WHERE’S THE HEART IN JOURNALISM FOR THE PLIGHT OF VICTIMS OF VIOLENT CRIME?

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In bygone years, journalists were supposed to stick to the “W’s” – Who, What, Where, When, Why …and How  to present a factual account of a journalistic piece.  However, as a survivor of crime, I now clearly see that reams of paper and ink are devoted to the “who” meaning the perpetrator and the “what” with a more than healthy dose of sensationalism, frequently at the expense of the crime victims. Victims’ families are nearly ignored in this process. The more grisly the better in journalism and viewers flock like a feeding frenzy.  Like it or not, that’s the way it is.

This leaves them as “second class citizens, “out in the cold”, “at the back of the bus” and “a virtual afterthought at best!”  Do journalists really give the public what they want?  Or, is this just rationalization or an excuse for reprehensible behavior in presenting such a skewed image of the people and circumstances involved? I would like to think that the general public, irrespective of their thirst for the immediacy of social media, would “take the high road” if guided.

What is “the high road?” The high road would include: presenting a balanced picture-not to sensationalize; to stick to verified factual information; to not “rush to judgment “ for the sake of beating to the punch  a competing news organization; to humanize the victims above all else, rather than used as a pawn in the ever complex judicial chess game.

The truth is, if journalists did a better job of humanizing the victims, I’m certain there would be positive “spill over effect” to court personnel and the enforcement of crime victims’ constitutional rights!

Enter, Stage Left, my customized victim impact writing service designed for victims “lost in the media swirl” who desperately need a cohesive, objective, experienced voice to convey the heart and soul of their loved one!

A prime example of getting caught in the abyss of the horror of mass homicide without as place to turn is Philip Russo, widower,  former husband of Shelia Russo passionate advocate for the downtrodden, working as the Tribal Administrator on tribal land in Alturas, California (although the mass shooting took place in the tribal office, the building itself does not sit on tribal land). In February, Phil’s entire world “faded to black’.  It all went horribly wrong in an instant!

In order to assist Phil in his quest to the correct the misconceptions of this tragedy, to focus on all victims, including the memory of Shelia, (as opposed to the press the murderer has received,) I submitted selected interview questions to Phil to reflect upon. Readers should keep in mind that his responses reflect a very new and early and very thoughtful perspective

In addition, in more than 30 years of working with crime victims, I have NEVER heard of a more egregious failure of “the system,” a more convoluted, complex, bureaucratic wasteland forced upon this man; lacking in sufficient resources for a crime victim in my life, all due to many circumstances beyond Phil’s control.        It is the proverbial “black hole “you would not wish upon your worst enemy.

This is the very circumstance, which calls for others to step up and step in, including assistance with victim impact, where applicable!

However, on the positive side, I must say at the outset, with people connections, resources and some support, Phil is just beginning to “see the light of day” ever so slowly, with his overwhelming sense of grief the most difficult part of his battle.

I am honored that he chose to participate and offer his voice for the benefit of others.

Questions and Responses for Phil Russo

Thus far, what is the one most difficult lesson you have learned about being a victim of violent crime?    

Personally speaking, it was the realization that all of the programs and people everyone thinks are out there to aid someone in my situation are either nonexistent or were or little to no help to me. I went through all of the traditional sources for victim’s assistance, not one was able to connect me with the help I was seeking.  I was thrown into a quicksand of red tape. Having to jump through hoops to complete paperwork and make phone calls. Dealing with bureaucracy is the last thing you want deal with when you’re experiencing debilitating grief. For me, the ability to speak with people who had experienced losing someone to gun violence, just as I had, was crucial. I’ve had the good fortune to speak with many other survivors, who tell me they all had the same experience. It was only through reaching out on my own that I was able to find people like you, who were able to put me on the right path.    I feel grateful for having come across the people I’ve met through social media. If it weren’t for all friends that I’ve made by striking out on my own for help, I don’t know where I’d be today.  I’m lucky in that whatever it was that possessed me to use social media to reach out has led to meeting so many caring people.  I hate to think about all the other victims who aren’t as lucky as I am in that regard.  On the positive side, one of the enlightening things that I’ve learned is that in times of tragedy, you need to surround yourself with caring supportive people. When Shelia was first killed, I was determined to make it through this on my own.  I realized though, that I was never going to make it alone. I needed help. So I opened my heart and reached out to others and it has made all the difference.

