An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
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Task Force Roundtable
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Anne: I am Anne Seymour from Justice Solutions and I think Melissa Hook is also on the call from Justice Solutions and I wanted to thank Melissa because she arranged all the logistics. The folks we have on I believe are all the members that are living and that is Doris Dolan, Kenneth Eikenberry, Judge Lois Haight, General Meese I can't thank you enough for joining us, Governor Robert Miller, Dr. Pat Robertson, Dr. Stanton Samenow and we even got your fabulous staff person, Terry Russell.
We just decided that I am going to try to take the bull a little bit by the horns and ask the questions of specific people and I've also apologized in advance to folks if I need to cut people offbecause we really need to have as concise of answers as possible because of time limitation.
So, Lois, do you mind if I start with you? What was your understanding, Lois, of the mission and goals of the President's Task Force?
Haight: Well, I think it followed on the Violent Crime Task Force and the concern they had that victims of crime were not being treated well in the system and really the mission and goal as created by Ed Meese, who is on this line, I think was to find out how are they being treated and what can we do to improve their treatment if we find they're not treated well. It wasn't a total understanding that they were treated badly, we just had to find out. It was very exploratory. How were they being treated and then what would we recommend given our findings?
Meese: Well, I think Lois has summed it up very well. Particularly I would like to emphasize the fact that it did follow on the study on violent crime. Particularly the president was interested in finding out what the federal government could do recognizing that law enforcement and dealing with crime is primarily a state and local responsibility, but it was to look and see what might be done at the federal level and also to provide information so that it could then be picked up at the state and local level by people there which in fact is what happened.
Anne: Didn't know that. That's great. Governor Miller, what's your take on this?
Miller: It was a practical exercise I think because from a prosecutorial advantage point it became evident that many cases were being lost due to reticence of participation of witnesses and victims, and the exercises we went through established why that they were treated impersonally, that they were given less rights than the defendant and they felt disenfranchised from the system. So I think that the review enabled us to ascertain (1) where the problems were and (2) how to correct them.
Robertson: Well, I follow along with what the others have said but the thing that struck me so much as we were entering into this was the fact of re-victimization, that the system was actually victimizing the victims, and that came through so clearly all the way up and down the line from the earlier impact of a crime, to the sentencing, to the parole that somehow the victims were not considered appropriate wards of the system. I think the role of the Task Force was to bring forth those things through some very comprehensive hearings. As you know we traveled all over the country taking testimony, getting anecdotal evidence and hearing from experts, and I believe we gathered sufficient information to put down a very sizable body of findings.
Anne: Yes you did indeed. Thank you for that.
Russell: I'd like to say first that it was very interesting I had been the staff person on the Attorney General's Task Force on violent crime that handled the victims' area. That one as you recall and I think Jeff Harris was the executive director and it was overseen by Rudy Giuliani. As has been indicated, that's exactly what we found out that they weren't being handled well and so forth. I think from our standpoint with the staff we were sort of focused on really two major goals. First to find out what, in fact, was happening. That's the key thing there. But building on that to come up with recommendations (1) that could help make the victim as whole as possible after the victimization and then (2) as was just said to help prevent secondary victimization by the system.
Anne: Right. Thank you, Terry.
Samenow: Yes, I came to the Task Force really knowing very little about the victim or the psychology of the victim because my specialty was the psychology of the criminal so I was very familiar with the rights and services that were accorded to the criminals and certainly in the Task Force hearings the out of balance of the scales of justice just struck me over and over and over again. So yes I personally believe that the Task Force mission was learning about how out of balance the system was and what could be done. One other observation is that people in the mental health field and, of course, I'm a psychologist, we knew very little about victims and there was essentially no training whatsoever in how to deal with victims of crime.
Anne: And that was actually one of your recommendations as I recall, focusing on the mental health profession.
Dolan: I hope I'm not repeating what has been said but sometimes you can hear about things or read it in the newspaper or even watch it on TV but the only way you really find out is to have the people who have suffered as victims to come and testify in person and then from that you get the real feeling of the horrible suffering that they went through and what we had to do to try to balance the system out. If I may talk later but from this conference I took on two projects. One was I was on a hospital board so I developed a victims crisis center at a hospital which is a model and it was passed on then to many hospitals but it needs more embellishment so that more hospitals are using it. The other was to involve corporations in victims of crime, giving them time off, understanding what they are going through, because many of them didn't. So those are two things that I did to beef up the recommendations that came from this. We worked for years on the exclusionary rule and that was one thing that kept us from giving any understanding to what the victim was going through because it was just not part of the criminal justice system. We put in a U.S. Supreme Court decision and it was Lantz vs. Gates and finally we did maneuver some kind of an understanding to help on the exclusionary rule. Ed, what has happened exactly on the exclusionary rule now?
Anne: Doris, actually I would love to get off onto that but that's not on our questions. I really got to keep us on point today. As I mentioned to you, I'm going to do a more in-depth interview with you later on all the work that you did afterwards but I've got to keep a really tight schedule. I do apologize.
Eikenberry: I think we started on the presumption that the system wasn't operating fairly so our mission was to take the available data and identify the defects and then make particular recommendations for correcting them. My personal motivation was that we needed to upgrade the legal status of victims and rebalance the whole system so that there was a similar focus for victims as was already granted to defendants.
Anne: Upgrade the legal status. Thank you. That's very, very good. The next question I think I'll start with General Meese if I may. As you went through the Task Force process, did the mission or the goals or any of your strategies change or evolve in any way?
