An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Hook: Welcome to the OVC Oral History Project.
Rowland: Thank you.
Hook: Jim, could you just please state your name and spell it for me.
Rowland: Yes, my name is James Rowland. That's R-0-W-L-A-N-D.
Hook: Great, thank you. Jim, you are known as the father of the victim impact statement. Where did you get the idea and how did it all happen?
Rowland: Well, my career started as a Deputy Sheriff for San Bernardino County and for some reason after a year, I ended up in the detective division and was involved in several cases that uh... uh, domestic violence, rape, murder, child abuse. Uh, and I was amazed to learn the, and I didn't have the term immediately, the impact that crime had on so many people, serious impact. I saw a woman killed by a drunk driver, a head-on collision. The child came through the windshield and as I ran up to the door, she was taking her last breath. And I was very young, fresh out of college and just had a lot of influence on me. And I reflected. I said, "Neither my department nor my four years of college ever dealt with victim issues." And I didn't understand that 'cause it was so devastating at times. And the term "impact" was not the original term that I had, but my dad was a builder and he was frequently complaining about environmental impact. And years later I guess I reflected on that and when I was, at that time with being a Deputy Sheriff I said, "If I'm ever in a position to focus more on what crime really does to people uh, I'll do something about it."
Years later I ended up as a Probation Officer in Fresno and the term "victim impact statement" was born there, going back to my early years as a law enforcement officer and my dad complaining about an environmental impact statement.
Hook: And what actually happened? What was the story of the creation when you were a probation officer?
Rowland: I met a ju uh, when I went to Fresno as chief probation officer, Judge Kenneth Andrene, we became very close and he was talking about how the victim is neglected and the justice system is doing nothing for victims. So the victim impact statement discussion came a little earlier, but basically most of the discussion in Fresno was about both victim impact and probation-based victim services to assist them. We were able to hire some staff that worked exclusively with victims. And the victim impact statement was simply... was simply two or three paragraphs in the pre-sentence report. That's before the victim actually came to court and could testify. So it was in our pre-sentence report.
Hook: Tell me about the ACA Task Force on Victims of Crime.
Rowland: One of the beautiful things about the business is the passionate, dedicated people that work in this field. And I think 12 or 15 of us came together at ACA. There, at that time the ACA was examining policy and procedures throughout a whole range of correctional and probation topics. And I frankly don't know whose idea it was to have a task force on victim issues. Certainly Sharon English was right there and Anne was there and it became a very hard-working group that produced some policy statements that ended up in ACA publication. I think we met a half a dozen times at various conferences. And it was fun and helped us focus on the needs of victims.
Hook: And what year was that, that it started?
Rowland: Ooh, I want to say mid-80s -- '87, '86, somewhere in there.
Hook: Well, little, we've sort of already touched on this with the impact statement, but in general how or why did you first get involved in the crime victims' movement?
Rowland: To bring to the attention, I've... I've been in the criminal justice system all my life and always worked with dedicated people. Good people come into the police work, probation work, parole work, prison work but I simply wanted to spread the word and influence, if I could, the fact that crime does more than cause a victim to fill out an insurance form. For some victims it's a matter of inconvenience. For other victims it's a life-changing experience. And based on my observation and experience in the '50s, I simply felt a need to share that information and have it become more influential and not have victims just exhibits for evidence. I wanted people to know that there was a lot of pain and a lot of people were hurt. I brought a poster today you may show later. I've been very fortunate to have some tremendous staff and I asked Jim Macy and Owen Putler, after a lunch with Judge Kenneth Andrene to start thinking about what we might be doing for victims. And they came up with a poster that expanded my knowledge.
I knew there were psychological and financial impact and I was thinking of the primary victim, but they came up with a poster that showed, yes, there's financial, there's psychological, but there's also informational needs and attitudinal needs and that there's more, there are more victims than just the primary victim. There's the victim's family and the offender's family and the employer and others. And I just as again based on my early experience, I wanted to be a catalyst to help get that word out because there's more to crime than a stolen car.
Hook: Did you feel like you were working in a vacuum at that time?