What is the biggest misconception that the media has concerning this horrible crime?  

article-2565664-1BB8DBDF00000578-661_634x826There are a few things. First, regarding Shelia’s role in all of this, Shelia’s job as Tribal Administrator was to implement the decisions made by the tribe.   Shelia had no role in the decision making process for the recall elections or the evictions.  Her job was to merely oversee the proceedings to make sure they were carried out per the tribe’s by laws.

Then, there are some who are of the opinion that this is just a common occurrence with Native American’s on reservations. I believe this is a misconception fueled by prejudice.

Regarding the matter of the embezzlement, it’s hard for me to believe that Cherie Rhoades would kill 4 people and try to wipe out the entire tribe merely over her eviction. There were 19 people in the building that day, and according to testimony by law enforcement, Rhoades made statements that she intended to kill everyone.  Remember, this is woman who was receiving $80,000 a year and living in her house for free, simply for being a tribal member.  She could have simply packed up and moved elsewhere very easily.  Sources put the dollar amount of the embezzlement at $50,000, but that was just according to the 2012 financial audit. The accounting records for the previous years were so poorly kept, that they were going to have to recreate them forensically.  Cherie Rhoades was the chairwoman for 10 years.   I believe that if they dig deeper that they would find a lot more.

Hypothetically speaking, do you feel that if but for multiple victims, victims within the same family and culture as the perpetrator, your wife’s murder would not have “gotten lost”? Why/Why not?

That’s a difficult question to answer.  I don’t know why this story, as a whole, has gotten very little attention. Even some of the activist groups that I’ve become a member of didn’t even know this shooting occurred.  I’m not sure if it’s because of all the reasons you’ve listed or our extremely remote location. Those all very well could be the reasons. Then again, maybe not. I’m not sure why.  I’m still trying to figure this out.

In your opinion, what can realistically be done to incentivize journalists to begin focusing on crime victims versus the perpetrators?

I’m not sure if it’s a matter of trying to incentivize or the need to humanize them…  People have commented to me that the media is just giving the public what it wants I think that’s a cop out. People are still going to read the stories to learn the facts. I believe that media can still report the news without glorifying the perpetrators and all of the sensationalism.  I can understand why some people are apprehensive about talking to the media. They’re afraid of being taken out of context and exploited and rightly so.  It certainly does go on, but I think that we as victims need to speak out more.  We need to talk about our loved ones.  We need to tell the stories of their lives and all the good things they did so that they are remembered for WHO they were and not by how they were killed.  Remember, for every positive story that we DON’T tell, the media will only publish the negative. I want people to see real cost of this violence, the human factor. I think that honoring the victims is something that everyone can relate to and hopefully, in some way, it may help to bring an end to this violence.  I think that we also need to hold the media accountable for what they publish.  If you see an exploitive news story, call the news director or station manager where the story appears and let them know that it’s insensitive to the victims. It’s just something that needs to be taken on one battle at time. That’s activism 101.

One of the ironies of this case is that your wife’s background was rich in accomplishments with much to be written about as a feature story. What would your feature story include about Shelia? 