Meese: Well, I wasn't actually on the Task Force but was trying to be helpful in the White House but I think that one of the things that did come out of the various hearings was that the problems of victims were more widespread than had originally been anticipated and that it really applied as their recommendations ultimately said to not only police, prosecutors, judiciary, parole boards and those directly involved in the system, but there were a lot of recommendations for other organizations like hospitals, the ministry, the legal profession, schools, mental health community and the like so that it really was much broader, I think, at the conclusion of the project than many people had thought at the start.
Miller: I think it broadened and you've heard from some of the other members that they brought their particular areas of expertise whether it was enhanced law enforcement, psychological, community development, corporate involvement, all of which have been mentioned moments ago, into recognition that the scope of the problem was more pervasive than anybody had originally anticipated, that there was a complete disenfranchisement, that we had treated victims somewhat like inanimate objects to be present to say their piece and to be removed from the process and that that couldn't continue in our society, that they had to be treated with respect, involvement and certainly with tremendous input for the system to be effective as well as basically just to give them the rights that they should be in an hour able to obtain.
Anne: And toward the end we will talk about now and the progress that's been made. I appreciate that.
Robertson: I think the thing that really crystalized my thinking and somewhat shocked me was a bold statement that the committee advocated for a constitutional amendment which I thought was the ultimate. Unfortunately, it hasn't gone through yet but the idea that victims would be included as a constitutional right, that during trials that their concerns and their presence would be mandated at criminal trials. I think this was the ultimate that we brought forth. In my particular field, although there were many of them, but of course the one having to do with the police chaplaincy of how significant that was for the health of victims if somebody who was compassionate could come along side of them at the time but also how harmful certain of this counseling was when it wasn't directed appropriately by people who understood the problem so I think we made recommendations dealing with that.
Russell: I think similar. What we found out was that the scale was so out of balance in favor of the defendant and not with the victim and that the magnitude of the problem was so great that it really required the coordinated effort of all sectors of society. This wasn't just a criminal justice issue, this involved all sectors of society.
Samenow: I think that the victim actually was an abstraction, at least to me, when we began the proceedings. I agree with Doris Dolan when she said there is nothing like hearing from a victim himself or herself to really hear the layers and layers and layers of harm. So for me, and I think really in a way for the Task Force, the multi-challenge, the multi-layers, the multi-dimensions of this made us embrace more and more fields and areas that we saw were deficient.
Dolan: I want to say something about the medical and what has been done for us in the way of research and that wonderful woman who died at such an early age who really brought about the discovery of DNA as a helpmate to what we try to do and then have them access the use of DNA because I used to sit and listen to witnesses and what they were saying in the court and there was no way for a woman or a man to find justice until DNA made it a certainty.
Anne: Well, it certainly helped. Ken Eikenberry, did the process change at all as you went through the task force?
Eikenberry: Yes it did. I'd have to say the biggest change for me was that I frankly was shocked at how little I had understood what happens to a victim. In answering your question I resorted to a law review article that appeared in Wayne Law Review in 1987 which I wrote at their request and I had pointed out that I had been an investigator with the federal government, I had been a deputy prosecuting attorney here in Washington state, I had been an attorney general and yet after working with all of these victims I really had not comprehended what happens to them, what they go through, how their life changes forever in so many instances. For me it put a whole new light on the significance of the problem and even more determination, I think, to change it.
Anne: We're going to move on to another question. This time I'd like to start with Governor Miller. This question really is how did you collect the data? How did you gather the information that contributed to the report? If any of you have a favorite story or a favorite witness or something that was very compelling, this would be a good place to share that with us.
Miller: Of course, we had testimony from numerous witnesses which were brought forth by the staff, by our chairman and then with some input from those of us who were members. I know that one witness that I had encouraged to participate whose testimony was and continues to be particularly impactive was John Walsh whom I had met in my role as district attorney and who was the father of a missing murdered child and who has led a lot of efforts thereafter in dealing in this issue. As impactive as he was, there were less notable witnesses that were equally important in bringing forth their individualized stories as to what they had encountered and what had made them feel that the system wasn't treating them fairly. I think it was a compilation of all that coupled with, as I said, the experiences of each of us that ultimately led to the recommendations reaching beyond strict law enforcement into the private sector and into the involvement of the whole life of the victim and all the elements, the psychological, the financial and all full impact, and that's what ultimately led to all of them. Of course, the most far reaching was the prospect of a constitutional amendment which in large part I think was a statement because I recall that if we didn't make a statement that strong that the rest of our issues might just be put on a shelf somewhere and we needed to make a very strong statement whether or not it would pass and I suspect that's at least part of the motivation of the Constitutional Amendment Provision.
Anne: Dr. Robertson, what's your take on the process of collecting the information and data?
Robertson: The one that stands out in my mind perhaps more vividly than any other and there were so many testimonies that I do remember but I recall in New England there was a couple who had come to America from Great Britain. They had come to this as the land of hope and opportunity, had started a little business, begun to gain a certain amount of financial security in this country. Their home was broken into, they were brutally beaten and crippled for life. As I recall, it was one of the more tragic examples of somebody who had come to these shores hoping for something better and then had become victims of crime and that one stands out in my mind. The other that struck me was the treatment of rape victims, the impersonality, the fact that a rape victim would have to sit on benches along close by the rapist and be subjected to indignities from the moment of the examination all the way through not to mention the fact that they had to pay their own medical bills. This to me was just a horrible example again of that re-victimization. The most vivid to me was that middle aged couple from England whose lives had been totally shattered by an unknown assailant in I believe it was Massachusetts.
