Plight of Crime Victims No Longer Ignored
by: Pat Hernandez, January 29, 2009 11:01:17 pm
Lykos announced detailed plans to significantly expand the District Attorney's staffing, services and assistance for citizens who have been victimized by crime.
"It was renamed to reflect what it's true mission is, and you have to go back in history, why does government exist?—and that is to protect. Unfortunately, people are victims so, we failed in part of the mission there, but once they are a complainant, then there are certain rights that they have under the law. We're gonna see that they are advised of services that are available to them that they're kept apprised of what happens to the case should there be an arrest and a prosecution, keep them apprised of someone sent to prison of when the parole dates are. Government exists to serve."
The Victims Rights Division will encompass assisting the victim through trial, helping them navigate through the appellate process, parole issues following sentencing, and restitution, among other issues. Michelle Permenter heads the new division. She has more than 11-years service as a Victim Assistance Coordinator with the DA's office.
"One are that we have been working on is specifically with restitution and making sure that unclaimed restitution is no longer unclaimed and that the process in getting that restitution to victims is more efficient."
Hernandez: "Restitution doesn't always come easy, does it?"
Permenter: "No, it does not. And so when restitution is ordered, it's really — especially when it's paid into our division. We want to try to make sure that victim is receiving it as quickly as possible."
Andy Kahan is the city of Houston's Crime Victim's Director.
"I've been dealing with the division over the District Attorney's Office for many years, and quite frankly, they've always been woefully short of personnel to handle all the issues and needs of crime victims down there. So by adding more personnel, it'll certainly enhance the benefits of victims who have trials down there, who have witnesses down there, who have other business down there including trying to collect restitution, which has always been a sore point for victims."
DA Lykos says it's tax money well spent.
"What wasn't extent some time ago, was concern for the victim. Everything was focused on the defendant, and the victims were ignored ,except when they were hauled into court to testify of their families. So there's been an absolute sea change and what we're doing is employing every resource. Not only modern technology and the data bases that we're building and so forth, but the actual communication, where they're not into an endless loop of voice mail, but actually talk to a real live person. So, it's service."
Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.