Webinar presenter Katharine Manning answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Victim Rights in a Post Epstein World. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Please remember that victims can contact the Department of Corrections in states to learn about their programs to support victims at parole hearings and other notifications regarding convicted individuals. Any thoughts or comments or feedback on that?
Katharine Manning: I’m so glad that you said that. A project that I’ve worked on some over the years is this question of how to ensure that victims continue to receive services during the corrections phase. And I know that a lot of individuals, corrections officers, parole boards, others who work in the correction system are doing tremendous work to ensure that victims receive information about what’s happening. Is the offender up for parole? When is he or she set to be released? Because those can be really difficult times for the victim and if they haven’t received that notice, they aren’t aware and then suddenly they’re walking down the street in their hometown and they come face-to-face with the offender that can be a really scary moment for that victim. So, I think it’s really important that we all do whatever we can to help ensure that victims are continuing to receive notifications and services throughout the criminal justice process so up to and including the release of that offender. So, there are a lot of jurisdictions who were just doing tremendous work on that. I’m glad that you pointed out the Bureau of Corrections is really the place that you need to go. If I were counseling an individual victim who said well, “I don’t know what to do. I think he is in prison, but I’m not sure where”, what I would advise is first reach out to whatever victim advocate you had during the prosecution. He or she should be able to put you in touch with the individual at the correction’s base, caseworker, whoever it is who can help you get information about the offender and ensure that you’re receiving notices about where that individual is and when he or she will be released and about any proceedings that are coming up while they’re incarcerated. Make sure that if the individual is released and that is out on parole that you get in good contact with that parole officer because that individual is a person is going to help you if the offender begins harassing you or you’re not getting restitution payments or something like that. It’s a good idea to know how to contact that person. So, thank you so much, Lori, for pointing that out. I think it’s a great point.
Audience Question: Would you be okay if she posted or if other people in this course, your handouts, the resources on Facebook pages, LinkedIn things like that? Are you okay with that?
Katharine Manning: Yeah, it’s fine with me. I really just want this information to get out there. As I said at the beginning. I think the only way that we can ensure that victims get rights is to make sure that people who work with victims know what those rights are because we can’t ask the person who has just undergone this incredibly traumatizing possibly life-altering event to be doing research on what their rights are in the case or even to be aware that they have something like that right? So, I think it’s so important that those of us who work with victims know these rights. So yeah, I think anything we can do to get the word out and if that includes posting my PowerPoint go for it. I’m glad that it’s helpful.
Audience Question: I deal with victims post-conviction when the inmate is now representing themselves through motions. How can victim information be kept confidential when the inmate files motions to compel their address, etc.? How can victims be protected from indirect contact to the point of harassment with the constant filings?
Katharine Manning: Such an interesting question. So, the offender, I mean, I think one of the benefits you have in working in the correction system is that you have so much control over that offender. You can do things that if the offender is out there walking around nobody else could do, right. So, you have the ability to control that offender’s access to information. If the offender is contacting the victim directly, harassing the victim you have the ability to shut that down and say they’re not allowed to send letters to this address. They’re not allowed to contact this phone number. I would advise using whatever you can and making sure that you’re communicating with the victim so that the victim knows who to call if somehow that individual has figured out a way to contact them, right? In terms of the defendant representing him or herself, I would I’m a little afraid to speak off the cuff here because I haven’t encountered that myself, but my suspicion is that you would be able to argue to the court that any communications with the victim have to run through somebody within your facility so that the defendant or the offender him or herself does not have that contact information directly instead they have to give it to somebody in the facility who then sends it on to the victim and again, it would only be if it is something related to the court proceeding. You know some reason that they are trying to interview the victim or something like that. Most of the time we’re in a post-conviction world, there shouldn’t be any new facts or anything that’s being developed. So, I’m having trouble even thinking why they would need to contact the victim directly. But if that is the case, then I would suggest trying to find an intermediary who is the one who reaches out to the victim for anything that has to be sought from him or her.
Audience Question: Does the Prison Rape Elimination Act provide victims’ rights for prisoners?
Katharine Manning: Oh gosh. You know, I’m not super familiar with it. Although I did do a little bit of work with that commission as it was as it was coming up with that act. I don’t recall that there were specific victim rights that were within the PREA, Prison Rape Elimination Act but I would have to look it up. Kayla that is such a good question and I am going to look it up. I’m really curious and you see my email, right there. If you shoot me an email, I will let you know what I find out.
Audience Question: As far as contact information is concerned, what do you recommend for homeless victims or migrant workers?
Katharine Manning: Yeah, it’s hard. I feel like that it’s them and the trafficking victims so, so difficult and you know, sometimes in the federal system what we would do is give them a cell phone that we would say you should go see is this only for us to be able to contact you. Obviously, that worked, you know, there wasn’t a great success even with that because they would get rid of it or they would give it to everybody and suddenly the person who is a threat to them is able to contact them again. What I would suggest is making sure that they have your contact information. They know how to contact you. If you can arrange a set time that you will contact them, you know if it works. Again, this is an incredibly transient community, but if you can say on the first of every month, I want to you know, I want to have a standing date with you or you will contact me at some point on the first of the month or something like that. Have some sort of standing opportunity for you guys to get in touch with each other. Another option would be can you find somebody else who is more stable whose contact information you can have so that when you lose track of your victim, your homeless or migrant victim, there’s somebody else out there who knows how to get in touch with them. That can be a family member, it could be a caseworker, somebody else who systems face, who has a better shot at knowing how to find that person. Honestly, what a lot of people do it with trafficking victims and homeless victims who unfortunately are preyed on so much, you know, they are such a vulnerable population often it is you send somebody, you know, you send an officer out on the street to go try to find them. That’s sometimes what we have to do and give them an update and tell them, you know, the trial is starting, or you know, we need you to show up on this day. Unfortunately, there aren’t great answers, but hopefully, that gives you at least a few more tools, a few more options to try.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Victim Rights in a Post Epstein World.