Archive for category Justice

The Most Important “Head’s Up EVER! The Victim Information Notification System (VINE)

 

VINEA counterpart to Connecticut’s Office of the Victim Advocate is the Judicial Branch Services in the Office of Victim Services. They oversee the Victim Information Notification System (VINE), otherwise known locally as CT SAVIN – Connecticut Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (System).

CT SAVIN is a free, confidential service that provides crime victims and their family members, victim advocates, and members of the community  no cost, confidential notification of court related events. The Connecticut Judicial Branch provides this toll-free, automated notification service.

VCRs- VINE Service Representatives

CT SAVIN is operated by the VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) service and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. In addition to VINE Link, CT SAVIN offers a free and anonymous telephone service that provides crime victims and interested individuals with information and notification. Accommodations are available to those with communication impairments and Spanish speakers as their primary language.  (I would check in advance to ascertain if representatives and documentation is available to assist in other languages).

Registration Information: Notifications can be received by telephone or e-mail.  Fair warning! Should you misrepresent your identity, you could be prosecuted!  You are encouraged to update your status and personal information whenever a change occurs!

And just to be CLEAR, in our state where bureaucracy rules CT SAVIN provides notification messages regarding court related events whereas the Office of Victim Services and the Department of Corrections OVS/DOC provides information about changes in inmate status.

For help with registration for Connecticut incarcerated inmate related notifications contact OVS toll-free at (800) 822-8428 or DOC Victim Services Unit toll-free at (888) 869-7057. http://www.jud.ct.gov/webforms/forms/vs005.pdf

Why can’t every state have a “one stop shopping procedure” and be an “opt out” system? “Just askin’.

The Proof is in the Pudding….Generic_VictimNotification

Although I have been registered with the Department of Corrections and the Office of Victim Services Notification Systems, I was negligent in registering with VINE! Shame on me. So, as a “test case,” for this blog, I went through the process via phone registration.  They will ask you identifying information regarding the inmate and your name. They will also respond to any related questions or get the answers (Seems to me, I was put on hold about three times.)

TYPES OF NOTIFICATIONS GIVEN BY SAVIN:

  • A 30 day advanced  notice of the prisoner’s  release
  • Information concerning a prisoner’s transfer to another facility
  • Information concerning the escape and re-capture of the prisoner
  • Information regarding the custody status of the inmate

Other Important Points

  • You may register other family members with their phone number or e-mail address  and a password;
  • It does not matter where you are based, you will receive the notification
  • There is a free app available via Apple ITunes as well;
  • CT SAVIN notification messages will be left on an answering machine
  • Notification from CT SAVIN should be just one part of your safety plan

APPRISS, the Kentucky based software company, devoted to safety notification, administers the program, and includes a wide range of services.  (As they are undergoing management changes, a Shattered Lives radio show is still pending.) http://www.appriss.com/default.html

A Quick Reference Guide: How to Register: 

https://www.vinelink.com/docs/VINELinkQuickReferenceGuide.pdf;

Please check the procedures and provisions in YOUR State, as they may differ!

This is a great opportunity to remind readers, that the VINE alerts you to changes with court related events regarding the perpetrator.  However, who is there to be your voice to the court, or with Board of Pardons and Parole when you clearly are too distraught and consumed with emotion to convey your opinion on the fate of the murderer?

  • 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

 

The Most Important “Head’s Up EVER! The Victim Information Notification System (VINE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the Shadow of Sandy Hook What Should be the Yardstick for Victim’s Privacy?

 

mass media, privacy, victim privacy

Even 15 months after the most horrendous mass killing of children and adults in recent history, the wounds are still fresh…

A year anniversary passed in December….

A Governor appointed Advisory Council is still grappling with the “why of it” in hopes of gaining insight into the prevention of another mass tragedy of its kind.

Guns, mental health, school oversight, and parental responsibility aside, a town grieves daily. But there are signs of renewed hope with a new architectural design for a new school just completed and a Selectwoman who continues to lead with grace and thoughtfulness.  Using a delicate balance of completing town business and always keeping those who died in our hearts and minds., Pat Llodra accomplishes her mission to ensure the safety and best interests of her residents.

