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The Victim Services Unit provides an array of services to felony crime victims and their families. Advocates are assigned to victims and their families to provide guidance and support through the criminal justice process - informing them of their rights, notifying them of the status of the offender’s case, providing personal assistance at court appearances and helping them better understand and participate in the legal process. In addition, the Unit provides referrals to other victim-service provider agencies and support groups that can further assist victims with financial, legal, medical and emotional problems resulting from the crime. Unit advocates also assist prosecutors with all victim-related matters.
In 2012, the Victim Services Unit handled approximately 6,000 cases and generated more than 20,000 status notices to victims.
In performing these services, the staff works closely with highly traumatized victims and families in homicide, driving death, child molestation, sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence cases as well as other felony cases – answering questions, overcoming fears, explaining court procedures, notifying victims of the status of the offender’s case, sharing concerns, addressing safety issues, assessing overall needs and accompanying victims to court proceedings.
Advocates are assigned to assist victims and their families through the various stages of the criminal justice process – bail hearing, pre-arraignment/arraignment, violation hearing, grand jury, pretrial, trial, appellate and post-conviction process. The Unit also collaborates with other agencies - RI Department of Probation and Parole, RI Parole Board, Superior Court Restitution Unit and RI Department of Corrections Office of Victim Services - in an effort to provide a seamless transition for victims at the conclusion of the Superior Court process.
The Unit has an “on call” system for advocates to work with police departments and prosecutors on homicide cases, with the goal of establishing contact with the victim’s family within 24 hours. Two advocates are on call at all times. Information on victim compensation (including application for emergency funeral and burial expenses), support services and case status are made available to each family. “On-call” prosecutors also have an advocate available to them during the weekend.
The team provides services to Spanish-speaking victims in their native language with forms, brochures and letters and also provides outreach to area schools, senior centers and community centers.
In 2012, the Victim Services Unit handled approximately 6,000 cases, up from 5,500 last year, and generated more than 20,000 status notices to victims. In providing personal support, advocates accompanied victims to more than 1,800 court proceedings — such as bail hearings, violation hearings, pretrial conferences, trials and Supreme Court arguments, as well as interviews with prosecutors. More than 2,000 referrals were made to other agencies for further assistance, and more than 4,000 telephone contacts were made on victim-related matters. The Unit also provided 100 letters of notification to victims relating to the Rhode Island Supreme Court appeal process.
In 2012, the Unit referred 400 victims to the RI Victim Assistance Portal (RI-VAP). The Unit continues to work closely with the developers of the RI-VAP to make necessary enhancements to ensure that victims are able to access information about their offender’s cases in “real time.” RI-VAP is a secure web portal that serves victims of crime in Rhode Island (or approved guardians/significant others) with a broad range of information relevant to their offender’s case. The information includes court events, incarceration status and status of court-ordered restitution on misdemeanor cases. The Victim Services Team and RI Justice Assistance are the portal’s administrators. Approximately 100 victims and advocates were registered and approved in 2012.
In the summer of 2012, Ana Giron, the Victim Services Unit Director, provided instruction on “victim services in the criminal justice system” as part of the curriculum for the Rhode Island State Victim Assistance Academy. In the Fall of 2012, the Unit hosted a training with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Victim Services Unit on homicide response and working with homicide survivors.
In 2012, team members also continued to receive specialized training on issues related to domestic violence, child molestation/sexual assault, elder abuse, human trafficking, victims with disabilities and mainstreaming services to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning) in an effort to better serve Rhode Island’s diverse victim populations. In an effort to provide outreach to the community, the advocates participated in the “Back to School Celebration” along with members of the Consumer Protection Unit at the Nathaniel Green Middle School in Providence this past summer. Handouts and resource materials were made available to parents and other community members.
Ana Giron serves as Board President for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence and serves on the Crime Victim Service Providers Steering Committee, which plans and sponsors events for National Victims Rights Awareness Week, including the annual Victims Grove Ceremony. In addition, Ms. Giron is part of the Steering Committee for the RI State Victim Assistance Academy and collaborates on the Victim/Offender Dialogue Committee/RI Department of Probation and Parole.
Victims may now register to a new Victim Assistance Portal, which allows victims to access pertinent information on the defendant’s case including, but not limited to, court hearings, parole hearings, release dates, restitution payments.