The wonderful thing about Sheila is that for all of her accomplishments, she always remained just a humble country girl from Bakersfield. Shelia was one of the most caring, loving, non judgmental and down to earth people that you’d ever meet. She was driven by an innate passion to help others and it was her compassion that was really the key to her success.  Major accomplishments aside, it was all the little things she did in between that made Shelia who she was.  After her death, people that had known Sheila in the past came out in droves to contact me. People I never knew or heard of before.  They shared wonderful stories with me about Shelia had impacted their lives. They told me Shelia was a mentor to them, how Shelia gave them jobs when other people gave up on them. One woman told me how Shelia was able to “work her magic” and save her grandmother’s house from being taken away by the Bureau of Land Management. People were so compelled to reach out to tell me, they sent their cards and letters in care of the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office because they had no other way to reach me.  Even in her free time Shelia took every opportunity to write in public forums about issues that were important to her.  She was very well educated on the issues of the day and not afraid to debate on healthcare and immigration reform, environmental and climate issues, and marriage equality. In true Shelia fashion, always fighting for the underdog.  Not more than a week before she was killed, I asked Shelia the question if what she did for work seemed like a job to her, or if she loved it so much that it didn’t seem like work. She thought for a second and then answered me. She said that she loved what she did so much, that to her, it wasn’t work at all. In fact, she would do it even if she was never paid for it. It was just a way of life for Shelia.  That’s the kind of person Shelia was.Unknown
People have asked me if this tragedy has hardened my heart. The answer is no, and quite frankly just the opposite is true. It’s really caused my heart to open more. I hate to sound cliché, but it does make you realize what is truly important in life and how trivial most the things that conflict us really are.   Sheila already firmly grasped this “big picture” of life, even without suffering the tragedy. The things that meant the most in life to Shelia were her children, her family, friends, her love for nature and animals, and her desire to do good things in her lifetime.  A few years ago, Shelia posted on Facebook “What makes life worth living is working to create the mark that you leave on this world”. The people who have recently come to know Shelia through me all tell me how inspirational her story is. This is the reason why I try so hard to tell her story.  I know that Shelia will continue to inspire and open hearts.  This is the gift that Shelia has given to me.  This is the mark that Shelia has left on this world. This is the Shelia that I want people to know.

Comments and Conclusions:

I am truly touched at the thoughtful, sensitive nature of Phil’s reflections, revelations and truths regarding the circumstances and the character of his wife – even at this early stage in his journey.  There truly is no “right or wrong responses” when we try to access one’s intellect combined with places in the heart… It is only through the process of reaching out to others in times of need that we really begin to understand the richness of life itself. Sheila would have wanted it that way. I feel it! We will attempt to keep you updated on this story. To contact Phil Russo: philip_russo@yahoo.com;

Contact me for information about Victim Impact Statement Services available if you have the need:  Email ladyjusticedonna@gmail.com

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Twist of Fate- “Herman Munster” But, Do You Know the Author/Cartoonist? 

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Many people of the baby boomer generation are familiar with Fred Gwynne, actor of the 1960’s “comedic police series, “Car 54 Where Are You” and “The Munsters”, the bumbling but loveable Herman Munster, child-like monster-father. Many do not know of his early elite upbringing, the tragedies that befell him, his need for “perfect children,” his string of acting successes and never lacking a job due to his multiple talents.  However, he also had “good genes” as a cartoonist and children’s author. His mother, Dorothy was also a cartoonist and created a comic strip called “Sunny Jim.”

Video Clips of Early TV

“Car 54 Where are you” Theme:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQfXPGCYlfI

“A Policeman’s lot”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N6YgivIqjI

The Munster’s Opening Theme Season Two:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0drJKnYg5-s

I was completely charmed in the early 1970’s by Fred Gwynne’s talents as a cartoonist. They are wonderfully detailed and expressive!  How I wish he was still alive to illustrate my as yet unpublished children’s book, “Plug-Nose and the Fisherman.”

In my former career as a speech-language pathologist, working with children and adults, language impaired children and adults delighted in two favorite books he authored and illustrated: “The King Who Rained” and “Chocolate Mouse for Dinner.”

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These books are filled with puns – homonyms- the stuff of corny jokes.  A homonym is a word that is said or spelled the same way as other words, but has different meanings. Typical examples: their-there, prints-prince, right-write, fair-fair, die-dye etc. etc.

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If you are a little kid (or English as a second language learner) and are not aware of the multiple meaning nature of the English language- WATCH OUT!  ‘Just imagine the chaos trying to process what is said!!

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Fred’s books are timeless… and can be used in many creative think–out-of–the- box-ways!            (I just introduced them to a co-worker for his little girl.)

Below you will find illustrative examples of his wonderful work!  Video and print information is also listed.  Get past “the Munster.” He had so much more to offer the world… and he did!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Additional References:

http://www.biography.com/people/fred-gwynne-9542215#!