 

A MATTER OF PRIVACY

Release of the 911 tapes: “Release of the audio recordings will also allow the public to consider and weigh what improvements, if any, should be made to law enforcement’s response to such incidents,” Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott said.

Pat Llodra, First Selectwoman of Newtown compared the steady leak of information about the investigation of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to “Chinese water torture she now believes recordings of 911 calls from the school should be made public.

“Every day, there is something in the media that drags us back to that terrible day,” Llodra said. “I think everything that can be released should be released.” She asked that media “treat us kindly” in December 2013, just three months ago.

Although each and every victim has their own opinion regarding what is appropriate and what they can personally tolerate, in the final analysis, dispatchers were calm and handled the situation as trained.  However, this event has opened up a Pandora’s box in that victim’s privacy issues have never been so exposed. Does anyone really want or need to see photographs of dead children and carnage from perpetrator Adam Lanza?

Does the “principles of Free speech” and journalism trump human decency?  Should we rein in the Freedom of Information Act in certain circumstances?

Raised Bill 388 of the Connecticut General Assembly-                                                                       

AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE TASK FORCE ON VICTIM PRIVACY AND THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW.

Link to Text of the Bill: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/TOB/S/2014SB-00381-R00-SB.htm

This bill seemingly covers all bases in scope with 29 separate provisions stating: “Nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be construed to require disclosure of…” in situations in which various documents, files or images, it has been determined that the withholding of such in the public’s interest clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure and such disclosures would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

Specific provisions added  as they relate to crime victims include 27 through 29:

(27) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state, or municipal governmental agency consisting of a photograph, film, video or digital or other visual image depicting the body or any portion of the body of a victim of a homicide, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, [of the victim or the victim's surviving family members.] provided nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit the inspection of such a record in accordance with section 2 of this act;

(28) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state or municipal governmental agency consisting of an audio recording of an emergency 9-1-1 call or other call for assistance that is made by a member of the public when such call (A) relates to a homicide, and (B) captures, conveys or relates to the impaired physical condition of the caller or another person, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, provided nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit listening to such record in accordance with section 2 of this act;

(29) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state or municipal governmental agency consisting of an audio recording that is an operative communication among law enforcement personnel when such communication (A) relates to a homicide, and (B) captures, conveys or relates the impaired physical condition of the caller or another person, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, provided nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit listening to such record in accordance with section 2 of this act.

(Bracketed text is recommended for deletion while the remainder of 27-29 was underlined in the Bill, meaning that it is new information to be added). As can be noted, this language covers records, photos, videos created by law enforcement,, depicting a body or a portion thereof, audio recordings that convey information concerning a homicide or the impaired physical conditions of victims, and requests for copies of images and audio recordings, including copying of images in which victim families have submitted a written objection  to the image.

The other provisions include “everything but the kitchen sink” such as medical files, trade secrets, financial and commercial, content of real estate appraisals , records between those with privileged relationships, school enrollment records, investigative records, adoptive records, town petitions, educational and mental health records, security manuals, emergency plans, correctional institution material, records from government owned or leased institutions, security system information, Department of Transportation records, parks and recreation  minor attendees, etc.

STATUS:

This Bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee as of 3-4-2014 after which a Public Hearing  of the Government Administration and Elections Committee was held  on 3-10-2014, lasting  5½  hours (inclusive of all bills within that committee.)                                                                                           Link: http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/ctnplayer.asp?odID=10015

The number of entities testifying on behalf and against this bill is listed as follows:

To date, the GAE Committee voted 8 to 6 in favor of the bill. It may pass on to other committees prior to the end of the session on May 7th (a short legislative session this year.)

