentored, people that you've groomed and always be there to give them advice if they need it when they start to... start to... to fall or start to feel like it's not worth it because you will probab... probably for a very long time, crime victims' issues will continue to, and people who advocate them, will be lone voices in the wilderness because it's so easy to cut these kinds of things. Because people who have the purse strings know that a lot of people in this work are doing it because they believe it and that they will get a lot of work out of 'em because they go above and beyond the eight hours or one week's work. They are working and thinking about this all the time. And I think you have to be careful about that, that you have to make sure that people are supported.
And even if I, somebody once said to me, "I don't know what you're talking about, but I believe you." So I thought that was pretty good because they understood the passion and the interest in what I did. And I think other people can have that and they have to. So if you're gonna be some kind of a manager, a supervisor, a politician, you've gotta surround yourself with people who will do that kind of work and make... and make it happen. Not everybody can be an advocate. People are not born to be advoca, I mean, they're not built to be advocates. It makes 'em uncomfortable. They just want to sit back, but they're the ones that you can involve in other ways, stuffing envelopes, doing... doing the behind-the-scenes kinds of things. I had a guy working for me and we always said that I was the mouth and he was the brains. So it worked out perfectly. And then uh, but you need to have that combination of skills and when you put together a team, you need people with different skill sets.
Seymour: Do you have any vision for the future of our field?
English: Are we gonna talk about new arenas, too?
Seymour: Sure, we'll talk about anything you want to talk about.
English: Oh, okay, the vision, is that what we're doing vision? All right. My vision for this field is, a couple of things, a couple of specific things. One is that the diversity of America has got to be addressed in a different way, and not just cultural diversity, but religious diversity. And I really feel strongly that we have neglected to understand other people and their belief systems and that we often offend them because we don't understand the belief systems. I think that a lot of crime victims who are from a variety of faith systems uh, don't feel like they're uh, part of who's being served. And I think we need to really look at that. Number two, I think we need to look at the, in a better way, the post-conviction services, including death penalty, death penalties, access to information about appeals. That has been a neglected area. And... and there, let's see, the other vision I would have is for the people who are currently involved in victim services or hope to be and if this is part of their career goal is that they don't get pigeon-holed. That they do not end up being the victim lady or the victim guy. That they don't, they're aren't just called upon when there's some crises within their department or some new horror story hits.
They aren't, they always get stuck with the all the fundraisers that has to do with crime... with crime victims. Don't get pigeon-holed. You've gotta know the know rest of your field. Volunteer for committees and work assignments that have nothing to do with crime victims because then you work the people at lunchtime. And you work 'em at the cocktail party and get them to learn more about crime victims. So when you walk down the hall, they don't just say, "Here comes the victim lady, run, because she's gonna tell you some horrible story." But they see you as a professional who, no matter what the task is, that you can contribute, because you know things. You have skills and talents. You're willing to be analytical. You're willing to help people problem-solve on what their issue is. But if you become just the victim person, then you're always gonna be stuck in that and it will limit your career goals. It will limit what you can do for crime victims. The best thing we can do is for people who feel strongly about crime victims is to move on up the food chain. You know, claw your way to middle management because that's where you can then affect the policies for the lower-level people who are actually doing the hands-on work with crime victims.
The other one is don't be a hog. Don't take all the good stuff for yourself when there are opportunities to go to conferences, to go to meetings. Don't always go. Give people an opportunity to go. Let your clerical person go. Get other people so that they feel a passion and a buy into what you're trying to do because then you will turn them into little rabid advo... advo... activists... activists, little rabid activists. And that's what we want because you gotta get the passion. You gotta have people put in the time that needs to be done to do this work. So don't get pigeon-holed. Don't be a hog and don't be a pig. A lot of people when you're involved in this kind of work, have a tendency to become too casual. And you've gotta, if you're gonna be involved in a profession, you gotta look professional. You gotta act professional and you gotta make sure that whatever you do, wherever you go, you're representing crime victims. You're representing people who don't have a voice. You're representing people who need to have access to people that have the money and the power. And you're not gonna do that if you walk in with sandals and some, and a... and a sports team sweat shirt on.
You know, you have got to go in and you are on par with Wardens and Superintendents and Chief Probation Officers and Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs and that you can mix it up with them. You're not coming in there like you just came from a bake sale. So I really think that that, we need to work on that also. And we see that a lot with non-profit organizations, too, store-front organizations. There's sometimes a tendency to get a little too casual and then you're written off as, you know, street workers. So I think, you're gonna cut all this anyway, anyway that's what I think. (Interruption)
Seymour: What's your greatest fear or do you have any fears for the future of our field?
English: My biggest fear for this field is complacency and that what's made it great is the passion that people feel because this work is based on injury to people and injuries to communities and injuries to families. And when you start to make something routine, there's a... there's the threat of being com, become complacent or that it becomes just another job. And we don't want that to happen. And number two, we have to find a way to have people make a commitment to the resources that are needed. And that it's not just, "Gee, we got a grant so now we're gonna do something great." These things have got to be continued. There has to be an institutional shift uh, institution not meaning prisons, an institutional shift in terms of public policy. And that crime victims are not just a little exit on the freeway, that they are part of the main traffic on the justice road here, you know, and that they should not be just singled out. So until crime victims uh, my biggest fear is that they will continue to be out on this little island and won't continue to be brought in as part of what the ongoing planning is gonna be, strategic planning for... for community corrections and for institution corrections.
