Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections

Contact: Jean Wall, Director, Crime Victim Services Bureau
Phone: 225.342.1056

National Crime Victims' Rights Week - 2004

As you'll see, some units offered detailed reports; some, abbreviated versions. In either case, the materials offered portray a satisfying mix of public outreach and awareness education for staff and for offenders. Like our victim services in general, observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week has become part of who we are (and we're getting better every year). Thanks to all who help that happen.

Probation and Parole is clearly a community-based function, and most of the observances reported from the Division included a strong element of community outreach.

First mention of National Crime Victims' Rights Week in the Natchitoches area came in a March letter to the editor from officer Melissa Murray of the Natchitoches Probation and Parole District. She called attention to the upcoming observance and later contributed an article, which ran in the Coushatta Citizen on April 1. NAD joined forces with others in the community for a week-long, city-wide observance: a kick off at the Natchitoches Parish Courthouse and, on following days, a prayer vigil, a poster contest at Natchitoches High School, a ceremony on the Riverbank downtown honoring victims killed or injured "in the line of duty," and lunch along the Cane River.

The Alexandria Probation and Parole District observance was also community-based and collaborative. ALD engaged Avoyelles Correctional Center and Dabadie Correctional Center as partners. ALD contacted the Town Talk, which ran an article about victims' rights, beginning with the story of a local resident whose son was killed. The article acknowledged ALD, AVC, and DCC for the victim services bookmarks they were making available to community residents, and described services available to victims through the department. Warden T. W. Thompson and District Administrator Jeffery Gaspard authored an informational letter and distributed it and bookmarks to seven mayors, four district attorneys, six sheriffs, and the Rapides Parish Library. Mindful that increasing the number of inmates who successfully release to the community simultaneously reduces the number of crime victims in the community, ALD created an Inmate Pre-release Information flyer to distribute at monthly pre-release talks at AVC, DCC, and the Rapides Parish Prison. According to ALD organizer Michael Wynn, AOur victims rights week program this year has been more successful than ever before in the history of ALD with more victim inquiries than imaginable.

West Baton Rouge District Probation and Parole distributed victim services bookmarks also. On April 21 staff held a brief ceremony at the WBR Detention Center and planted a tree to honor crime victims. Special guests for the ceremony were parents of a young woman killed by a Baton Rouge area serial killer. They and others at the ceremony returned to the district office for a reception and homemade snacks.

Shreveport Probation and Parole District concentrated on staff awareness. Their guest speaker was Debbie Lawhead, Director of Women Services at the Biedenharn Center in Shreveport, which supports women with addiction problems, homeless situations, illiteracy, and unemployment issues. Ms. Lawhead, a nurse, has herself experienced physical and mental abuse and has overcome these problems. She shared her story and the stories of other women at the Biedenharn Center, telling staff as she did so about help available to victims on their journey from "victim to victor."

Within the prisons, awareness and outreach were also mingled themes. David Wade Correctional Center inmates reached out to the community, and staff and inmates wove victim’s issues into group activities. As outreach, inmate organizations donated $300 for supplies, which the prison's carpentry and welding classes used to build ten benches and two picnic tables for the Homer Park.

Within the prison quotes calling attention to the week appeared in the daily inmate notification bulletin, and every inmate organization covered a crime victim topic at its organization's weekly meeting. Mental health staff discussed victim-related issues with their groups. The Anger Management and Sex Offender groups discussed the definition of "crime victim" and took a Crime Victim Quiz, which was followed by a discussion directed at correctly identifying victims and victim rights. In parenting classes, discussions focused on an article, "The Impact of Criminal Behavior and Incarceration on Families and Friends of Offenders."

The Substance Abuse group defined "crime victim," talked about the different types of victims, and considered ways that addiction and crime/victimization are related. The Transition group discussed the definition of Acrime victim, then wrote letters to someone they have victimized in the past and shared their letters with others in the group. They also discussed possible connections between rehabilitation for inmates and the situation of crime victims, the impact of crime on the families of incarcerated individuals, and the impact of criminal behavior in general.

