Representatives from the Highland County Victim/Witness program attended a seminar last Friday at the Brown County campus of Southern State Community College.
The objective was to become more skilled in victims’ rights in every stage of the criminal justice process, including hospitalization, investigation, prosecution and post-conviction.
Heather Collins, director of the victim/witness office, told The Times-Gazette that much of the training focused on new rights for victims created by Marsy’s Law, an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that was approved by voters in 2017.
“It was a good reminder for us that the victims and witnesses of crime have certain rights,” she said. “In the day-to-day job we have, it’s hard to remember all of them, so this was a good reminder of the different ways we can support them and get them options as to the rights that they do have, and that prosecutors, defense attorneys and our office have to abide by this law.”
Collins and fellow colleague Jessica Kemper attended the session, along with 40 others from the region, to gain further knowledge and understanding in case law and legislation related to Marsy’s Law, in addition to training that covered basic need-to-know information for victims about other legal topics, such as Title IX, protection orders and immigration.
“Marsy’s Law is actually a law that came from a billionaire in California whose sister was murdered,” she said. “He’s the one who put the money behind it and really pushed it because the family got a lot of press that they didn’t want, so he pushed for this law for the rights of victims and to insure their dignity and privacy.”
The Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, in partnership with Women Helping Women, hosted the seminar to teach local sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors, advocates, campus advocates, court-appointed special advocates, nurses, social workers, therapists and counselors about victims’ rights in every stage of the criminal justice process.
According to the OCVJC, the Marsy’s Law amendment to the Ohio Constitution was overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters as State Issue 1 in November 2017, and went into effect the following February.
“This constitutional amendment gives Ohio crime victims the right to information about services available to them, the right to notification of case proceedings and developments, the right to be present and heard at those proceedings, and the right to restitution,” Jessica Johnson said on behalf of Marsy’s Law of Ohio. “Most importantly, it gives crime victims the right to be treated with respect and dignity.”
Another aspect of the law allows a person who is a victim of a crime to have the right to request to be notified of any changes in the status of the perpetrator, such as being released from prison.
The Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center has been hosting training seminars all over the state in order to educate those most closely associated with the criminal justice process, such as police, hospitals and victims’ rights offices.
The training session like the one held Friday in Mt. Orab, Johnson said, seeks to share this information with people who are in the best position to disperse it to others.
However, she said, there was still much to learn about how exactly the law can benefit victims.
“We at Marsy’s Law for Ohio are incredibly thankful to the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center for putting on these trainings all over the state,” she said. “No one expects to be a victim and these trainings further educate communities about their rights.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.