You Tube: Fred Gwynne Documentary:

Short Bio and publications available on Amazon:

http://www.squidoo.com/fred-gwynne

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Adding Insult to Injury- Crime Victimization & Funeral Planning

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FUNERALS… That end of life thing we all must deal with…but not now!  That’s the way most people think about this topic.  You put it off and put it off until the inevitable happens. At that point, you are at your most vulnerable and emotional with conflicted emotions. For instance, you may not want the responsibility of this task, but you were named…or there is no one else to do it. You may not have had the best of relationships, but were bound by blood and a sense of obligation.    You may have been estranged.  You may feel guilty as you have the “coulda, woulda, shoudas,” in that you could have and should have spent more time with your loved one…and now it is too late!  There is the temptation to “go overboard” on the amenities to overcompensate for your guilt.  Another scenario – here is your loved one whom you know so well. However, you never “had the conversation”, never put thought to paper, and never saw an attorney. You think you know their wishes for the afterlife…or do you?  To complicate matters… what if a spouse’s wishes differ from a parent or you have a “blended family” with opposing views? Ahhhh, such complications!  This does not even begin to address the additional problems encountered when the person in question was a victim of violence and died abruptly… I will address this in this blog.

However, I must share that I have tried to call state and local professional funeral associations and large funeral homes whose work I am aware of in order to book a radio show.  Their response- trepidation or no response at all! What’s the big deal about informing the public?  Funeral directors aren’t meant to be a “secret society” after all. They serve a very valuable purpose which the public considers barbaric and ritualistic.  Perhaps it is just a function of my much overregulated home state.  No matter…

Perhaps you think you know what to do as you’ve been to numerous funerals and wakes. Well, I have too and I learned much regarding the “behind the scenes knowledge” you or your designee should know.

A great resource used here is the National Funeral Directors Association: http://nfda.org/public.html and the Federal Trade Commission for content info as well as others listed. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0070-shopping-funeral-services

 “The Conversation”

When you are calm, clear headed and death is not imminent is the time to “plan ahead”-even for you spontaneous people.  One online reference calls it “the talk of a lifetime.” How should someone be honored, be remembered after death?

Where and when you broach the topic of death planning doesn’t really matter… Whenever the “private opportunity” might present itself. (I would not recommend during Thanksgiving dinner or the like! LOL) Why is it that families bring up such things during “festive times” reminiscent of religion and politics?   Perhaps it’s the only time they get together… or they feel they need “witnesses.”  ‘Much better to have a “rosy dinner” first and then retreat to a private room if that’s the only way.  Another option might be with a trusted financial planner or as when you do complete a will with your attorney.  It doesn’t have to be fancy with “whistles and bells” and it can be done very reasonably in terms of cost. I would be suspect of on-line wills as “not one size fits all” and state laws can be very complex differ from state to state.

Recommendations from “a talk of a lifetime” when trying to decide how to memorialize your loved one verbally through a eulogy or instructing a religious leader who is unfamiliar with the deceased reminded me of a couple of questions to be asked during a customized victim impact statement – such as proudest achievement, advice you never forgot, most memorable time, most influential person.  http://donnagore.com/victim-impact-statement-assistance/

Families Who Become Victims of Violent Crime: More Layers of Grief:

Many sources indicate that a funeral burial should not be delayed  longer than three days for a natural death without embalming.  However, if a crime has been committed, an autopsy is mandatory to perform needed tests, followed by embalming.   This adds another level of grief, inconvenience and serves only the introduction to the disrespect and horror that a crime victim will experience.

When a member of the immediate family is forced to physically identify the victim (as occurred in our case) it is extremely traumatic!

If it happens to be a “high profile” case by virtue of the nature of the crime or  circumstances of the crime, the media, including social media, can be very intrusive. For information regarding how to manage the media in a high profile case, refer to the following ‘Shattered Lives” blog-podcast with guest, Ann Baldwin: http://donnagore.com/2012/06/17/ann-baldwin-on-the-evolution-of-news-your-claws-are-always-out-versus-i-feel-so-good-about-the-transition-ive-made/

If the deceased was in some way complicit or contributing to the crime, it can affect your ability to qualify for victim compensation funding (including funeral expenses)  depending upon the laws of the particular state.  One  example of a wonderful  and trying job (due to the difficult circumstances to be ruled upon)     is the North Carolina Victim Compensation Program.   http://www.wral.com/-a-gift-from-heaven-nc-pays-millions-to-help-crime-victims/13547297/

 

“The Funeral Rule” – Your Rights

*Buy only the funeral arrangements you want;

*Buy only the funeral arrangements you want;

*Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home;

*See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets;

*See a written outer burial container price list;

*Receive a written statement after you decide what you want, and before you pay;

*Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal  cemetery or crematory requirement;

*Use an “alternative container” instead of a casket for cremation;

*Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere;

*Make funeral arrangements without embalming.