Louisiana State Penitentiary ran a public awareness campaign as a way to call attention to victims' rights. All week tour groups (about 350 persons total) were told about NCVRW, and inmates who spoke to the groups spoke of the damage done when they created a crime victim. Classification offers told visitors about services available to victims throughout the department and talked about policy, restorative justice, and moral rehabilitation. Visitors to the Museum were invited to sign "The Violence Stops With Me" statement and received an American flag sticker.

Programming at Dixon Correctional Institute this year focused on a specific area of victimization: child abuse. Vets Incarcerated provided a display of 42 white crosses representing the number of children killed by child abuse/neglect last year. The crosses and a banner were placed in a visible area of the prison where it could be seen by staff, visitors, and inmates. Additional banners were placed at the front gate and along the walk fence, offering statistics about child abuse and stating DCI's commitment to prevention. Two seminars on child abuse were presented to approximately 175 inmates by Mandy Weber from Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana. Two inmates made two posters for each inmate recreation rooms: one poster focusing on general crime victim statistics and the other on child abuse/neglect statistics. Literature on child abuse/neglect was distributed to visitors through the visitor processing building and the concession stand at visitation, and inmates received literature at the seminar. Role call training included information on child abuse/neglect. Pre-release classes focused on victim awareness on April 23 and April 30, and included two victim impact speakers and a speaker on victim rights.

Elayn Hunt Correctional Center offered inmates the opportunity to hear a victim impact speaker.

Washington Correctional Institute used the national observance to get inmates thinking about crime and the impacts of their actions on victims, communities, and their own families. Each Friday of the month, staff met with inmates approaching release and used videos and other materials to present and explore issues like the following: What actually is a victim (and can it be a community)? In what ways are inmates' family members (spouses, children, mothers, fathers, and siblings) also victims? And what about the direct victims – their feelings, need for "closure," and the age old question "why me (us)"? What can/must inmates do to help restore self esteem in victims? themselves? Personal choice was an important topic too: How does an individual's choice affect other people? What steps could inmates take to make a difference in their community when they return?

Like Natchitoches District P&P Phelps Correctional Center got a head-start on the national observance. The January/February and March/April issues of the prison publication The Insider ran articles about victim issues from the OVC packet and from inmates. In March, posters appeared along the walk to notify inmates of a victim awareness program planned for April 20; the Daily Notification Bulletin also promoted attendance. On that Tuesday morning staff and inmates observed a moment of silence; staff members were encouraged to discuss victims rights issues as a lead-up to the moment. The main program took place in the evening with 151 inmates in attendance. It included music by the Gospel Harmonizers and a play presented by the Jaycees ("The Meeting"), which portrayed a victim-offender dialogue. Program highlights were guest speakers: Pat Taylor and Gene Guidry of MADD and Catalene Theriot, a victim assistance coordinator from the 16th JD and founder of VOICE, a support group for victims and survivors of crimes of violence.

At Avoyelles Correctional Center inmates and staff were invited to attend a victim awareness program on April 20. A statement on the program set the tone: "...America's Values. Let us all look within ourselves and remember the victims of crime within our community and beyond." After welcoming remarks from Warden Lynn Cooper, second and third place winners in the inmate essay contest were acknowledged, and the first place winner read his composition. Speakers for the event were the DA's victim assistance coordinator for Avoyelles Parish (accompanied by two crime victims served by his office), the director of the Crime Victims Services Bureau, and a representative of the Avoyelles Parish Domestic Violence Outreach Office. Inmates from the Culinary School provided and served refreshments following the program.

At Winn Correctional Center, the Jaycees completed a mural on this year's theme, “Victims' Rights, America's Values,” and donated a check for $200 to the Volunteers of America. Inmates were invited to compete in a theme-based essay contest. The first and second place submissions were published in the inmate newsletter. At an open call out inmates heard from the victim assistance coordinator from the District Attorney’s office in Natchitoches and from P&P officer Melissa Murray.

The Washington Parish Rape Crisis Center/ADAPT, Inc., received community awareness grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, and involved WCI staff and the Crime Victims Services Bureau in event planning.

Voca Letter


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Last Modified:
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