Today marks the start of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week -- a time each year for us to recognize the importance of addressing the needs of crime victims.
I am again honored to represent the men and women of the Arizona Department of Corrections in commemorating the week by participating in Arizona’s 5th annual National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Recognition Event held in downtown Phoenix.
Every time I go into a prison complex, the awesome responsibility of incarcerating Arizona’s inmate population is brought into sharp relief. Seeing the offenders is always a stark reminder of the human cost of crime, because each offender often represents numerous crime victims.
Therefore, while it’s important to take time this week to highlight the needs and rights of crime victims, it’s a job that never really ends.
ADC’s Office of Victims Services, led by longtime victims’ rights advocate Jan Upchurch, carries out one of the department’s most important areas of responsibility. We’ve served more than 10,000 crime victims this past year, and – just as importantly – their families. These are people who have suffered because of the actions of a criminal. And I believe that it’s every bit as important for the state to address the needs of every victim, as it is to impose justice on the offenders.
But the great work of this office is just a portion of the time and effort that ADC puts into addressing the rights of victims.
Every inmate in our system must participate in programming. It may include everything from basic education, to substance abuse treatment, to vocational development, among many others.
Because a common trait of criminals is to dehumanize others, the most important program is one which teaches the offender to understand that victims are human beings. Our department strategically counters this anti-social mindset with every inmate.
At ADC, inmates are taught how poor behaviors lead to bad decisions that ultimately lead to committing crime. They learn that earning an education and developing a job skill will help them become self-sufficient and eliminate the motive to victimize others in order to meet their needs. And every offender is shown how to relate to their past victims to see how their criminal actions affected another person.
In some cases, victims of crime volunteer to take part in these classes in order to drive home the point to offenders that bad choices they make, leading them to prison, can significantly and, sometimes, permanently harm another human being. It’s a powerful and effective method.
An added part of that process involves working in partnership with our complexes statewide to hold inmate fundraisers to support victims’ rights organizations. This is part of the restorative justice program. Among those receiving support include:
- Eloy Children’s Advocacy Center
- White Mountain Safe House
- AZ for the Protection of Exploited Children
- Sojourner Center
- Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse
- Homeward Bound Shelter for Women & Children
- Home for Hope
ADC’s inmate fundraisers have raised more than $120,000 in the past year for victims of crime in Arizona.
I am immensely proud of the sincere and unwavering support of ADC and its employees to help those who have been victimized by crime, and I can say with confidence that our dedication to that noble cause will never cease.
Charles L. Ryan