Russell: Let me describe the process that we used at the staff level. We started off first with a number of meetings with Lois in helping to plan this. Lois was just really instrumental in helping to put our process into place. We talked about which cities should we hold hearings in. When that was decided, and we had a very small staff, I assigned our staff to each of the cities and then they made the connections with local authorities and the key people in those cities and then they actually went out and interviewed potential witnesses. As you can imagine, there were just hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of potential witnesses and a large part of what we did at the staff level was first to sort of divide this whole broad area into specific issue areas. What are the key issues that we would like to take a look at and then look for sort of the best witnesses that would help to elucidate those particular areas. We didn't want to have witness after witness and a lot of just redundancy and repetition and so forth but really pick witness that could really focus on the key issues and the key areas with a story to tell and it would hopefully give some light that would lead toward a resolution. So that's how the hearings were set up. We had a lot of help at the local level in identifying these witnesses and then we selected them first on the issue areas and secondly on the sectors because at that time we realized that it wasn't just the Criminal Justice System, it was also the ministry and the mental health and so forth. So we tried to pick witnesses that would help shed light on the sector areas as well. Then we went out and held the hearings and collected the information and presented it to the Task Force.
Samenow: I think to follow along with what Terry said, it was certainly the witnesses with a story to tell and I think that one of the findings that we saw repeatedly, unfortunately, was that the victim often felt put on trial, especially as Pat Robertson pointed out with respect to sexual assault. It was almost as though the victim had played a role in causing his or her own victimization. The stories that were told indicated that in many ways the cost never ended and I don't mean just the dollar cost. But I think really what we kept hearing and hearing and kept asking about was the victim being put on trial.
Dolan: I would like to just revert back with the one that I have never forgotten and I'll make this short. It was a young, very handsome man who practiced his instrument at night so he could be in an orchestra and he came home and he was stabbed I think for $2.00 in his pocket. That would be bad enough but he was never able to blow the horn again because it affected his chest and he couldn't get the breath to do it. It's things like that that just stay vivid in your mind and make you determined that you're going to continue with this work until we get some of these problems solved.
Eikenberry: Well, as to the process, I particularly recall the charge I think it was from our then chair, now Judge Haight, saying that we were not going to create any new data but rather we were going to simply collect data that was already out there from people who had been on the field and worked with victims and that sort of thing and that's exactly what happened as others have described it. I was again struck by the lingering effects of crime that hadn't been spelled out as to how these traumatic events create a fight or flee attitude on the part of victims that will perplex them for the rest of their lives. I recall as a deputy prosecutor interviewing a rape victim with the idea that I had to, as you might say, toughen them up as a witness and I was embarrassed to then realize that I hadn't understood what was happening with that victim. I think this plays into a comment on today's society where callused regard for violence is so evident in all kinds of media displays and what we do about that I don't know except we need to recognize that it is engendering a worse problem.
Anne: In terms of developing the final recommendations, I know you had categories but there were so (many? check tape) recommendations and so many diverse categories, how did that all happen?
Robertson: First of all I have to congratulate the staff. The staff of this committee was just tremendous. Lois's leadership was exemplary. I think she pulled together and the staff pulled together some diverse elements that I think was extraordinarily commendable. When we got through, the recommendations were very clearly for action items at the federal and state level. I think they were very concisely expressed and I'm sure there were model statutes that came out of this as well, of course the ultimate was the constitutional amendment that hasn't yet come about. I think that the draft of the recommendations were for specific action. This was not a general statement of isn't this a terrible problem and we should do something about it. These were actions about this is what you can do with parole, this is what you can do in terms of restraining criminals, this is what you can do to give victims treatment and this is what the private sector can do as well. I think the organization of the findings were absolutely superb and they, of course, followed right out of the testimony that we all received.
Russell: I do have to say I think that Lois was so key. Usually the chair has a chair role that helps bring the board members to so forth. Lois worked really full-time and worked directly with the staff and she was extremely instrumental in all of this. What we did was we went through the issue areas and through the different sectors of society and so forth wanting to get a broad based, really a mandate, a suggested mandate, that could go out and could really make a difference. We used a litmus test, will this change for the benefit of the victim how they're treated, how they recover and so forth. Each recommendation that we used in the different issue areas and the different sectors of society had to meet that test. We narrowed it down to the ones that we have and that was I'm sure in connection with a number of discussions with the Task Force and then we put together a number of drafts that went through and continually got Task Force input on this and so forth and they were changed along the course of this and finally adopted. I think the implementation of these recommendations across the country just shows how focused they were and I think they made a tremendous difference.
Anne: Terry, a follow-up question which others also can answer as your times comes. For some of these entities it was the first time that anyone had said anything to them about obligations to victims. Was that surprising to some of these folks out in the field that now there were recommendations that said you have obligations to victims?
Russell: Absolutely. I think that they hadn't even looked at it that way and I think Stanton said it very well for the mental health community. When we went out we found many people that were basically focused on how best to help the assailant and then when the victim came in it was a question of talking to the victim about how they were treated as a child by their parents or something, not focused on the victimization, and we found that as we went out that they really hadn't realized it.
Samenow: All I can say is that Lois led the task force and the staff into a frontier that there were so many wide ranging specific recommendations because the neglect of victims at all levels, in all phases, from the time they were victimized until afterwards was so appalling that there was almost no end to the number of areas which cried for recommendations.