Rowland: It was lonely, yes. It was very lonely at that time. We've, I've... we were able to put on a workshop in Fresno, based on some a grant we got from the Lilly Foundation and learned that there were quite a few people from around the United States. Once that workshop occurred I knew that there were a lot of people interested in this field, but until that workshop, and I forget the year, I think it was the mid-70s, it was, it seemed a little lonely, yes.
Hook: Could you describe the field of victims' rights and services 30 years ago in the context of what you were doing?
Rowland: The justice system representatives, without meaning to, treated victims with lack of respect. As I mentioned earlier, they were viewed as Exhibit A or Exhibit B. And if they were not needed for testimony or evidence, they were excluded. They were nothing. And I can remember cases of burglary where the family would be sitting at home worried that the burglar might come back. In reality the burglar had been arrested and because of a plea bargain, no trial, sentenced to jail or prison, no one took the time to tell the victim that their case had been solved, that the burglar was gone or dealt with. And they were, without meaning again, I'm not putting down the justice system people 'cause they've been super people. Victims were neglected. They were ignored. They were sometimes a source of frustration if the victims were too aggressive and wanting to know what happened. Victims want information. They deserve and need information. That's probably their number one need. What's going on? So it was a the victims were neglected and without meaning to do so, they were abused, in my opinion.
Hook: In your pioneering area of victim assistance, what was the greatest challenge that you and your colleagues have faced in effective chan, in affecting change?
Rowland: We early on in Fresno became very collaborative. Fortunately, we had a representative from the justice system and in my opinion brilliantly, somebody said, "Let's get the community involved, too." So we had a very influential popular minister in Fresno chair our task force. And that really opened up doors. Some of the judges were already interested. One of the things we didn't work as hard on as we should have as soon as we should have was informing elected officials what we were doing. And that created some minor obstacles but because we were collaborative with community involvement things went fairly easily compared to other states or other jurisdictions.
Hook: Because you were ena, you were able to engage the community in this fairly quickly.
Rowland: Very quickly, not only engage the community but as I said the chair of our task force was from the community. So the community was involved up front. It wasn't just sharing. It was involvement and that's one of the great needs continually, I think, is not just collaborative program development or collaborative program management. We need collaborative ownership that this is a community project, including business community, faith-based community, professional organizations. It needs to be very broad-based ownership. And we had some of that in the early days in Fresno.
Hook: It seems like the, also the need was clearly articulated as well.
Rowland: Yes, I think so because we had public defender, district attorney, community members had that, knew the situation. So it wasn't like trying to educate people that didn't know the consequences of crime. They were aware of the consequences without really converting it into service, a service delivery system.
Hook: Were there tactics, secrets, strategies that you employed that were successful?
Rowland: To wh, yes, the one I already mentioned was that, we did not do... we did not do our thing in probation. It was collaborative from day one. Once we got the poster, that I'll show you later, I think that was what made us successful in Fresno. It was not our program or Jim Rowland's effort. It was a community justice system effort. I just can't stress that enough and if there were any secret tactics, which there wasn't a secret tactic, that was the magic that made it oh, I think helped us make us be one of the first probation department to actually have full-time staff working exclusively with victims.
Hook: Would you like to look at the poster now or would you rather talk about it later?
Rowland: Well, we can talk about it later.
Hook: Where do you see that there have been failures in the victims' rights movement that you would consider implorable?
Rowland: I think, I don't know if I want to call it failure, but disappointments riv, not... not so much rivalry among various victim organizations, but the lack of coordination, the lack of core values rivalry. There is, to me in my opinion to this day, there is no uniform philosophy. We hear the term "restorative justice" and some people think that's soft on crime. Some victim organization think that restorative justice is being soft on crime and that's simply not true. But I think the shortcomings is the lack of coordination, the lack of core values, the lack of philosophical principles that the whole field helps develop and buy into.
Hook: Can you think of a specific example, I mean not sort of necessarily talking about people or, situations where the lack of coordination or the sort of the turf issues have... have... have weakened the movement?
Rowland: Well, I, again if you consider restorative justice, restorative justice says that crime is not just against the state. It's against human beings and human relationships and that society has a responsibility to assist and restore the victim. We also have a responsibility to use the punishment accountability process. There's a time to try to educate and train the offender to prevent future victimization. A couple victim groups in California work real hard to prevent some legislation relating to offender education. I would use that as a... a fairly recent example. You know, the recidivism rate in the nation is in excess of 70 percent. So at the time we're punishing offenders, we should do something to correct and educate, which is one of the mandates of restorative justice. But the victim ... a couple victim organizations were successful in stopping it, pretty good initiative 'cause they didn't see how that affected the victims' movement. It prevents future victimization is what it does.