 

Judiciary Committee
03/10/2014 American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut – David McGuire 03/10/2014 CCFOI and Privacy and FOI Task Force – James H. Smith
03/10/2014 Connecticut Bar Association – Daniel J. Klau 03/10/2014 Connecticut Broadcasters Association – Michael P. Ryan
03/10/2014 Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information – Claude Albert 03/10/2014 Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association – John T. Walkley
03/10/2014 Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association – Chris VanDeHoef 03/10/2014 Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission – Colleen M. Murphy
03/10/2014 Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists – Jodie Mozdzer Gil 03/10/2014 CT Daily Newspapers Assoc. – Chris VanDeHoef
03/10/2014 CT Division of Criminal Justice 03/10/2014 CT Office of Chief Public Defender – Susan O. Storey
03/10/2014 CT Office of the Victim Advocate – Garvin G. Ambrose 03/10/2014 Don DeCesare
03/10/2014 Freedom of Information Commission 03/10/2014 Mitchell W. Pearlman
03/10/2014 Rep. Angel Arce 03/10/2014 Rep. Leonard A. Fasano
03/10/2014 Senator Donald E. Williams, Jr. 03/10/2014 South Windsor Police Department – Matthew D. Reed
03/10/2014 The 26 Families of the Victims of the Sandy Hook School Shooting 03/10/2014 The 26 Families of the Victims of the Sandy Hook Shooting – Morgan Rueckert
03/10/2014 The Freedom of Information Commission    

 

IN MY OPINION:

The Constitutional rights of freedom of speech and the public’s right to know need to be forever balanced. When respect and human dignity are “thrown out the window” in favor of media ratings than we have sunk to a new low in society. I am not sure when we veered off course in favor of sensationalism and gore.  However, I do know that the pendulum needs to swing back. Crime victims need to take control and draw clear boundaries for themselves. This is an area with which we should not have to be concerned.  However, we are placed in this position by the sheer number of atrocities occurring. Let’s stop the madness and   use some common sense and human decency.  Government should not have to legislate human decency! If this legislation is passed by the end of the session, may it serve as a model for other states as well as a cautionary tale regarding journalists’ lack of moral compass.

With that said, an answer to reliving some of the pain of a surviving family’s experience following homicide, is my customized Victim Impact Statement Assistance.  Using my skills and experience, I can paint the picture with and for you, such that the court or Board of Pardons and Parole can truly know your family member.  It will be a testament of the heart, relieving you of the burden at a most vulnerable time.   If I can help you or your family, please contact me.

In the Shadow of Sandy Hook What Should be the Yardstick for Victim’s Privacy?

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“No One Stepped Into Their Path”- the Prophecy of Monica Caison and the CUE Center for Missing Persons

Monica Caison, Founder CUE Center for Missing Persons

“The silence of ignorance can be deafening  and therefore we must break it whenever the opportunity is presented.” Donna R. Gore

The book “The Road Less Traveled” has made publishing history, with more than 10 years on The New York Times bestseller list, sales of more than 7 million copies translation into more than 23 languages. It’s been 36 years since its inception into the publishing world. Author M. Scott Peck’s timeless message concerns the nature of loving relationships and helps to distinguish dependency from love; how to become a more sensitive parent; and ultimately how to become one’s own true self. Its opening line is “Life is difficult and the journey to spiritual growth is a long one.” ‘So true…

Although books have their place, I submit to you that no author has made the impact as compared to “the school of hard knocks” on a person-to-person level, touching the flesh, the hearts and souls of humanity than Monica Caison., Founder of the CUE Center for Missing Persons.

Monica is a warrior in tune with the woods, the waterways, the alleys, the streets, ultimately the ramshackle lives of those ho “go missing” for inexplicable and heart wrenching reasons. The truly amazing attributes of the CUE Center for the Missing rest with their founding principles and the lack of judgment. No matter what the circumstance, the Cue Center is there to serve.Monica Caison, CUE Center for Missing Persons, Donna R. Gore

Particular phrases come to mind – self sacrifice, going way beyond the extra mile …”colorblindness,” volunteerism at its best, compassion, lots of tough love, strategic coordination, crying and laughing in the same conversation, never leaving a person without a “port in the storm.”” Never say never,” “All things are possible with the right plan of action.”

With an eye toward the future as all good CEOs should have, the organization not only carries on, but thrives with dedication and heart, including new projects on the horizon that will increase visibility and education, changing attitudes and putting the focus where it needs to be… on the victims and their families, as human beings deserving of respect, attention and the full complement of resources afforded everyone.

