Celebrating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
As the voice of Pennsylvania’s prosecutors, the PDAA is pleased to partner with the victim services community to celebrate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 18-24, 2021).
The purpose of this celebration resonates with prosecutors in particular because serving victims of crime, and ensuring their rights, is at the core of what we do. As long as there are offenders creating victims, we will continue fighting to make sure that the victims are treated with the dignity, fairness and respect they deserve.
Serving victims of crime is part of our three-pronged approach to seeking justice for all:
- We prosecute criminals to ensure accountability for each offender and to deter future crimes by other offenders;
- We promote crime prevention initiatives in our communities to enhance public safety;
- And we support victims of crime to help repair the damage done by offenders.
Prosecutors are there to help victims through some of their most difficult times. We help them find their voice, their courage, and their strength. Our goal is to guide victims through every phase of the criminal justice process in a way that helps them feel empowered. Empowering victims means better outcomes for our victims and our communities. In a system that has been purposely designed to focus on defendants and their rights, prosecutors empower victims by shifting the focus back to them.
Most school kids know the rights that defendants have because they’ve become part of our popular culture. If you start reciting the Miranda rights, the students will chime in with you. But ask them if they know what rights that crime victims have, and you’ll get blank stares. Wouldn’t it be great if crime victims’ rights became as well-known and respected as the defendants’ rights?
We know that honoring the hard-fought rights for victims is critical to an effective criminal justice system that delivers justice for all, including:
- The right to have access to significant court hearings in their offender’s case;
- The right to have a voice regarding case dispositions;
- And the right to economic justice through court-mandated restitution.
The PDAA is proud to have a long tradition of empowering victims and their rights. We have a staff person dedicated to providing comprehensive training for all of Pennsylvania’s victim service professionals. That person also provides statewide training and technical support on restitution issues. And last year our leadership team established a Board-level Victim Services Committee to keep victim’s issues at the forefront of all our policy discussions, and to act as a liaison with Pennsylvania’s victim services community.
The PDAA continues to be strong advocate for victims in the courts and in the legislature. We filed an amicus brief in the state Supreme Court to support the use the comfort dogs to help victims while they testify. We recently championed legislation to make sextortion and to make strangulation stand-alone crimes, and to strengthen Pennsylvania’s DUI laws. We also have advocated to elevate victims’ rights beyond where they are now.
During this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we want to send the strongest possible message that Pennsylvania’s District Attorneys are committed to ensuring that victims of crime receive the respect, fairness, and compassion they deserve. This week and every week, the PDAA stands with crime victims and the victim services community.
Mike Piecuch is the current President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the District Attorney of Snyder County.