So I...I think that's the most recent example I can think of is that our lack of core values, our lack of understanding of the long-range consequences of crime, sometime prevents collaborative efforts among state organizations.
Hook: Do you see ways of resolving that or is it more a process of evolution?
Rowland: Oh, I think it's evolution with some political leadership. We need some elected officials that would host or rally or convene those types of opportunities for people to learn and discuss and share among organizations.
Hook: What do you perceive to be the one greatest accomplishments that has prov, promoted victims' rights and needs?
Rowland: I can't reduce it to one effort. I think the thing that helped the most in terms of elected officials is when the states, including California, started passing victim rights initiatives. I think that captured the attention of elected officials probably more than any other single thing. But when I think back to the '50s and '60s and see where we are today, it's hard for me to think failure 'cause we've come so far. We have a long way to go, a long way to go, but we've come so far. So I, it's hard for me to really embrace failure but uh... I think the... the initiatives captured the attention more than any other thing in a positive way.
Hook: Are there -- do you want to talk about the... the victim impact statement and how it's affected the system in terms of...
Rowland: It had a lot of impact. It had a lot of impact. It influenced the decisions, the rec, it influenced the recommendations of probation officers. It influenced the decisions of judges, some public defenders, not ours in Fresno 'cause he was on our committee and was all for it. Some public defenders were very unhappy with the impact statements 'cause they were influential. In fact I don't know maybe people don't, didn't know or have forgotten the issue of victim impact statements were appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And the Court upheld it, of course, but the victim impact statement had a lot of influence in the early days. And I think it influenced services. I think preparing the impact statement and really learning some of the consequences of crime helped to influence many people to move toward a service delivery system.
Hook: Some of the people that we've been speaking to on this Oral History over the last few days have said that it's one of the most important aspects ... one of the most important developments in the victims' rights movement is the victim impact statement.
Rowland: Good. Glad to hear that. It was ... it certainly had early-on influence in our justice system in Fresno.
Hook: What is needed today to continue the growth and professionalism of our field and also what would you say is missing?
Rowland: We need and maybe it's from work's been done on this that I'm not aware of, but we need some principles of core values, for the whole victims' field, not just one organization (cough), excuse me. We need some values in principle. I think medicine, law have their values and principles teaching. The victims' movement needs some values that we all embrace whether we work on all of them or not. And I think we need more study and research on the long-range impact of crime. I think there's more impact there than we realize for some victims. I witnessed one execution in California and the sisters and nieces of the man being put to death was present. And to meet them and hear them and to hear their sobbing --=it will affect them for life, the execution part will. And the brothers of the victim who was murdered and was raped and murdered, they were at the same, in the same room. And I think we need, yes, for some people having their car stolen is a two-week inconvenience. The insurance company helps 'em, but if you're a single parent, you don't have any insurance and your car is stolen and you need to get to work.
There's more impact and for some people a crime is devastating. And I think we as a profession need more study, evaluation and research on what impact does for some victims.
Hook: When you talk about core values are you thinking in terms of a code of ethics for the field or could you... could you mention some of the values you think are really critical.
Rowland: I'm thinking, maybe values and principles and restorative justice, I think we need to say yes, victims are impacted and they need assistance, service and healing. Offenders need accountability, but they, too, need assistance and that would be a value to me that the justice system has responsibility to do both, not just to assist the victim and then let the prisoner sit in idleness for five years and come out a prison worse. So that would be, I would hope that could be someday be a victim movement value that is some attention and focus and that both are important. That victims today need to work to prevent victimization on others in the future and that gets you into the offender business.
Hook: Any other values that beyond restorative justice that you think are critical?
Rowland: I think those are the main ones I'm interested in, that come to mind, certainly a value that says the assistance is based on, for victims, based on some assessment and that it may go on for a long time and not just short-term assistance, again based on the impact. I've known of women who were afraid to leave their home years after their home had been broken into 'cause they were afraid it'd be broken into again and they may come in, the burglars in the home, years later. So that should not be 90 days counseling. That needs to be some long-range assistance there.
