One of the reasons that Connecticut was able to repeal the death penalty was the testimony of victim family members who spoke to the harm that the death penalty causes victims. We detailed, in our testimonies, many of the ways the death penalty failed us, and sometimes even victimized us. Any one of us would give almost anything and everything to have our loved-one back with us. Since that is the only consolation that is impossible, we hope for a Connecticut that is more just and compassionate, and we seek to lessen the pain of other victim families.
Last month, Governor Christie, of New Jersey, signed the enhanced “Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights” legislation into law. (You can see the Bill of Rights here.) As victim family members, we know that now is the time for Connecticut to begin improving our state’s victim rights.
Article XXIX of the Connecticut Constitution concerns victim rights in our state. (You can read it at this link.) It is a document that outlines, in broad strokes, the rights and services available. We need to encourage the legislature to: 1) amend the articles to state victim rights more specifically, and 2) provide added funding to enable the responsible agencies have the resources needed to deliver the services.
Many victim family members are not aware of their rights as victims of crime. Many are unable to find the strength, during their bereavement, to take the steps necessary to take advantage of their rights. Compassion and justice for victim family members is often only available to those victims who are able to demand it.
Victim family members should not have to demand justice and compassion from the State of Connecticut. It should be readily available, in our name, as citizens of a just and compassionate state. Additional funding is needed. A victim advocate should be present and available for every victim, or standing in for every victim, at every step of the process, from the time of the crime for as long as the victim chooses; even the entire lifetime of the victim.
I hope that the Connecticut State Legislature will consider strengthening our Victim Bill of Rights, as New Jersey has, and include added funding so the Victim Bill of Rights will be a vital, functioning arm of our Judicial system, and a real help to our victim family members.