Anne: So it sounds like it was hard to willow it down to the sixty some recommendations that you ended up having.
Samenow: I don't know how hard it was in the end but all I can say is we had just massive and massive amounts of information and there was neglect at every phase from the time of the crime until long afterwards. So, yes, there had to be a lot that was very, very specific.
Dolan: I have a question and I hope this is not off of your agenda. There was such a beautiful job of outlining all of those areas as Lois and Terry have mentioned but what I would like to know is are we going to be able to add to this task force things that have now become very obvious. We had a conference on victimization through use of fraudulent documents and now that we have home security as being such an up-front subject on everyone's mind, could we add to, I'm asking, if that is not covered, and I couldn't find it, what happened because we found out that the use of fraudulent documents was allowing a lot of people to come in and use the services.
Anne: I'm going to have to jump in. It's a great topic but not on my agenda for today. Something that I think maybe you and I need to talk about afterwards when I do our follow-up interview.
Eikenberry: As has been mentioned, you could see that there were recommendations being developed and kept track of by staff and others on the task force so I reverted to the point of asking every judge, every professor, every law trained professional that testified to the committee about the potential effectiveness of a constitutional amendment to guarantee the rights of victims of crime. As I recall, everyone of them agreed or affirmed that this would be a positive change that would really get at, in a fundamental way, all of the recommendations that might be thought of. I think I started asking those questions about the second hearing and it did lay a good foundation for our final recommendation in that respect.
Anne: And we're going to talk a little more in-depth about that a little bit later.
Haight: You have to understand what a thrill it is to hear these voices. I mean when I hear Bob and Ken and Terry and Stanton and Pat and Doris, the memories that come are just incredible. The work of this task force, their sensitivity, they never, ever, missed a task force; I don't think hardly anybody did. They never missed a meeting. They were intelligent, intuitive and brought the resources of their background and I just had to say that. I'm just kind of overwhelmed listening to them and bringing back the memories of these marvelous people that cared so much about their fellow man and woman. And Ed who was part of the creation of this. One of the issues that struck me the most frankly was the mental health aspect of it because as has been mentioned briefly the criminal got the psychiatrist or the psychologist but most of the time the victims never did. Then when they got them, as Terry said, they were going back to, well, how did your mother treat you, not how the impact of crime was on the victim, so I think that was an incredible revelation as well as the hospitals, employers, ministries and schools that the goals did change because we did slip away from just criminal justice and realize everybody was blaming and mistreating the victim. Another issue that came to mind and you ask how did we kind of get there and some of our testimony. We had some outstanding help, and I think that should be acknowledged, in Marlene Young and John Stein in NOVA, Ed Stout out of Indiana (actually Missouri - do we change?), Harriett Salarno, Karen McLaughlin, Jim Rowland. Another issue that came up from us that I don't think any of us even focused on was I remember Bee McPherson out of Colorado and you all remember talking about molesters and the fact that they were getting like five days in county jail for molesting five or six or 10 children. There's just so many people that we owe a great debt of gratitude, those victims that risked a lot of embarrassment and publicity that they didn't want to inform us and those that were working in the victims' field that cared so much and helped us, Lucy Friedman in New York, Harold Boscovich, Veronica Zechinni. I'm just thinking of some of these names. I was writing them down as we were talking. Edith Surgan, Betty Jane Spencer who had probably one of the most horrific stories any of us heard when her four sons were killed and how she was left for dead and that all of her assailants were caught but she received no help whatsoever and her assailants were all in prison studying, getting their housing, etc.(STATIC ON TAPE) I think there's some outstanding people that should get a lot of credit for this because they really helped gather the people that informed us because we couldn't go out and do it all. Of course, Terry Russell just did an excellent job in our staff in also helping to bring some of these people to light to inform us about some of the horrific problems. The basic theme that they were blamed I think was pretty appalling to all of us, the basic theme that they were ignored in the system for continuances and parole hearings and by judges I think that was pretty appalling and the mistreatment of them I think was pretty appalling and I think we really focused on those basic issues of treating them better, making them whole if possible, helping them mentally and really, as has been said, balancing the criminal justice system for the first time.
Meese: I think what made this report one of the most compelling that I have read of its nature was your including the statements of the various witnesses along side the recommendations. Usually recommendations can get kind of legalistic in what's being suggested but by having the statements in many cases of victims it gave a lot of punch to the report and that's why I think this report was so well received.
Anne: We're going to talk about the constitutional amendment later so if you could talk about the other ones besides that. Do you think the recommendations have been fully addressed and if they haven't been fully addressed, where do we need more help?
Russell: I was tremendously impressed with the way that the report was received. I think so frequently you have reports that are issued and then basically sit on a shelf collecting dust and not much gets done at all. This report was totally different. The last I heard, and I know it went up a number of years ago, I think 64 out of the 68 recommendations were implemented across the country and I suspect it's probably 67 or 68 now. I mean it was just tremendous response. Secondly in following through the victim field, I heard time after time all across the country that this was really the Bible for victims' rights and victims' services and 10 years later people were still pulling out their Task Force report and said, well, the Task Force said this and so forth. I mean it really became a living document, and I think that that was so impressive in an area where folks have a tendency to be jaded about so many reports being issued out of Washington. This came from, as Ed Meese said, the mouths of the victims of the crimes and I think it made all the difference in the world.