Hook: We have a lot of professionals and volunteers who joined the field in the last 10 years who haven't gone through this process and benefitted from all of the, benefitted from the... the stages that the movement has gone through. What advice would you give them?
Rowland: To work to clarify their own values and their own purposes and to work hard for collaborative ownership and not just do their thing or their program. Collaborative ownership will help ensure the future, I think. And to not neglect themselves, get training, listen to peers.
Hook: Could you be more specific in terms of the, if you were... if you were standing in front of a... a group of young victim assistance providers that just graduated from the State Academy and they're standing out and you're there to... to give them their graduation message and gonna push collaboration. What... what would you suggest to them to do?
Rowland: I would tell 'em to work hard, to keep improving themselves, that learning and education is a life-long process, but remember you're not in it alone. And the more people that own the program you're working toward or working on, the greater survival flexibility and to ---don't work just to do your thing. Work to do our thing and you'll not only do better, but you'll be more satisfied in your endeavor. (Cough), excuse me.
Hook: Do you have a vision for the field?
Rowland: My vision for the field would pretty well be wrapped up in some of the principles I talked about with restorative justice. I think our society needs to give equal attention to victims and to the people that are victimizing. I'm bothered by the lack of corrective action for offenders in our state alone. I'm not criticizing anybody. I think 50 percent of them are sitting in idleness and we know from other studies that engaging offenders in various programs, accountability and work can change their life. We've learned that with drug addicts in this state and others. Intervention works for offenders. And you're preventing future, you're preventing domestic violence and child abuse and homicide if you can turn the lives of offenders around. We can do it, but it's not a high priority. So my vision would be, let's give equal attention. Yes, let's help victims survive the criminality and let's work with that offender to see that they don't try to, they don't do it again. And it does work.
I still believe strongly that nine out of ten prisoners or offenders can change their lives and become responsible citizens. I've seen it. I... I just know it can happen. I don't have a lot of research to back it up, but I just feel that we're not being fair to victims or taxpayers not to try to change the lives of offenders.
Hook: Do you think that victims' services and corrections is, has a lot of drive behind it, currently and that will, and will that continue to grow?
Rowland: I think it would help if there were more members of the legislature knowledgeable and helpful. Any program development activity has its ups and downs. And because of what's going on in our state I think it's down a little bit right now. I'm hopeful that it'll come back but I think the budget crises in our state and various counties is going to slow things down a little bit. But I'm optimistic that with victim organizations working together and pushing and working with their elected officials that it'll be back.
Hook: What's your greatest fear for the field?
Rowland: That we will remain fragmented and not develop information that will help it grow in the future. I think fragmentation, lack of coordination and lack of research makes me lose a little bit of sleep at night. (Tape turned over at this point.)
Hook: Jim, you were the first president of NOVA. How has the field changed since the beginning of NOVA? Get, and can you just talk about some of the people the major players that you feel were involved in significant changes in the field?
Rowland: Yeah, I don't remember exactly the years I was President, but I was not the first President of NOVA. We got a grant from the Lilly Foundation and brought 30 or 40 people to Fresno and out of that, there'd already been one conference the year before, I think in Florida. Some of the same people came to Fresno and I wish I could remember all 40 of their names. But it was during that time that the thought of a national organization came into existence. I think I was the second or third President. But certainly Marlene Young and John Stein, Frank Carrington spent many, many hours, many days with Frank Carrington. And he was an influential person in my frame of reference. But... and then I think I met Anne in the '80s.
Hook: How did you all meet and come together for the first NOVA meeting? I mean, what... what was the... what was the context that... that you found each other and said, "You know, we have to work on this."
Rowland: Yeah, there was a victim program in St. Louis, Missouri, I think. And I forget how I lear, I... I think maybe it goes back to Jim Macy and Owen Putler in their research for the victim impact statement (cough), excuse me, and victim services. They made a lot of phone calls and wrote a lot of letters and came up with some of those names. And they helped me come up with the invitation list to invite to Fresno for the Lilly Foundation Funded Workshop. And a lot of those people had met a year earlier in Florida. But it was through that early work that we came up with those names. And how this, I think the field has become more ambitious as they realize the excellent work that was, they were doing. And I think in the early '70s, there were no victim organizations in California. I think the last time I checked there were 25 or 30. So it's just been an evolutionary process as people have learned the impact of crime.