Offering a wide range of free services, CUE has since helped more than 9,000 families in what is often the most confusing and desperate times of their lives. In addition to providing services for the missing and their families, CUE offers college internships and youth mentoring programs.
CUE is entirely donation funded and staffed by volunteers, including Monica Caison, who takes no salary from the organization.
What was simply a dream, name and purpose, is now a nationally-recognized center that answers hundreds of calls for help each year.

Donations to CUE Center are gratefully accepted at their website: http://ncmissingpersons.org

10th Annual National Missing Persons Conference

2014ConfPosterThe Theme: “Breaking the Silence” Victim No More” speaks to breaking the silence by setting family members free to tell their story, educating, the public, law enforcement, and other agencies who have pre-conceived ideas about what it’s like to be a victim, to make the effort to really know who is missing and to communicate with the people who can provide the most assistance without regard to past history.

There is a liberation that a victim experiences and a sense of community and safeguarding when you first “reveal your painful soul” to an audience who well knows what you have experienced. Rather than “living in a fishbowl,” you feel a sense of relief like never before. I bore witness to this in the new connections made this year at the 10th Annual Conference (always a reunion for repeat attendees).

There is always that person who walks in the door not knowing anything about the CUE, having come as a result of a news story, an advertisement, an electronic link, a personal recommendation. No matter how they arrive, it doesn’t take long to feel the magic of camaraderie and Southern hospitality, regardless from what state members travel.

I am thinking of a woman who may have been tormented for answers concerning her mother who tragically went missing by a combination of forces, an athletic spirit for hiking, an iron will to “do it her way” and worsening dementia. Evidently, this was a lethal combination. Does it make it any less heartbreaking that she was participating in a sport she truly loved? Does it make it worse that her daughter had plans to implement her “plan of action” concerning her mother’s worsening memory next week, when next week never came? I do not know. What I do know is that she spoke publicly, seemingly “blossomed like a flower” and came to her own peaceful conclusion with her former major regrets.

Presentations at CUE Center for Missing Persons Conference

  • Raymond Bechard- Author, Producer, Human Rights Advocate and Human Trafficking Expert;
  • David Sullivan – Retired Sheriff, Lead Instructor for Ground Search & Rescue;
  • Dr. Scott Bonn – Professor of Criminology, Media Expert, Author;
  • Sheryl McCollum –Law Enforcement Professional, Director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute
  • Peter Hyatt- Civil Investigator and Statement Analysis Expert;
  • Gaetane Borders - Psychologist, Writer, Public Speaker and President of “Peas in their Pods”
  • Elaine Pagliaro- Assistant Executive Director of the Henry C. Lee Forensics Institute, Forensic Scientist and Attorney;
  • Karen Beaudin- Author, Advocate for Cold case Units, Public Speaker and Survivor of the Missing;
  • Holly Hughes- Former Senior Assistant DA Fulton County GA; & Legal Analyst;

CUE Center for Missing Persons Conference speakers

 

A good ending to an experience is like the icing on a cake or the ribbon on your favorite gift. Monica delivered just that, as she spoke from the heart about the epidemic of runaway teens.

As a group they tend to evolve into people they would otherwise never become, if not for forces beyond their control; sexual assault, rape, drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution escalating to human trafficking, misdemeanor crimes and even felonies in the escape from and the running to something as a means of survival.

Her refrain in telling us many illustrative stories was “No One Stepped into their Path” meaning that no one offered a non-judgmental helping hand to show them a different way, show them their value as a human being with potential and ensure their safety from harm’s way. She seldom took credit as she spoke. Rather, she told of how she was able to peel away the layers, get to the heart of the matter, establish trust and a kernel of understanding, and in the process creating many life long bonds.

It’s like kicking the can down the road. Who will stop and do something about a bad situation rather than make excuses? You can rest assured that Monica Caison and her team will always step into the path when needed!

I, Donna Gore, am the CUE Center  State Outreach Coordinator for the State of Connecticut, and I know I will be stepping into the path of many lives in the future!

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The Unjustly Convicted Are Not Only Innocent, They are Victims Too!

Innocence Project, Shattered Lives, Donna R. Gore

The Innocence Network is composed of 46 states, and several countries around the world.  As of 2010, 29 people were exonerated worldwide.