Seymour: Bonus question. OVC, you were detailed at some point in your illustrious career to the Office for Victims of Crime which is sponsoring this project. I... I know exactly what the question is but, what, you know, what do you see as OVC's role in our field?
English: OVC's role in crime victims' services and advocacy in my opinion is to focus more on trends and needs and in a visionary way of what needs to be done next. I think originally from what I know about it, it was, the VOCA money, the compensation and... and assistance money pretty much drove what the program plans were and what the projects were. And the office was able to develop wonderful support through grants, wonderf, the development of wonderful materials that are real basic, first responder stuff, a lot of things for, on grief, on... on victimization, on recovery from victimization criminal justice projects about getting things going. But I don't think a federal office should continue to fund basic things, basic programs and trainings and materials. I think pretty much the field has all the basic stuff that they need and the nation has all the laws that it needs. The problem now is not more laws except for a constitutional amendment, but that we don't need more laws. We need help on how things are being implemented. We need to find ways to get the word out. States should take over. Counties should take over. Cities should take over on the basic stuff.
And the Federal government leadership should be much vision... visionary uh, where are we going? The whole issue about management, supervision, management and policy... policy building and to have the feds bring this issue to National Governors' Association. Bring these issues to the National Sheriffs' Association. Go big. Get to the policymakers. Don't just keep convening up onto people that are new to the field and talking about, you know, the entry steps to handling a crime victim. And I really think that the role has got to be, just leap ahead. So now what are we gonna do? Because really we've got a pretty good foundation in all the states with service providers and I think that that is one thing. The second thing are the trends. What do we see coming down the road? And the third thing, maybe most importantly is, "What the heck's the rest of the government doing?" You know, again has OVC become pigeon-holed? Are they out there on this little exit and on this little island? Where do they fit with the Department of Education and all the victimization that goes on with schools?
Where do they fit with homeland security? We talk about terrorism, national terrorism, international terrorism and yet we have terrorism right outside here in downtown Sacramento, urban terrorism. So terrorism is a larger... a larger issue. What are we doing with all of the other parts of government? Victimization is part of a larger, every single department in the government. We've talked about the Peace Corps volunteers, missionaries. How people are murdered in other countries doing good work. And I think that... that I would like to see OVC, leadership at OVC be more active in bringing... bringing those other people from government into OVC. And... and saying, "What are the... what are the things that we can do to enhance each other's work? And how do we partner on some of these things because there's not enough money in the world to do it in little snippets, you know."
Seymour: Can you tell me a little bit about Susan Laurence.
English: Susan Laurence was probably one of the true good guys in the world. She just had a quality about her that was, she was thoughtful. She was smart. She was sincere. And she was the only one who came to that workshop, you know, which I really appreciated. (Laughter) You could always talk to Susan uh, and... and her sincerity was, made you envious. And that you could always talk to her and she was willing to help you think through things because sometimes you get a little emotional and you want to beat the drum on some issue. And Susan had a way of stepping back from that and being able to help you think through, "Well, what does that mean? What are the different sides of it? And what... what's the strategy that we need to move forward to get something done on this?"
Seymour: What were some of the projects she provided?
English: Sus, I first met Susan because she was involved in the, I think the old juvenile justice restitution project called "RESTA." And she was involved with Gordon Basemore and some other people out here in California who were doing the restitution projects that were based in police departments and probation departments with juvenile offenders. And I, from there, then I, when she went to OVC I got to know her because she did take the lead on the victims and corrections project, the probation and parole project. She had a pri, her history was that she had been a probation officer so she had a particular interest in that. And then on the Parole Board issue she was always willing to see what... what some ways we could develop materials for Parole Boards. So she was our key person within OVC on the corrections piece. And like I mentioned earlier corrections has always been the last at the table, you know. Couldn't even find a chair at the table and Susan would make room for us. And she was always the person you could count on to say, "How do we get this done?"
Seymour: I'm done with my questions. Is there anything that you'd like to just give us light on?
English: May I check my notes. I don't think, is there something you want me to say? No, I can't, let me just say in closing that, (laughter) in... in closing I think what is to me the most important thing is that I was able to be involved in a field that I, a... a career that I always wanted to be involved in, but I never knew going in that I would end up in this part of it. I was always wanted to be involved in something to do with juvenile offenders, but I never realized that I would end up where I have, 30 years later, 35 years later, that the victims became such a part of my... my life and my... my feeling about the system. What, the opportunity to do that and to meet people who are also pioneers was the most interesting and rewarding thing that could have ever happened. And most people don't have the opportunity to do that. Most of them lead their sorry lives and get their watch and go play golf and, you know, and they wonder, "What the heck happened here?" But we can really look back and say, "You know what, we were part of something that was really important and that has made a lot of progress and that our obligation now is to make sure that we help people come behind us that will keep it going."
Seymour: Next generation.
English: Next generation, and the next and the next and the next.
|This project was supported by Grant Number 2002-VF-GX-0009 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.|