Hook: Do you remember what the agenda was at that first meeting?
Rowland: It was to get acquainted, to hear the speaker from St. Louis. I'm blocking on her name. I apologize for that. It was to our agenda in Fresno was just to let Fresno know that we were moving in the right direction. We could not find a lot of programs that's why the lady from St. Louis was very well received. But Pastor G.L. Johnson, who chaired our task force, chaired the workshop so it was kind of a st... a kindly step, not only helped a few others around the country I think, but was very influential in Fresno, the hostess workshop. And there's just more and more people. It's more diverse now. More disciplines are involved and many, many specialized programs.
Hook: Can you talk to me a little bit about the... the first impact statement? How, what was the process, the, those first few times that you put it into action?
Rowland: The probation officers assigned to the court unit would before... before that time it was optional whether the victim, unless there was missing property or some evidence that needed to be returned or some... some other reason, often the victim wasn't even included in the investigatory process. But with the impact statement, victims were consulted and there was more discussion than just the circumstances of the crime. How much was the TV that was stolen? It was broader than that and we learned that children would sit home in fear, having their television stolen. Not worried about the TV, but worried about the person coming back. So I think the court unit and it just became an important section in the presentence report. And they interviewed and approached the victims differently because now we were talking impact, not just seeing immediate loss of property.
Hook: Who did you... who did you assign to go out and take the first im... impact statement?
Rowland: I don't remember the individual. We had five or six probation officers assigned to the court unit, so all of them did that to some degree.
Hook: But did you, were they... did they have an inkling about sensitivity to victims?
Rowland: Oh, I think so, yes. And that was evolutionary. The more victims we worked with, the more aware we became that we were not only moving in the right direction, but there's some people that are hurt, more than we realize and they're gonna be hurting for a long time. That, I think, influenced our emphasis on developing services. It wasn't too long after the victim impact statement that we had staff working to assist victims in counseling, compensation forms, recovery of property, what have you. We just started viewing victims differently. We, probation, like the rest of the justice system just didn't really consider victims very much until that time. So the dynamics of information and knowledge and sharing, influenced our operation.
Hook: What did the judges have to say that were uh,
Rowland: They were... they were supportive from day one. It was one of the judges, he did not initiate the victim impact statement, but he said, "We need to be doing more for victims." And he had talked about inviting some victims, that he had invited some victims to court to have them just to observe the process, whether their testimony was needed or not and how positive he felt about that. So the judge ... I think at that time there were 12 judges in Fresno. All of them were supportive without question. The only hesitation or debate was with elected officials who saw probation moving in a new direction. And that's what we all need to do is work earlier and harder to inform the key elected decision makers as to what's going on.
Hook: When did the victim impact statement become part of the law in California?
Rowland: (to crew) Ooh, I'm sorry. Sharon is not here.
Hook: And were you involved in that?
Rowland: No. Proposition Eight in California made it part of the law. That was early '80s I think. I forget when Prop Eight uh...
Hook: But by that time had it become a common tool across the state?
Rowland: In several counties, yes. We were visited by many, many probation departments and they got the information and started using it. Yet, many counties were using victim impact statements prior to Prop Eight.
Hook: Are there any people or stories that... that come to mind that really just nailed it, how important it was that the impact statement was part of the pre-sentence report and it was, got... got to the judge's attention?
Rowland: None in Fresno that I recall. It became fairly common quite early. What really reinforced think... thinking, not so much the written impact statement, but the right of victims to come to court and testify. There's a young lady out of Salinas, California, by the name of Cheryl Ward. I spent a lot of time with Cheryl, whose husband was murdered and her daughter raped. And it meant so much to her to be included and to influence and to be heard and the way she describes it in a very articulate way, she'll be a speaker in L.A. next month at a conference on restorative justice. That's the most dramatic and she recently met with one of the prisoners in California that was involved in her husband's crime. And it just, I think it gives dignity and respect and importance to someone to listen to victims and let them be included in the process, whether it turns out the way they want or not, just the fact that somebody respected them enough to consider them, means an awful lot to victims. But I can't think of one case in Fresno that comes close to Cheryl Ward's case.