The First Innocence Project was founded in 1992 as a consequence of the landmark study by the U.S. Department of Justice with the Benjamin Cardoza School of Law, in which it was revealed that incorrect eyewitness identifications were a factor in over 70% of wrongful convictions! Attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld were the founding members in conjunction with the Cardoza School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City.

  • The New York based Innocence Project is funded as follows: 45% individual donations; 30% from Foundations; 15% via their annual benefit dinner 7% by the Law School and various Corporations.
  • The Connecticut Innocence Project-Post Conviction Unit (within the State Office of the Public Defender Services) has a mission to “isolate cases of incarcerated persons who have been convicted of crimes in the State of Connecticut for which they are innocent and seek exoneration. The CIP was started by former Public Defender Gerry Smyth with the assistance of Brian Carlow and Karen Goodrow in the summer of 2005. One had an interest in DNA, the other attorney in wrongful convictions (“a marriage made in heaven”). Pro bono office space was given by the Hartford law firm of McCarter and English, beginning in 2006.
  • In 2006, CIP took the Case of James Calvin Tillman, wrongfully convicted of beating, robbing and raping a 26-year-old female. After new DNA evidence proved his innocence conclusively (versus the incorrect eyewitness identification of the victim). Mr. Tillman was released from prison in June 2006 after serving 18.5 years! http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/James_Tillman.php
  • Following James Tillman’s exoneration, in May 2007, the State of Connecticut awarded him $5 million dollars for the wrongful conviction.
  • In the summer of 2007, the Connecticut Legislature granted funding to the Connecticut Innocence Project to hire four full-time staff, adding another trial attorney and a former police officer-experienced investigator of capital cases to the pre-existing staff.
  • In 2009, Miguel Roman’s case was chosen as one of two wrongfully convicted who were exonerated following a prison term of 20+ years! Roman was charged with murder in the brutal beating and strangulation of his pregnant ex-girlfriend.  Circumstantial evidence and interrogation-interview in English versus Spanish caused him to give conflicting accounts.  DNA analysis of clothing proved the murderer to be another assailant. Roman was freed on December 19, 2008, and his exoneration became official on April 2, 2009, when the murder charge pending against him was dropped. http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Miguel_Roman.php
  •  Another successful CIP Case  beginning in 2007 and ending in 2009, was that of Kenneth Ireland, falsely accused of sexually assaulting and killing a 30 year old factory worker and mother of four by a severe blow to the head in 1986. Ultimately, two male and one female “witnesses” made false accusations to the police about a confession. Consequently, Mr. Ireland was charged with felony murder, first-degree sexual assault and third-degree burglary. Problems with witnesses dying or never charged, inconsistent fingerprint evidence and lack of admission of evidence by the judge were some of the barriers encountered.  In the final analysis, more advanced D\NA evidence ruled out Kenneth Ireland as the murderer. He wrongfully served a prison term of 19 years prior to being released! http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Kenneth_Ireland.php
  • The Volume of Cases with the Connecticut Innocence Project:  As of October 2013, CIP was in the process of reviewing over 100 cases for consideration. Criteria for consideration: 1) Some new form of evidence must exist such as DNA or other evidence; 2) The New found evidence must reasonably assist in proving innocence.

Wrongfully convicted are victims, not criminals

Customized Victim Impact Statement Assistance is available for those victims, family, and friends who are facing one of the most stressful times of their lives.   For those who have suffered irreparable damage either as a wrongfully convicted person or as a “traditional crime victim,” there is help. There is hope in the form of a personalized manner, custom  tailored to your specific needs.

Can you just imagine what the impact of wrongful conviction had on Mr. Tillman, Mr. Roman and Mr. Ireland?  I cannot imagine! Although I personally recall only Mr. Tillman’s case, I do not recall specifics of his victim impact statement.  Did he work on it for 18.5 years? Did he have the proper assistance?   Was he satisfied with his own words during such an emotional event? We do not know!

Additional References:

http://www.ct.gov/ocpd/cwp/view.asp?a=4087&Q=479210&ocpdNav=|

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innocence_Project

 The Unjustly Convicted Are Not Only Innocent, They are Victims Too!

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