The Informed Consumer of Funeral Related Good and Services: Funerals 101

General Considerations for Funeral Practices: What are your personal Preferences; Religious influences, Cultural Traditions

Components:  Body Viewing, Visitation, Open or Closed Casket, Burial and/or Cremation

 Types of Funeral Options

“Traditional” Full-service Funeral

1)A “traditional” funeral,  is often the most expensive consisting of  a viewing or visitation and formal funeral service, use of a hearse to transport the body to the funeral site and cemetery, burial, entombment [the act or ceremony of putting a dead body in its final resting place]  or cremation of the remains.

Beyond the Basic Costs:

*Embalming [the process of preserving a body by means of aromatics fragrant smells];

*Dressing the body;

*rental of the funeral home for the viewing or service;

*Use of vehicles to transport the family (if they don’t use their own).

* Purchase of a casket, cemetery plot or crypt and other funeral goods and services also must be factored in to your budget

2) Direct Burial-[Less Expensive Option]

The body is buried shortly after death, usually in a simple container. No viewing or visitation is involved, therefore, no embalming is necessary. A memorial service may be held at the graveside oat at a later date.

Included Costs:

*The funeral home’s basic services fees,

* Transportation;

*Care of the body;

* The purchase of a casket or burial container and a cemetery plot or crypt;

Beyond the Basic Costs:

*Requested burials at the cemetery-providing graveside service  incur additional fees.

3) Direct Cremation[Least Expensive]

The body is cremated shortly after death, without embalming. The cremated remains are placed in an urn or other container. No viewing or visitation is involved. The remains can be kept in the home, buried, or placed in a crypt or niche in a cemetery, or buried or scattered in a favorite spot.

Included Costs:

*The funeral home’s basic services fees;                                                                                    * Transportation;                                                                                                                 *Care of the body.                                                                                                                   * Crematory fee may be included if the funeral home owns the crematory,                                                     *Cemetery plot or crypt is included only if the remains are buried or entombed.

Beyond the Basic Costs:

*Crematorium;                                                                                                                       * Purchase of an urn or other container;                                                                   [Funeral providers who offer direct cremations also must offer to provide an alternative container that can be used in place of a casket.]

Funeral Fees  – A “Laundry List

These include funeral planning, securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates, preparing the notices, sheltering the remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties;

Cash advances are fees charged by the funeral home for goods and services it buys from outside vendors on your behalf, including flowers, obituary notices, pallbearers, officiating clergy, and organists and soloists. Some funeral providers charge you their cost for the items they buy on your behalf. Others add a service fee to the cost.

 Services and Products

Embalming

Many funeral homes require embalming if you’re planning a viewing or visitation. But embalming generally is not necessary or legally required if the body is buried or cremated shortly after death. ***Eliminating this service can save you hundreds of dollars.

Under the Funeral Rule, a funeral provider:

  • May not provide embalming services without permission.
  • May not falsely state that embalming is required by law.
  • Must disclose in writing that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases.
  • May not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless embalming is required by state law.
  • Must disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition, like direct cremation or immediate burial,  which does not require embalming if you do not want this service.
  • Must disclose in writing that some funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, if so, a required purchase.

 

Caskets used in “traditional” full-service funerals:

A casket often is the single most expensive item you’ll buy if you plan a “traditional” full-service funeral. Caskets vary widely in style and price and are sold primarily for their visual appeal. Typically, they’re constructed of metal, wood, fiberboard, fiberglass or plastic.

*Although an average casket costs slightly more than $2,000, some mahogany, bronze or copper caskets sell for as much as $10,000.

When you visit a funeral home or showroom to shop for a casket, the Funeral Rule requires the funeral director to show you a list of caskets the company sells, with descriptions and prices, before showing you the caskets. Industry studies show that the average casket shopper buys one of the first three models shown, generally the middle-priced of the three.

