Amid many of the actions MCAO has taken in response to concerns of COVID-19, the work our Victims Services Division has done goes above and beyond. MCAO’s Victim Services Division is made up of highly trained, experienced professionals who offer victims and their families emotional support, provide social service resources, and serve as liaisons providing case information and updates.
On its own, the criminal justice system can be especially confusing and stressful to victims of crime. Adding COVID-19 concerns to the mix, it is important that victims feel connected and have the support they need during this time. Taking into consideration guidelines to slow the spread of this disease, our Victim Services staff has been working to notify victims of changes to court proceedings, provide updates to how the courts are responding to COVID-19, and to make victims aware of all services that can meet their needs.
Victim services has implemented the following changes to further assist victims:
- Set up a “check-in” station with victim advocates outside on the first floor of the Superior Court to assist victims who are exercising their right to attend and make a statement in court. This will help victims get the help they need, direct them with updated information as to court hearings, alert of any courtroom changes, and lessen their confusion;
- Collaborate with court staff and prosecutors to communicate the number of victims attending in person to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed for everyone’s health and safety;
- Make arrangements with courts and victim advocates for victims to be able to participate in court telephonically;
- Increase contact with victims to keep them up-to-date regarding whether hearings are moving forward or being continued;
- Shifted from “traditional” advocate duties to more non-traditional job tasks including contacting victims telephonically to provide notice of events, following up with victims to answer any questions, provide resource referrals and assisting in other areas of the office as needed;
- Shifted resources for advocates to provide a higher volume of victim notification duties; and
- Employ administrative staff to assist with victim contacts and provide notice of date changes in their cases.
The K9 Victim Support team is continuing to attend sentencing hearings and provide emotional support, comfort, and positive reinforcement to victims, next-of-kin, and victim guardians. The K9 team has also been available to provide support and comfort to MCAO employees.
Making sure victims are able to participate in the criminal justice system not only upholds victims’ constitutional rights but also empowers them to take control and provides them with an opportunity to share their story. For many it also provides closure and an opportunity to have their questions answered. Our office will continue to protect victims’ rights through advocacy, support, and services while doing our part to stop the spread of this deadly disease.
To learn more about the important work victim services does visit: MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/Victims
To contact someone in victim services visit: MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/FormCenter/Contact-Us-4/Victim-Services-Division-Contact-Form-44
For victims services and resources in Maricopa County: MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/284/Important-Victim-Contacts