Samenow: Well, I think that one thing that really changed because I still evaluate and occasionally counsel offenders and I do appear in courtrooms is that people who deal with offenders increasingly, although there's still a long way to go on this, have turned from the whys and the excuses of why the offender is the way he is, why he did what he did to actually include in their evaluation and counseling of the offender for the offender to think about what he did to the victim, to include the victim in the counseling and to talk about the ripple effect on the victim. Therefore, of course, there had been restitution programs. So just the awareness within the community of people who work with offenders whereas there was none before. I think that's absolutely remarkable and there's still room to go but it's a lot better than it was.
Dolan: I have to ditto what the gentleman just said. Now that there are so many groups and individuals who are aware because of this report of what was lacking they have stepped forward and helped to make this a more humanized field for victims of crime. The one thing I do not know and maybe you can answer this, someone who has kept up with it. The one thing that a victim always suffered was if someone was murdered or if they were injured and couldn't work, the supply of money that must come to them immediately, has that been addressed? I know it was asked but has it been addressed to help the victim immediately with money because that's what they desperately need?
Anne: That's a great question and it has been. All 50 states now have compensation programs with emergency funds. I'm very glad you brought that up.
Dolan: That's what I was worried about because if you have to wait or apply for funds it doesn't do you any good. What you need is the help immediately and I'm so glad that they have that emergency fund now.
Eikenberry: Well I would endorse the comments that have been made and then add one thing. In retrospect I wish that we had also recommended the appointment of legal counsel for victims at least as to seeking restitution perhaps beginning at the time of the sentencing phase and thereafter. The thing I'm getting at here is that I think the idea that debt is repaid by a person being in jail or prison is erroneous in my view and we need to establish better ongoing sense of responsibility and I think it could be done. The counter point to this is that so many lawyers are now making careers out of suing the state for crimes that are committed by people who were supposedly under state supervision and in that sense there is I suppose some restitution but putting this whole thing into a different arena would sure make sense I think.
Anne: Just in general, do you think the recommendations have been fully realized today?
Haight: Absolutely not. I was absolutely against the constitutional amendment. I said I wanted to give the states an opportunity and everybody an opportunity to do what we recommended, and I have changed because I don't think they are. Continuances are still happening all the time in the system and the victim is not talked to. We have all sorts of cases going forward still that the victim has had no input whatsoever into the sentencing and they're not made aware of it. The list goes on. It's in the law in many places but it's not necessarily in practice. A lot of work still needs to be done. I think Ken's idea and I'm kind of against having a lawyer I think because I just don't want this to be the next huge boon dog for lawyers that will take money away from victims but I do think converting it to civil judgment as we do here in California is an important concept for helping the victims always to be able to walk into any court and get the money if the person has it. I just think that there's a lot of things that still have to be done in regards to education especially I believe in the judiciary because I think that many judges were appointed or simply were not sensitive to those issues and there is nothing being taught in law schools today that I know of that even addresses the issues of victims of crimes and then of course I think that goes across the board for doctors and nurses and all those in other fields that would have contact. I think the most progressive has been law enforcement. I think that they, the sheriffs and the police, have absolutely been incredible in responding well to the training and to the issue and as many said this is the reason they got into this in the first place to help innocent people and they have done well with that. I think the training needs to go in other areas that's still very, very high.
Meese: I think Lois is right that the police have picked it up. One thing I would emphasize though is it has to be continued in their training programs because you have new officers coming in all the time and the momentum has to be kept up in the training programs. I think of all the studies that I have seen in the field of criminal justice, I think that the recommendations here have been more fully applied than most of the other task forces that have reported.
Miller: I think the essence of all the recommendations have been largely enacted across the country but keep in mind although this was a national and presidential scope the ultimate implementation for the most part is at the local level because most crimes are prosecuted and occur in individual jurisdictions. So the efforts to finalize this were a multi-year process because of the fact that they had to be enacted at individual states and in some cases individual cities and counties. Most states enacted a victim's bill of rights but again that process took many more years than any of us would have liked to have seen and in the course of each of those I think there were gaps in the interpretations or the desires of particular jurisdictions. I think these results were as pervasive on the nationwide level as you can get considering the fact that you can't just go in and enact a nationwide law or a nationwide recommendation that has to be enacted before it's pursued by all these individual interpretations. I think largely it's there but there's always room for refining it and as several of the members have pointed out it's 21 years later and frankly some people don't necessarily pay attention and you can easily slip back into some of the mistakes that were previously made without reminders. I think this is a good step in that direction but there's always a need to refine the criminal justice system and refine it with an eye toward the victim.
Dolan: Anne, before Ed has to leave and Lois is going to stick with us, but I want to say to Lois and Ed and of course I wish we could talk to our wonderful president, Ronald Reagan, but I don't think any of this would have transpired if we hadn't had a very competent person to move into that chair which was Lois Haight but it was our president and Ed Meese who were always behind all of these programs going from the governorship up to the president. If we hadn't had that behind us, this task force would never have come into being and none of these recommendations or people involved would have transpired. So the debt of gratitude I just want to say here before Ed or Lois has to leave us. We are so indebted.
Anne: Thank you, Doris, that is so sweet and such a true statement.
Robertson: I think the question was there was a cry in the society for some remedy. It was a perceived need all across the board. That's why the recommendations of this task force have found virtually universal acceptance. There's been almost no criticism of these recommendations because they touched a nerve right down to the community and I do think they've been implemented. I agree with Lois, though, we're a long way away from getting it all done. For example, here in Virginia, though, something happened. We were talking about recidivism and the revolving door for criminals. We abolished parole here in the state of Virginia and I know that violent crime has gone down. We've got an exile program for anybody that's found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. I think that the idea that not only are we helping victims, we're getting tough on criminals and that's the flip side of this report. So I do believe that we are seeing implementation but we are a long way away from getting it and like anything good you have to bring it back again and I would certainly be in favor of re-releasing this report with some other recommendations because we need to refresh the new people coming in, as you said, into law enforcement and into the judiciary.