“The seller’s best interest (Sneaky!)

*To start out by showing you higher-end models. If you haven’t seen some of the lower-priced models on the price list, ask to see them — but don’t be surprised if they’re not prominently displayed, or not on display at all.

*Traditionally, caskets have been sold only by funeral homes. But more and more, showrooms and websites operated by “third-party” dealers are selling caskets. You can buy a casket from one of these dealers and have it shipped directly to the funeral home. The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to agree to use a casket you bought elsewhere, and doesn’t allow them to charge you a fee for using it.

*The purpose of a casket is its purpose is to provide a dignified way to move the body before burial or cremation. NOT “forever preservation.”

*Metal caskets are described as:

“Gasketed, the casket has a rubber gasket or some other feature that is designed to delay the penetration of water into the casket and prevent rust.

“protective” or “sealer” caskets. They add to the cost of the casket. But do not preserve the body forever.

Most metal caskets are made from rolled steel of varying gauges — the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. Some metal caskets come with a warranty for longevity.

Wooden caskets generally are not gasketed and don’t have a warranty for longevity. They can be hardwood like mahogany, walnut, cherry or oak, or softwood like pine. Pine caskets are a less expensive option, but funeral homes rarely display them.

Cremation Considerations and Options:

*You can rent a casket from the funeral home for the visitation and funeral, eliminating the cost of buying a casket.

*Direct cremation  can be accomplished without a viewing or other ceremony where the body is present,. The funeral provider must offer an inexpensive unfinished wood box or alternative container, a non-metal enclosure — pressboard, cardboard or canvas — that is cremated with the body.

Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors who offer direct cremations:

*May not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, because none do;

*Must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container for a direct cremation;

*Must make an unfinished wood box or other alternative container available for direct cremations.

Burial Vaults or Grave Liners

Burial vaults/ grave liners,/burial containers, are commonly used in “traditional” full-service funerals. The vault or liner is placed in the ground before burial, and the casket is lowered into it at burial.

*The purpose is to prevent the ground from caving in as the casket deteriorates over time. A grave liner is made of reinforced concrete and will satisfy any cemetery requirement. Grave liners cover only the top and sides of the casket.

*A burial vault is more substantial and expensive than a grave liner. It surrounds the casket in concrete or another material and may be sold with a warranty of protective strength.

*State laws do not require a vault or liner, and funeral providers may not tell you otherwise. Many cemeteries require some type of outer burial container to prevent the grave from sinking in the future. Neither grave liners nor burial vaults are designed to prevent the eventual decomposition of human remains. It is illegal for funeral providers to claim that a vault will keep water, dirt, or other debris from penetrating into the casket if that’s not true.

*A funeral provider is required to give you a list of prices and descriptions. It may be less expensive to buy an outer burial container from a third-party dealer than from a funeral home or cemetery. Compare prices from several sources before you select a model.

Preservation Processes and Products

As far back as the ancient Egyptians, people have used oils, herbs and special body preparations to help preserve the bodies of their dead. However, no process or products have been devised to preserve a body in the grave indefinitely

And lastly…

Funeral Pricing Checklist- Due to the variability of costs within each state and jurisdiction, the following checklist cannot be “filled in” with exact cost. That my dear readers, is part of your homework!. Good luck!

Make copies of this page and check with several funeral homes to compare costs.

“Simple” disposition of the remains: 

Immediate burial __________

Immediate cremation __________

If the cremation process is extra, how much is it? __________

Donation of the body to a medical school or hospital __________

“Traditional,” full-service burial or cremation: 

Basic services fee for the funeral director and staff __________

Pickup of body __________

Embalming __________

Other preparation of body __________

Least expensive casket __________

Description, including model # __________

Outer Burial Container (vault) __________

Description __________

Visitation/viewing — staff and facilities __________

Funeral or memorial service — staff and facilities __________

Graveside service, including staff and equipment __________

Hearse __________

Other vehicles __________

Total __________

Other Services: 

Forwarding body to another funeral home __________

Receiving body from another funeral home __________

Cemetery/Mausoleum Costs: 

Cost of lot or crypt (if you don’t already own one) __________

Perpetual care __________

Opening and closing the grave or crypt __________

Grave liner, if required __________

Marker/monument (including setup) __________

 

 

 

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The Rights of Crime Victims: A “Back of the Bus” Mentality 

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As citizens born and bred in the United States, we often cannot appreciate our freedoms…unless they have been trampled upon in the most egregious of ways.

