Guest editorial: KC State’s Attorney joins in ‘Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past’

By on April 7, 2011

guest editorial
by Joseph H. McMahon,
Kane County State’s Attorney

The week of April 10-16, 2011, is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time to honor victims and the advocates of victims’ rights. This year’s theme, Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past, evokes victims’ past struggles and our nation’s duty to help them rebuild stronger lives.

For victims, reshaping the future means confronting many challenges. After a crime, victims need to know what rights and resources they can count on. They might need money to bury a loved one or pay medical bills. They might want information on the criminal justice process, their rights to be present or heard in court, and to be notified about court proceedings and offenders’ whereabouts. We are proud that in Kane County, victims of violent crimes find the help they need.

For victim advocates, reshaping the future, particularly in these financially stressed times, means finding ways to do more with less. It means locating resources for victims who want them and helping new victims, such as the millions harmed by financial fraud, to restore their credit and financial security. Reshaping the future requires meeting present and emerging challenges.

It also requires understanding how crime has marred the past. The last several months, for example, the death penalty has been a topic of discussion in Illinois as the Legislature debated its future and Gov. Pat Quinn pondered how he would act. This discussion, although important, had unintended consequences. The families of many murder victims again were forced to relive the horrific, violent crimes that robbed them of loved ones.

Honoring the past also means recalling a time, not too many years ago, when victims had no voice in the criminal justice system—when murder victims’ families were excluded from courtrooms and assault victims paid all their own medical bills. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week honors the victims and advocates who confronted such injustices and helped produce a nationwide system of victim compensation and victims’ rights. It also reminds us that failures to enforce these laws or to fund programs for victims jeopardize the success of these reforms.

Crime victims are not limited to violent crimes. The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office employs 12 victim advocates in several units to help victims of a variety of crimes, and offers resources and proactive services to help people from becoming crime victims. The advocates work in:
• The Victims’ Rights Unit
• The Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Unit, which assists victims 60 and older, and the mentally and physically disabled
• The Domestic Violence Unit
• The Child Advocacy Center
• The Juvenile Delinquency Unit

These advocates give crime victims information and guidance through the criminal process. They also provide outreach information and connections to outside agencies that can assist specific victim needs, such as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, senior services, police departments and hospitals.

Our office will always make every effort to defend and advocate for crime victims. We have a responsibility to put a face on every case, and to make sure that we adhere to the Victims’ Bill of Rights, not because we are bound by law to do so, but because it is the right thing to do.

For additional information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and ideas on how to serve victims of crimes in Kane County, please call Judy Bland, director of the Victims’ Rights Unit at the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, at (630) 232-3500.

For information resources available to help crime victims, visit the website of the Office
of the Illinois Attorney General at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.