Anne: Great and we will make sure that that recommendation goes to OVC. I need to ask General Eikenberry, you sort of jumped right in on the constitutional amendment and if you all know the federal amendment, your final recommendation, has not yet reached fruition. It was first introduced in 1991 and pretty much every congress since then. We have passed 33 state constitutional amendments to which Judge Haight referred and what I really want is some good advice from you pioneers on how we can implement this darned federal constitutional amendment for victims' rights.
Eikenberry: First of all, I like the language the task force proposed because it's simple, it's short, it's straight forward and it's implications go to all of the problems that we have been talking about so I would prefer to stick with that. That is what we started with in the state of Washington when we had, as the attorney general requested, this legislation for a constitutional amendment in our state and in the process we had to make some concessions in order to overcome concerns about cost and other concerns particularly the criminal defense bar but we ended up with an amendment that does definitely convey rights and it's the basis for an advocate coming forward and challenging instances where those rights are not granted. I would simply suggest the answer is to keep on keeping on, that what we're dealing with is the inertia of several first bill of rights amendments that were invoked because our forefathers saw the effuses under the system when we were under the domination of Great Britain and so those were all addressed and they had no reason to suspect that victims would become so remote and merely like tangible pieces of evidence to prosecutors in the year 2003. So we have to keep after it, that's all.
Haight: I agree with Ken on the original language. I think it's excellent and I'm in favor of this now but the only issue is, it says likewise the victim in every criminal prosecution shall have the right to be present and to be heard at all critical stages of judicial proceedings. Many places they have the right to be present but nobody tells them when it's going to happen, be notified. I'm always asking here in court, when did you notify the victim that they could be here. Well, sometimes I find out that they sent the letter the day before the hearing. So I think there are some logistics and some practicalities to work out but I do think the language is simple, straightforward and meaningful that we originally had and I agree with it.
Anne: Just a point from here. The National Constitutional Amendment group has gone back to much more basic language so I think that would make you all feel pretty good.
Meese: Well, I think because there hasn't been a unified effort to bring it to the attention and to put the pressure on people in the congress. One of the things we know is that when there's a general public interest it gets a lot less attention in congress then when you have a kind of a targeted special interest working on a project. I think maybe some of the organizations that we've talked about here, NOVA, Valor and some of the others may need to get the ball rolling to target and to intensify and concentrate on this particular amendment. As to what Lois just mentioned, I think perhaps one small amendment so that it would say that the victim in every criminal prosecution shall have the right to notice of and to be present and to be heard at all critical stages.
Miller: I think the General is right. There hasn't been a concerted effort nor a singular lobbying effort but certainly there's been support from the victims' groups. Some of the reticence, frankly, which surprised me has come even from elements of law enforcement based upon economic considerations. I've had discussions with former colleagues even in the prosecutorial realm who don't see the need for a constitutional amendment. I think that the overwhelming importance of it is largely symbolic because a lot of this has occurred on a state by state basis but the symbolism is so very important and one that I think should be pursued. It's never going to happen unless there is a strong group lobbying it on a full-time basis essentially at least through one congress and with one administration but if it's embraced by one congress or by one administration then it has the potential of still occurring.
Robertson: If I could jump in here on this one. Ronald Reagan said very cogently in dealing with congress it isn't necessary that they see the light but that they feel the heat. If there's no heat, they're not going to do anything. It's strictly it's going to cost you votes, it'll get you votes. Unless that's made clear and there's a group out there that says, look we are going to take you down the next election if you don't vote for this. I know that's hardball but that's the way you play it. If you want a constitutional amendment, there has to be a group that is organized, well funded and fighting for this thing and lobbying congress. I doubt if there's that much opposition to it and it's not that expensive so there's no real reason why it shouldn't get done. But it does have to have a constituency that goes for it and stays with it. It isn't enough to make a report and hope people of good will will endorse it, it just doesn't work that way.
Russell: I think that the only thing I would say is that I think we would want to mount that strong attack, update the results in the 32 states that have passed it, compare those results there from the victim's standpoint to the 17 that haven't and then get from the victims' words how this has really made a difference for them. One thing we found is that things don't really happen in the system unless you really personalize it to how much it makes a difference in the eyes and in the life of the victims and so forth. Pick those victims in the different states where we can then have the pressure that we talked about, the heat so to speak, on the members of congress and update it that way.
Anne: We actually are working on a project similar to that, Terry, that I'll fill you in on later that gives us some comparative data.
Anne: Doris Dolan, any thoughts on the federal constitutional amendment for victims?
Dolan: No, I think that that has been addressed by the professionals in that field. I agree with Lois that it should have that minor change there to have real meaning. But I want to ask a question before this conference is over. Does this group think that we should add anything to that task force report that we didn't cover before that applies to the current needs of today such as the security of the United States and use of fraudulent documents?
Anne: I think we're going to ask a similar question, Doris, in a couple of questions.
Haight: You know, I'd like to comment on one thing. I think the constitutional amendment has some detractors and I don't think they are those that you understand or would expect. I don't think the district attorneys are very supportive of this.
Anne: No, they're not.