Some rights are considered  fundamental and “Universal,” recognized by the United Nations which  structurally has six arms –governing bodies  (See reference #57 for a pictorial summary)  These include:

 Right to self-determination

 Right to liberty

 Right to due process of law

 Right to freedom of movement

 Right to freedom of thought

 Right to freedom of religion

 Right to freedom of expression

 Right to peaceably assemble

 Right to freedom of association

Civil Rights include:  the rights that are granted to every citizen of the United States by the constitution and all of its amendments. Equal protection is guaranteed to every one regardless of race, color and creed.

In history and in current day, we can find a multitude of examples wherever we look to see egregious examples of human and civil rights violations!  What good are laws if they are constantly broken by the general public?  Even so, laws provide a framework and structure for the masses in which to conform. Without such order, lawmakers no doubt felt that without such rules, those without self-discipline would flourish and our very existence would be in a state of constant chaos!

The Matter of Laws With and Without Enforcement:

We all know that you can carefully craft and pass laws “until the cows come home.”  Poorly crafted laws aside, if those well researched, written and implemented laws are not ENFORCED, they serve no real purpose except for the “feel good nature of legislators” who believe that they have done their jobs to pacify their constituencies.

Case in Point:

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks [1913-2005] On December 1, 1955, at the age of 43, Rosa Parks, who was a trained activist for the NAACP  and a civil rights activist.  She was employed as a seamstress, and refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation.

The Jim Crow laws were in effect –   “Jim Crow was not a person, yet affected the lives of millions of people.  They were named after a popular 19th-century minstrel song that stereotyped African-Americans, “Jim Crow” came to personify the system of government-sanctioned racial oppression and segregation in the United States”.  

They emerged in southern states after the U.S. Civil War. First enacted in the 1880s by lawmakers who were bitter about their loss to the North and the end of Slavery, the statutes separated the races in all walks of life. The resulting legislative barrier to equal rights created a system that favored whites and repressed blacks, an institutionalized form of inequality that grew in subsequent decades with help from the U.S. Supreme Court. The remnants of the Jim Crow system were finally abolished in the 1960s through the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Henry Ford Museum in which the bus is housed, explained further, “…Under Jim Crow customs and laws, it was relatively easy to separate the races in every area of life except transportation. Bus and train companies couldn’t afford separate cars and so blacks and whites had to occupy the same space.” 

Thus, transportation was one the most volatile arenas for race relations in the South. Mrs. Parks remembers going to elementary school in Pine Level, Alabama, where buses took white kids to the new school but black kids had to walk to their school.

“I’d see the bus pass every day,” [Rosa] said. “But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world”  

Montgomery’s Jim Crow customs were particularly harsh and gave bus drivers great latitude in making decisions on where people could sit. The law even gave bus drivers the authority to carry guns to enforce their edicts. Mrs. Parks’ attorney Fred Gray remembered, “Virtually every African-American person in Montgomery had some negative experience with the buses. But we had no choice. We had to use the buses for transportation.”

The Legacy of Rosa Parks

It wasn’t about being obstinate or that her feet hurt, her impetus blossomed into a very impactful, dangerous and courageous bus boycott for the imagesworld and Presidents to view. In my opinion, her act was the catalyst for real, effective civil rights. How often do you get the window of opportunity for change in this manner? President Kennedy, for all of his adoration, wanted the whole thing to  just go away “as he was “up to his ears “in the Cuban Missile Crisis.  As it turned out, the reluctant hero of circumstance, President Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to make history and received the credit for civil rights change.

Rosa and the “Back of the Bus”

Rosa may have been a seamstress, and considered a second class citizen, but she was an intelligent woman, a strategist, and saw her opportunity.  But, what was it actually like for her and all of the blacks in the South that were so oppressed?  No matter if it was the lunch counter, water cooler, separate restrooms or back of the bus.  Disrespect and lack of human-civil rights is the same no matter how you package it!

