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Press Release

Op Ed: Crime Victims and Public Safety During Covid-19

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Tennessee

Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first Victims’ Rights Week in 1981and established the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, which laid the groundwork for a national network of services and legal safeguards for crime victims. Likewise, the current Administration has implemented historic levels of support for victim assistance and victim compensation.

In FY 2020, the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) will award more than $1.6 billion in victim assistance formula funding to support domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, child advocacy programs, homicide support groups, identity theft services, and local victim assistance programs. Through initiatives such as Project Guardian and Project Safe Neighborhoods, the Justice Department is using more data, resources, and technology than ever before to prevent firearms from illegally coming into possession of known domestic abusers and violent offenders.

This year Victims’ Rights Week has occurred in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, from the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Attorney General Barr made it clear that the critical law enforcement mission of the Justice Department will continue.  All of us in law

enforcement – federal, state, local and tribal - are committed to maintaining public safety and the rule of law amidst this crisis.

As the coronavirus outbreak in this country intensified, we have seen proposals advocating the indiscriminate wholesale release of prisoners from state and federal custody. The Department of Justice is taking a proactive, but lawful and safe, approach to expanding the use of home confinement, but only for those inmates who do not pose a danger to their communities. The Attorney General has made clear that public safety, including the safety of victims, is paramount.

Put in other words, we cannot let a public health crisis become a public safety crisis. For example, sending domestic abusers home in the midst of this crisis, where victims of domestic abuse are more isolated than ever, is irresponsible.

While violent crime is decreasing during the pandemic, domestic violence calls for service are on the rise. People are more isolated. Abusive partners are under more stress. The options for escape are limited. These situations are especially dangerous for police, who are killed or injured all too often responding to domestic violence calls.

In the federal prison system alone, prisoners in federal custody have been convicted of child exploitation and violent crimes. COVID-19 presents real risks but so does allowing serious criminals such as violent gang members and child predators to roam free.

Police are already at elevated risk to this virus, and some have lost their lives to it. The last thing they need is additional burdens from released prisoners who go on to commit more crimes against a vulnerable community.

Attorney General Barr makes it crystal clear that our paramount concern must always be the safety of our communities. We, in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, dedicate ourselves to protecting the rights of victims and preventing victimization not only as we paused to recognize National Crime Victims’ Rights Week but also during this crisis and throughout the year.

                                                                    J. Douglas Overbey
                                                                   United States Attorney
                                                                   Eastern District of Tennessee


Rachelle Barnes
Public Information Officer
(865) 545-4167

Updated June 26, 2020

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