Haight: They are a big supporter of the victims' movement but I don't think they're supportive of this. This is contrary to their issues of plea bargaining, getting cases resolved as fast as possible. I think there's a lot of built-in conflicts here and so I think that the natural group that you thought would be supportive is not. So whatever group that is going to be supportive as everybody has said and so well is going to have to be organized and it's going to have to be pretty powerful.
Eikenberry: There's no question that the insertion of this ingredient is a challenge to the raw authority of the county prosecutor or the district attorney so I can understand their resentment.
Haight: And trust me the judges won't be very supportive.
Anne: Twenty one years after your report there's 32,000 laws, over 10,000 organizations and a field that a lot of people consider to be very vibrant and necessary and fairly successful and the question is, and it's not a yes/no question, but did you all ever envision that 21 years ago that your work would lead to something like what we have today to help victims implement their rights and better serve them?
Meese: I don't think at the time we envisioned quite the scope and quite the way in which this would be implemented across the country. I think we were hopeful. By the way when we talk about vision, one person we should not forget is Frank Carrington. I think perhaps more than almost anyone Frank, along with Doris, was one of the earliest workers on this when he was with Americans for Effective Law Enforcement way back in the 60's and 70's and he had a vision probably as great as anyone's of what could happen if the victims' movement really got going and I would say that Frank deserves a lot of credit for what has happened. He, of course, was a member of the task force. I would say that the recommendations and the work of the task force has succeeded far beyond anyone's hopes or beliefs at the time.
Miller: Well I think the fact that we are together and discussing it is a remarkable achievement in and of itself, that it still has that kind of interest and viability and that speaks volumes. As far as whether it reached to the scope that we had predicted, I don't know that anybody could predict but I certainly think that the hope was there and personally I had the expectation that it could reach the national level because national organizations like the district attorney's association which obviously has had the concerns with the constitutional amendment but still embraced the other components like the national organization victim assistance and like the other entities that are brought in by the scope of the task force were there and in place. The time had come, the place was there and fortunately President Reagan and Ed Meese had the foresight to move forward on it. So I really had the hopes that it would reach the audience that it has and hopefully it continues to be a living document.
Robertson: I think it has exceeded any of our expectations in my opinion. I again say the thoroughness of the staff work and the chairmanship of Lois in this regard were very significant. I don't believe that any of us thought that just one more report in dusty file cabinets but to see the life and vibrancy of this report and the effectiveness of it to me is remarkable. I again am quite surprised. We all thought we were doing something good for victims but nothing of the scope that it turned out to be and the fact again that we're here this many years later and saying let's release it again for one more shot at the public I think is quite extraordinary.
Russell: I agree. I certainly didn't expect this much but I did have the expectation that this could really make a difference. I think from the standpoint of the timing of it and the different groups that were getting involved. I had been an assistant U.S. Attorney for 10 some years at that particular point in time and I knew so well how poorly victims were being treated, virtually as a piece of evidence, inanimate objects that you just move from place to place. I thought the time was right for that to be changed and I think that the strategy that was employed to do that. A key also was following up on it and I think that a key point there was when Lois became assistant Attorney General in charge of the office of Justice Program in establishing the Victims of Crime Office there in the Justice Department and the grants that went through and the leadership that occurred there I think was very important in moving this forward. The only other name I haven't heard mentioned, I don't think, who was important in helping to write the report was Carol Corgan and I think she was tremendous in helping to put this together.
Dolan: Yes I did because I could see the need and you know how many years I've worked with it so I could see people start to wake up and this task force I think brought it to the forefront even more than any of the other things we did because it was on a smaller scale and this had the impetus because it came from the President of the United States and it was national so it started the movement. When you say how many organizations are helping, it's unbelievable because when we knew this at the beginning we couldn't even get anyone to go testify on legislation, anyone to accompany a poor victim to court, you couldn't get anything. Now you have these organizations of people who are helping and I think that's a wonderful thing about this whole task force.
Eikenberry: I wouldn't have guessed at the outset how pervasive would be the results of our report and the whole victims' rights movement. As an example of something that occurred in our state and I think it's probably representative of most states, in 1986 the Office of Attorney General published a guide to crime victims' services and it was based on a survey sent out to all these different institutions and the remarkable thing is that they sent them back with indications, for example, here's one fire department that says they do investigations, prosecutions, witness preparation and accompaniment to court, witness notification and on and on and on, research, influencing public policy and this is in tiny mouse print and it runs on for 103 pages and it covers almost every community in the state listing trauma centers, hospitals, counseling services and so forth. So, I think that this is simply one piece of evidence of how expansive and pervasive our work has been.
Anne: I don't know if you all realize that that little book is considered worth it's weight in gold in our field because there aren't very many left and it really was the foundation for everything that has followed since then. I needed you to answer that question before I could say, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our field's heart because we're convinced we would not be where we are today without that document, no question.
Anne: There's such incredible passion and expertise among the task force members and there's a lot of young ones today who don't know you folks and they don't know about the task force report and now they will because of this project. What advice can you give to victim service providers today, people who interact with victims?
