Max Darrow | KGUN 9 Tucson
PHOENIX, Ariz. - There is a victim in every crime -- a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result. If and when the perpetrator is caught, he or she could very well spend time locked up in prison. To some people, that's the end of the story -- the person is off the streets and away from the victims. However to the victim and those close to the victim, it's just the beginning of a new chapter.
"A lot of times, society thinks that once a conviction has occurred, it's all done and over with," Jan Upchurch said. "And it is not. People that are victims of crime are always impacted by that experience."
Upchurch is the administrator of the Arizona Department of Corrections Office of Victim Services. Her day-to-day consists of working with victims of crimes, making sure they get everything they need.
"It's all kinds of crimes," she said. "It can be stalking, murder, a sexual assault, financial crimes, stolen cars."
Victims of crime can "opt in" to her office's services at any time -- immediately after the crime, months after the crime, even years later when the criminal's been behind bars for years.
"All they have to do is call our number, or there's a form online through the Attorney General's office of victim services they can fill out," she said. That number is (602) 542-1853.
Once a person has opted in, her office will be a resource for many questions they might have. Some of those questions are just curiosities, others sometimes are about the judicial process.
"If they've gotten into trouble if there's disciplinary actions, what's the life like for an inmate," Upchurch said. "Sometimes people want to know that. What's their cell look like."
One of the main questions her office deals with: when will the person responsible for the crime rejoin society?
"We mail out letters usually one to two months before an inmate is released," she said. "The day of his release, we actually do call the victims again and let them know that the inmate has been released."
Upchurch wasn't always an advocate for victims. But that all changed when she became one herself, after a tragic incident killed her husband.
"It was August 31, 1990," she said. "My first husband was a DPS officer and he was killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver. It shattered my world."
Her life was turned upside down that night. She's been able to move forward since that night, but she says the moment will stay with her forever.
"People that are victims of crime never get over it. It's always a part of their life," Upchurch said.
Helping others through a similar story has helped her cope with moving forward -- it's what she's made a career out of.
"To help them find some peace and a sense of justice," she said. "That's the really important part."
But for the victims and the families of victims, she says there is no such thing as closure, only a sense of justice.
"Can you ever fulfill complete justice?" Upchurch said. "No, because you can never bring someone back that has been murdered or been horrifically a victim of domestic violence or stalking."
While victims may never get the complete justice they're looking for, Upchurch says finding the sense of justice is crucial for the healing process and finding a new normal in life.
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