On Thursday, April 12, 2018, Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill read a proclamation for the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners as they proclaimed April 8 through April 14, 2018 as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Multnomah County. District Attorney Underhill was joined by Denise Pena who is the Community Justice Manager for the Crime Victims Services Unit with the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office also recently partnered with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office to continue to raise awareness of crime victims’ rights through the inaugural “Be HIP” campaign.
“Be HIP” stands for “Be Heard Informed Present.”
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office has the state’s largest Victim Assistance Program with a staff of 21 individuals who help make the criminal justice system more responsive to individual citizens, particularly to victims of crime.
“Most people don’t know that crime victims are guaranteed certain rights,” said Annie Wynne, the Program Supervisor for the Victim Assistance Program within the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. “Our victim advocates within the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office are here to ensure crime victims understand their rights. We are their liaison to help make the legal system less complicated.”
In Oregon, a crime victim has the right to justice, a right to a meaningful role in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, a right to due dignity and respect, and a right to fair and impartial treatment. A crime victim’s rights shall be protected at each stage of the criminal justice system. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is a close partner of the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, the Oregon Department of Corrections, the National Crime Victims Law Institute, and the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision as the agencies work with Code for America to develop a program called Case Companion.
Case Companion is an online-based resource that provides important, timely and easily accessible information for victims of crime.
There are 15 victim advocates working within the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. The advocates work directly with crime victims to explain the criminal justice system, including what rights are available to them, provide court accompaniment, offer referral information to appropriate community services and guide victims through the prosecution process.
The Victim Assistance Program within the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is one of the few programs within the state that assigns its victim advocates a specific case load. These victim advocates then become subject matter experts within their field. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office has victim advocates assigned specifically to the Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Team, Gang Unit, Human Trafficking Team, Major Crimes Unit, Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, Juvenile Justice Team, Domestic Violence Unit and the Multnomah County Justice Reinvestment Program.
“Our advocates are a reflection of our community and that’s something we are very proud of,” Wynne said.
In addition to supporting crime victims and upholding their rights, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, through the Victim Assistance Program, provides 24-hour on-call response to the victims of sexual assault. This immediate crisis intervention service is then followed by ongoing support and advocacy throughout the investigation and prosecution of the case.
All victims of crimes being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office receive: information about their rights as victims; opportunity to submit information about their losses for restitution; and notification letters on the case status and disposition.
During his proclamation, District Attorney Underhill took the time to update the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on the steps his office has taken to help eliminate the backlog of Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kits in Multnomah County and the entire state.
“As of the first of this month, 2,969 previously untested SAFE kits had been sent to the Sorenson lab for testing,” DA Underhill said. “About 2,500 of that nearly 3,000 have been tested and are making their way back to the local jurisdiction for their evaluation.”
Underhill said that he has a high degree of confidence that within a year, he should be able to report that Oregon will likely join less than a handful of states across the country that has been able to eliminate its entire backlog of SAFE kits.
“It will be a proud moment here shortly to say that the back log of SAFE kits don’t exist here in the state of Oregon,” Underhill said.
Contact: Brent Weisberg, Communications Director