WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Department of Justice is beginning the process of awarding $100 million in Recovery Act funds to victim assistance and compensation programs. The Attorney General made the announcement in his remarks at the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Awards Ceremony where he recognized 10 individuals and programs for their service to crime victims.
Of the $100 million in Recovery Act funds, the Department of Justice will begin the process of distributing $95 million through state formula grants to victim assistance and compensation programs today. In addition to these grants, the Department will award an additional $5 million in Recovery Act discretionary funds to provide training and technical assistance and to support demonstration programs in areas ranging from child abuse to sexual assault to victim services in corrections later this year. State allocations can be found at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/fund/recoverycvfa2009.html
"We all owe a debt to these honorees and to the countless other advocates across the country who tirelessly work to protect victims’ rights," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "The Department of Justice is committed to fighting for victims’ rights, which is why I’m so pleased we’ve been able to dedicate such a substantial amount of funds from the Recovery Act to assist such advocates in their invaluable work."
These annual awards are presented as a prelude to the nation’s observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 26-May 2, 2009. This year’s theme—"25 Years of Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating the Victims of Crime Act"—highlights the important role this law has played in serving victims.
The Victims of Crime Act was passed in 1984 and one of the innovative aspects of this landmark legislation was the Crime Victims Fund. Fines and penalties from federal criminals—not tax dollars—are paid into the fund to support victim assistance and compensation programs. Since 1984, more than $6.9 billion from the Crime Victims Fund has been distributed. Today, 4,200 local organizations provide counseling, courtroom advocacy, temporary housing and other services to crime victims. The Fund also has been used to aid victims of mass casualty violence, including the shootings at Virginia Tech and at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, N.Y.
The fund is administered by the Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) through its Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), which organized today’s awards ceremony and the Candlelight Observance held yesterday in Washington, D.C. In addition to the Attorney General, others at the Candlelight Observance included: Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division; Laurie O. Robinson, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OJP; Joye E. Frost, Acting Director, OVC; and Quincy A. Lucas, a victims advocate and founder of Witney’s Lights Inc.
The recipients of today’s awards were nominated by their colleagues in the victim service and criminal justice fields to recognize their courageous responses in the aftermath of a crime and their professional efforts to better serve the needs of victims with disabilities, to design and implement curricula and tools for victim service providers and to ensure that victims receive the services that they need.
National Crime Victim Service Award: Honors extraordinary efforts in direct service to crime victims.
Recipient: The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), Boston, Mass., for establishing itself as a model program for other rape crisis centers across the country, many of which have incorporated BARCC’s programs, partnerships and trainings into their programs.
Recipient: Kenneth Barnes, Washington, D.C., for his dedication following his son’s violent death to reducing gun violence and its devastating impact on families and communities. Mr. Barnes founded Reaching Out to Others Together (ROOT) in 2002 to advocate, educate and intervene on behalf of homicide victims, as well as to motivate and mobilize communities to take proactive measures to reduce gun violence crimes.
Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services: Recognizes a program, organization or individual that has helped to expand the reach of victims’ rights and services.
Recipient: Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, Police Social Services (PSS), Thibodaux, La., for their commitment to coordinated community responses with advocates, counselors, prosecutors, social workers and the judicial system by going to great lengths to ensure that victims of crime are given immediate and long-term assistance. PSS provides crisis intervention from first response throughout the criminal justice process and serves 1,200 to1,400 victims per year.
Team members include: Lt. Karla S. Beck, Deanna Dufrene, Sgt. Valerie Day, Deputy Dale Savoie, Deputy Walter Tenney, Deputy Delaune Boudreaux, Advocate Tamera Joseph, Deputy Rebecca Shaver, Deputy Amy Guillot, Deputy Pam Guedry and Reservist Bernard Lafaso.
Volunteer for Victims Award: Honors individuals for their uncompensated efforts to reach out to victims.
Recipient: Barbara Ann Skudlarick, Blaine, Wash., for her volunteer work serving victims of crime since 1997, including her instrumental efforts to bring victim services to her community. Ms. Skudlarick, a retired R.N. and a retired flight attendant, also served as a member of the Aviation Family Support Team and flew to Washington, D.C. after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, to support surviving family members of those who were killed in the attack on the Pentagon.
Special Courage Award: Recognizes extraordinary bravery in the aftermath of a crime or courageous act on behalf of a victim or potential victim.
Recipient: Gracia Burnham, Rosehill, Kan., who served with her husband Martin as missionaries with the New Tribes Mission in the Philippines for more than 15 years. In May 2001, the couple decided to spend a night at the Dos Palmas Island Resort in the Palawan area of the Philippines to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary. They were awakened by armed gunmen affiliated with the terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). The Burnhams were among 20 hostages seized that morning and forced into a waiting motorboat. Throughout their terrifying ordeal which lasted more than a year they both exhibited remarkable strength and courage. On June 7, 2002, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines found their encampment and a firefight ensued in which Mr. Burnham was killed and Mrs. Burnham was shot in the leg, but survived and was rescued. Since that time, Mrs. Burnham has dedicated herself to pursuing justice against the terrorists who held them captive.
Allied Professional Award: Recognizes an individual or organization outside the victim assistance field for services or contributions to the victims’ field.
Recipient: Daniel Man, M.D., Boca Raton, Fla., for his work on a unique model program that helps physically injured victims of domestic violence restore their lives by reconstructing battered faces mutilated by acts of violence.
Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award: Honors an individual whose leadership, vision and innovation results in significant changes to public policy and practice benefiting crime victims.
Recipient: William Van Regenmorter, Hudsonville, Mich., for authoring the Michigan Victims Bill of Rights Constitutional Amendment, which became law in 1988, as well as successive victim-related legislation. He also is the founder of the Michigan Crime Victim Foundation, which serves as a financial resource of last resort for victims who lack insurance or do not qualify for victim compensation. Mr. Van Regenmorter, a retired state legislator, is considered by many to be the "Father of Victims’ Rights" in the state of Michigan.
Federal Service Award: Honors exceptional contributions and extraordinary impact on behalf of victims in Indian Country, on military installations, in national parks or in other areas governed by federal jurisdiction.
Recipient: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Senior Management Team, Washington, D.C., for recognizing the critical role that victims of crime play in the federal criminal justice process and embracing a victim-centered approach to investigations. Team members include: Marcy Forman, Raymond Parmer, Jr., James Hayes, William Reid, Michael H. Neifach, Gary W. Schenkel, Traci Lembke, Roger Applegate and Brian Moskowitz.
Recipient: Frank Marion, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Washington, D.C., for 35 years of unwavering commitment and support to thousands of crime victims with information, referrals and support within the federal justice system.
Crime Victims Fund Award: Recognizes outstanding work in pursuit of federal criminal offenders and in the collection of fines, penalty fees, forfeited bail bonds and special assessments that constitute the Crime Victims Fund and victim restitution.
Recipient: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of North Carolina, Financial Litigation Unit, Raleigh, N.C., for helping to restore victims’ rightful ownership from what has been taken away, lost or surrendered from federal criminal defendants. Team members include: S. Katherine Burnette, Sarah Aman, Margaret Davis, Claire Farland, Charlene Harris and David Stearns.
More information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the Crime Victims Fund, and victim assistance and compensation programs is available at: www.ojp.gov.