“Back of the bus” and second class status is such a violation of who you are as a person, especially if there are clear laws and protections in place! Rosa had had enough and chose to rise up in favor of her race, her personhood, her humanity and for civil rights that were “just out off her reach” at the time. She was a pioneer.

An Analogy. It all began with an Assassination Attempt:

President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, and realized there was no system to care for crime victims. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was created. In 1982, the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime produced a Final Report and 68 recommendations that provided the foundation for victims’ rights and services in years to come; Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice established in 1983.

The focus was treating victims with dignity and respect, implement their rights under law, and educate the public about the impact of to improve our nation’s law enforcement, criminal justice and community response to offenses that, previously, were considered merely “family matters.”

“Back of the Bus Status” with Crime Victim Rights:

There is no Amendment to the U.S. Constitution yet… and just 33 of 50 states have crime victim rights at the state level. For an excellent tutorial, see the “Shattered Lives” broadcast featuring Will Marling, Executive Director of NOVA.

If I were to make a laundry list, of excuses and injustices I know of, it would stretch from here to California.  However, the occurrences that portray the victim as “an afterthought” in favor of the States’ interest, who disparage the victim and their family members, particularly if they have not lived a “pristine life” [Who has?]; If communication and consideration are severely lacking such that it significantly impacts the case and family’s ability to cope and “go with the flow” of the cold, cruel judicial process; If there is a very prolonged resolution …or none at all;  If there is no support or resources, such that the victim is “in a jurisdictional black hole” based on geography, lack of access  or other circumstances beyond their control …or if the victim (if alive) or other family member is not equipped with the proper resilience necessary and choses a  destructive path,  these are the some of the most flagrant examples of “back of the bus mentality” that can do real damage.

A Judge’s “Back of the Bus” Attitude:

Those who are charged as officers of the court, who are compelled to treat others with fairness and objectivity and include all relevant information should hang their heads in shame reading the following account.  Although this is a very early example, we know that even in 2014, often many judges do not go out of their way to enforce victim’s right to be heard.

Victim advocate Jo Kolanda describes a sentencing hearing she attended in the 1970’s:

“I went to court for the sentencing of a defendant who had been convicted of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. With me were the mom and dad of the young woman he killed. The offender’s parents, friends, and pastor told the court what a wonderful guy he was. The victim’s parents asked the assistant district attorney to ask the judge if they could tell the court about their daughter. The judge said they could not because “It would be inflammatory.” Then he added that….. “He couldn’t understand why this simple traffic case was cluttering up his court calendar in the first place.”

[Reference: Janice Harris Lord, ACSW-LMSW/LPC For Mothers Against Drunk Driving Copyright © 2003 Mothers Against Drunk Driving, James Rowland, founder of the Victim Impact Statement; Anne Seymour of Justice Solutions in Washington, D.C et.al

The Crowning Achievement to “Get the Gore Family Outta the Back of the Bus”

April 24, 2013, THANK YOU  ATTY MICHELLE S. CRUZ and DR. LAURIE ROTH!

Please do take time to listen to our amazing journey on The Roth Show! It is a day forever in my heart for good or for bad.

 

And finally, my attempt to “fill in the gaps and pay it forward” in a different and needed manner:

A Customized Victim Impact Statement Assistance Service ,one of the remaining avenues for crime victims to have a voice within the courts is through victim impact statements. Victim impact statements are usually read after trial as a way to get into the record the impact of the crime on the victims along with their friends and families.

  • Can you trust someone else to present a generic picture for you?
  • Can you trust that another relative  or friend will say what is needed?
  • Can you trust yourself to maintain control?

If the answer to any of these questions is doubtful, trust in me, a skilled writer and homicide survivor and advocate with over 30 years experience.  If you have been given sufficient time to prepare a victim impact statement, perhaps I can help.

For more information, please contact me about Victim Impact Statement Assistance.

VIGraphic.001

I wonder what Rosa Parks would have said about this service?  Very good things, I hope!

We will not stand for “back of the bus” any longer!

 

 

Additional References: http://thelawdictionary.org/civil-rights/
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/index.html
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Jim+Crow+Law
http://www.thehenryford.org/exhibits/rosaparks/story.asp

 

 

 

 

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