Haight: Listen I get to answer seven first. You ask did we ever envision that this would happen? I have to say it was a prayer answered, that we thought we could make a difference with victims of crime, we just never dreamed it would make this much of a difference. I want to tell you one of the biggest thrills of my life when I was appointed Assistant Attorney General when the President said, I want you to fulfill those recommendations and I remember calling Terry Russell and saying, Terry, they want us to implement those recommendations. Another thing I think should be said in that regard. If each one of these members on the task force brought back this into their own lives and spread it out in their fields, Ken Eikenberry in Washington, Bob Miller who was DA and then became Governor of Nevada and did such a great job. Each one of these people came back to their own places and just tripled and quadrupled it so I think that there's a lot of credit to go around and certainly to each one of the task members that didn't just sit back. And Pat Robertson, I was on your show three or four times personally and I know you went into this field so well with not only these victims but victims of family violence. I just think a great credit goes to those.
Twenty one years later if I was able to offer advice to victims, you know the #1 is be vigilant to victim providers, be very vigilant in what's going on in your county, watch your courts, sit in your courts, talk to your DA's, talk to the law enforcement. Find out what's going on because so many, as has been mentioned, people change, things go on, new people come on board that have no idea. I think to be very vigilant of what's going on and to keep fighting because it's not over.
Meese: One of the things that I think is very important and this goes back to what I was saying earlier about the need to continue to educate people. I think that the training programs that offices of victims of crime have had in the past for people involved in victim service providing and justice professionals should be continued. I think it's been very good. I participated in a number of these over the last several years and I think it has two major benefits. One is to continue to pass on the information that's necessary but secondly to show the people who are involved in victim services that there are people like them all over the country that are enthusiastic, innovative and creative. So I would say this is one of the most important things that could happen to perpetuate and add to the progress of the movement.
Miller: Sensitivity. I think that that's the bottom line to all of the recommendations. Try and place yourself in the position of the person who has been victimized and if you were they what would you want, what would you expect. To the victims themselves I think assertiveness. They are not to be expected to know all their rights but they should go in with an attitude that they have some and that they are going to exercise them by asking questions and desiring to participate.
Robertson: I somewhat echo the Governor's sentiments. We need empathy, we need compassion, we need to remember that these people are not statistics, they are human beings, and again to empathize with their hurt, their financial plight, the effect on their families and on their health and all the surroundings. I think that is the most important thing when we deal with it. Otherwise we could get cold, we can get professional and again treat them like ciphers, like statistics instead of human beings.
Russell: I'd just like to add I think a key thing here is to stay victim focused. I think one of the brilliant things of the task force in this was to take a look at the equation that was being utilized in this whole area. Before this it was seen as the defendant on one hand who was usually poor, frequently minority without a lot of support although, of course, there are a number of procedures there to support him but nonetheless, and on the other side was the government, the all resources available and so forth. When the equation was seen as that, frequently the defendant won out and in particular many legislators where you had defense council and so forth it was extremely difficult. Our inability to change the bail reformat which put the burden on the prosecution in bail cases was very important in this revolving door of justice that was out there so much. What changed was it wasn't the state, it wasn't the federal government against the defendant, it was really the victim. I think there was a rape victim who said, look, I was the one who was raped, not the state of was it North Carolina I think. Okay Virginia. Putting the equation in that context changed everything and I think as we move forward in victim services in addition to being vigilant which was pointed out I think the key is to stay victim focused.
Dolan: On the advice to the field I have these two things here at the Victims Crisis Center. We have a tremendous establishment here in the medical field and a place that trains nurses from all Texas just as an example. I would like to make copies of the Victims Crisis Center and when they are training nurses I think it would be wise to put this into their hands and have someone speak on the subject so that they as you say the next generation coming up is aware of what they can do in the emergency room or wherever they may be and what companies can do. We can make use of companies to help victims too. So I'm going to see what I can do about having the printing of these two brochures because they cover set fields and would enhance what the task force has recommended.
Anne: I appreciate that Doris and we'll work with you on that. I appreciate that a lot.
Eikenberry: Well the advice I would pass on is that if a person is to become an advocate or to be an effective advocate in this field I really think they've got to do everything possible to walk in the shoes of the victim. I know that's what was happening on the task force and this was what happened in our own hearings in Washington state and I'd like to presume on you to read two sentences that appeared in the report about victims. One of the witnesses said it is hard not to turn away from victims. Their pain is discomforting. Their anger is sometimes embarrassing. Their mutilations are upsetting. Victims are a vital reminders of our own vulnerability. So while we think it should be easy to sell the problems that they have, we actually all think we have the right stuff that we wouldn't be in those circumstances. It's essential to get over that point in selling anything from a constitutional amendment to a local service I believe.
Anne: That's all the questions I have. Judge Haight, I guess I'm turning the gavel back over to you and see if there's anything you want to conclude with.
Haight: You know, Anne, I'd like to thank you. I'd like to thank you for your consistent interest in victims of crime and the many changes you've brought about. You have just been fabulous. You have just been wonderful. The changes you personally are making and the vigilance you are showing and the sensitivity and intelligence with which you are treating it, we are very fortunate to have you following along doing the wonderful work you're doing. So really I just want to thank you very much.
Anne: I thank you and I feel like I have these giant footsteps to follow after listening to all of you today and all of us being so inspired by your words. I guess I want to conclude by saying we are going to be publishing an OVC special bulletin that I'll make sure everyone gets a copy and if you end up hearing yourself quoted in different articles and speeches it will emanate from this project. Our whole goal was to get your wisdom and wit and advice out to the field and we more than succeeded with that today and I'm very, very grateful to each one of you for your participation.
Eikenberry: I'd just like to say, Lois, that while the relationship on the task force was one that made me look on you sort of like a favorable den mother, I would just bet a nickel that in your courtroom you run a tight ship.
Haight: And I take good care of the victims.
|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.|