An open wound that never quite heals…. Submerged memories…Unimaginable loss…. ‘Life altering changes, broken hearts, minds and souls…. Such is the make-up of a person who has been visited by violent crime…
When such a victim puts their trust in the system that is supposed to help them achieve a new normal and a new start at healing, we believe because we are vulnerable, we have no reference point for this series of events… Our “rudder in life” has been irreparably damaged. To believe the experts at our greatest point of vulnerability and grief…. Is to dance with the devil…. Sometimes…years down the road we learn the true realities concerning what the criminal justice system doles out… Such a reality is being thrust upon Ladyjustice’s family.
To be able to comprehend and navigate such a process is difficult at best when the phone call and/or form letter arrives. It is invaluable to have the services of a skilled victim advocate, prosecutor, and crime victim rolled into one. This person is Michelle Cruz. She knows from whence she speaks… She doesn’t just speak…. she feels a victim’s pain.
During this episode of “Shattered Lives,” Delilah takes over the reigns to interview Ladyjustice and Michelle about this very personal topic…
To listen to the Podcast: CLICK HERE
• Introduction to guests and topic by Delilah;
• Introduction to the background of the murder and Ladyjustice’s decision to become an advocate for her family and other crime victims;
• An outline of the circumstances…
• Delilah asks what is the normal process when someone goes through once a victim is notified?
• Michelle explains the process and the fact that parole hearing are public?
• Why does he get parole now? I thought he wasn’t getting out…
• Delilah brings up the point that victims may not know how or what questions to ask or know how to get the proper information;
• “The bandaid’s ripped off … it’s not really 50 years served …it’s 26 years;
• Questions elicited in the process of brainstorming …different for every family;
• Can a family’s wishes be videotaped for the future…particularly with elderly family members who may not be around for every five year interval;
• Ladyjustice’s feelings regarding the perpetrator’s responsibility at the parole hearing…
• Information is power… the process does not have to be as horrific as you think….
• Creating new ground…thinking out of the box …educating the parole board and future victims;
• Policy matters and short notice to the victim;
• Ladyjustice’s information regarding what “lifer’s” typically do… to apply or not to apply for parole;
• The Connecticut Parole system… If you happen to be a victim whose offender’s hearing is in prison clearance is needed…How would a family know? The notification falls short…
• Where is the balance in the system… a discussion about victim -centered system versus otherwise… verbiage versus tangible rights…
• The Constitutional Rights of Victims..;
• Factors that come into play…. Limited staffing, lack of knowledge of parole hearings, being emotionally overwhelmed; transportation, safety issues etc.
• Michelle’s offer to send her e-mails to respond to questions and explain the process; Contact Info: 860 415 6529 (MLAW) AttyMichelleSCruz@yahoo.com
• BOTTOM LINE: Keep asking questions and locate the right person to advocate and explain the process until you understand!
• “We told the victim this… we had this conversation (“i.e. Don’t ask anymore questions…We’re busy”
• Explaining the legal concept of “joinder”…extraordinary circumstance in this case… That’s why we’re in the law books!;
• Explaining concurrent versus consecutive sentences…
• The old goodtime credit… receiving good time up front; If you don’t behave, good time SHOULD be forfeited;
• New crimes committed while in prison…to be served consecutive AFTER he gets parole
• What is good time anyway… back in the day versus good time currently?
• You can write your name on a list and get goodtime credit;
• An example of when good time works well- getting a GED;
• An example when it isn’t effective… “The History of the Philippines” course;
• Counseling session…enough to rip the bandaid off but not enough to make them successful Another example..;
• Programs have the potential of being equally beneficial to crime victims AND prisoners…
• College courses as an example of being equitable…
• Victim Compensation…It’s available…. A 2 year limit in CT, 3 years in Mass; Other considerations for older cases…
• Is Ladyjustice’s case an unusual case? Lying to victims about sentencing… a mathematical calculation and changes over time;
• Earned risk reduction credits 60 days off per year…and the true case of 60 years for murder without good time- the perpetrator’s sentence is a lengthier more true sentence;
• Discussion of the nature of the prisoner’s crimes in prison…
It’s allowed in this public forum;
• Discussion of whether the parole board members really care about the victims…
• Twenty- six years is not enough…. How do victim’s summarize that length of time?
• Discussion of the importance of having a voice in the process…however you chose to do it- ways to participate;
• Delilah’s statement regarding the importance of this show and blog to assist others who may have to go through the process in the future;
• Ladyjustice’s closing statement and thank-yous;
Questions that may be elicited from this podcast:
• Despite being a knowledgeable advocate, why are there so many questions?
• What does notification really mean?
• If your offender committed a crime many years ago, are we notified?
• What types of questions and needs are important to the victims?
• What happens if other family members do not want the perpetrator to hear their victim impact statement?
• Why such short notice for victims?
• Balance and equity in the system- Where is it?
• Can we achieve equity in terms of the rights of the perpetrator versus the victim?;
• Does Michelle advise victims to hire an attorney to represent their interests?
• Defining terms – concurrent, consecutive, determinant sentencing versus indeterminant; the legal concept of “joinder”?
• When should joinder be used?
• ***How does someone receive GOOD TIME when they continue to commit crimes while still in prison?
• Are programs for prisoners helpful…or not?
• What are the factors that may contribute to victims not knowing about victim compensation?
• Promises, promises… What has been the most difficult part of Michelle’s role in her former position?
• How can a crime victim keep track of the offender’s sentence re parole eligibility date using the DOC website?
• Are victim’s allowed to know the nature of prisoner’s crimes in prison?
• What does the parole board expect of the crime victim’s role during the hearing?
• Why is it so important to be prepared…and what are the reasons for doing a victim impact statement?
• If the perpetrator has a short sentence is it worth it?