Hook: Are there any other points that you'd really like to make that I haven't, that we haven't brought up in our series of questions here?
Rowland: I think you've been very thorough. I think I just want to stress again that people that really care about victims and a lot of people do, they will also give some attention to the people that are causing the victimization and try to turn their lives around and invest in resources and energy and political effort to deal with the people that we know are gonna be causing, seven out of ten are gonna make more victims. And we can't lock 'em all up forever, you know. Some places we try sometimes. I think the point I would make is if you really care for victims, you'll try to prevent future victimization.
Hook: Do you see that as also an education for our communities as a whole?
Rowland: It... it's more than education. It's certainly a step one, but it's involvement. I belong to a church in Fresno and very conservative and we ended up inviting some former prisoners to a workshop and it was amazing to watch the dynamics of how their atti, the attitudes of the church folks changed toward these folks. They wanted to, well, to make a long story short, they just became advocates for them. The first time that Doris Tate went to one of California's prisons, she brought in several ladies from Parents of Murdered Children to meet with a dozen or so women that were doing life in prison for murder. Of course the warden and many people were quite concerned about that, but it turned out to be unbelievably positive. And Doris Tate made sure all the prisoners had an opportunity to tell their story. Some of the women were victims of domestic violence. So it humanized, maybe that's one of the key things we need to be working on, is humanizing the justice system, that includes victims, their families and offenders and their family.
Hook: Is it breaking down something of the polarization that naturally exists between offenders and victims?
Rowland: Yes, where there's actually information and exposure and discussion and communication ... it affects the attitudes on both sides. The-- this meeting I mentioned with Doris Tate was an all-day meeting at one of the women's prisons. And the attitudes of the prisoners I know were different after that as well as the attitudes of the parents of murdered children were different. Yes, it humanizes things. It puts a face before the story.
Hook: Okay, well, thank you, very much.
Rowland: My pleasure. Thank you for this project.
Hook: You're welcome.
Hook: Let's... let's talk about this chart. This was made in the early '70s?
Rowland: Yes, I was now working in Fresno and Judge Kenneth Andreen had encouraged that we start looking about what we might do for victims. So I use this as a leadership example. I brought in two staff and put 'em on full-time special assignment, Owen Putler and Jim Macy. And that's, good leadership in my opinion is point a direction to get others involved to help determine how we're gonna get there and this was one of the charts that Putler and Macy brought back to me after a couple months. I was not surprised by the psychological and financial impact, but they listed informational impact, the need for informa, the needs uh, the need for information. And it... it's true. We've learned that's one of the greatest needs for some victim. So they uh, staff exceeded what I expected and they not only outlined the needs, but they expanded the whole concept in my mind of victim. Yes, there's a primary victim, but there's also some other victims, the victim's family, the offender's family, the employer uh, sometime bystanders are victimized to some degree. So I've been very impressed with this chart as it expanded my concept of victim advocacy and it served as a good reminder if you get good staff involved like Sharon English and Sandy Menefee --- frequently they will exceed all expectations that you had in mind when you gave them the original assignment.
Hook: I see going across the top that there are senior citizens, witnesses, innocent bystanders, the primary victim, family of the accused, family of the primary victim, innocent accused, employer of accused and employer of victim.
Rowland: They're all impacted at various degrees. And that was new, that was good information and I was only thinking of the primary victim when I gave 'em this assignment. And I was thinking of psychological and financial, so they expanded my concept to victim advocacy and they did that.
Hook: Some of the results, lack of self identification, confusion, lack of understanding of resources, loss of time production, job, confusion, regovernmental procedures, attitude conducive to victimization and lack of community understanding.
Rowland: I would to, I uh, graduated with a degree in criminology, studied crime for four years. None of this was discussed in any criminology classes. I've checked. I can't find the word "victim" in any of those criminology books. So that's what I say, "We've come a long way." So there's, while there's bumps in the road, there's no reason to be discouraged. We need to be celebrating with the progress that's been made. It's tremendous.
Hook: Great. Okay, that's good.
|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.|