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Attorney General Recognizes Outstanding Victim Advocates 2000


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                OVC

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 2000                                                                           202/616-3534


WASHINGTON, DC - Attorney General Janet Reno today honored four individuals, five organizations and two families with the Crime Victim Service Award, the highest federal award given for outstanding service to crime victims. Representatives from the families of James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard received the award for their courageous response to hate crimes, and citizens and organizations from Scotland received special recognition for their response to the Pan Am 103 tragedy.

The awards ceremony is part of the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime's (OVC) 20th annual observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, held this year from April 9 to April 15. Reno presented the awards at a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

"It is especially fitting that today, on the fifth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, we pause to reflect on the terrible cost exacted by crime and to honor these dedicated individuals, communities and organizations," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Each of these awardees represents a remarkable story of courage, commitment and caring that should inspire our own efforts."

National Crime Victims' Rights Week provides an opportunity for communities across the country to recognize the millions of Americans who have been victimized by crime and those who help them navigate the confusing and often difficult process of seeking justice.

"By paying tribute to the outstanding work of these victim advocates, we honor all those who serve crime victims," said Kathryn Turman, OVC Director.

Featured at the ceremony was artwork by Gretchen Dater, an art student who was one of the 270 passengers killed in the bombing of Pan Am 103. Found in the plane's wreckage was an uncompleted work, which Gretchen's mother, Joan Dater, calls "Unfinished Business" and describes as "a manifestation of a young talent's life cut short."

OVC also premiered a video, which featured sculptures created by Suse Lowenstein, mother of Alexander Lowenstein, one of 35 Syracuse University students aboard Pan Am 103. Each of the 50 life-sized statues, designed to honor the families of the bombing victims, captures the emotions of one of the victim's mothers upon learning of the death of her child. Ms. Lowenstein placed an item belonging to the victim at the heart of each sculpture.

OVC selected the Crime Victim Service awardees from more than 110 nominations received from federal, state and local victim assistance programs, national victim assistance organizations, Members of Congress, Governors, U.S. Attorneys and individual citizens.

Honored by the Attorney General were:


Atlanta, Georgia

Bruce Cook became active in the crime victims movement following the murder of his step-brother in 1977. While serving on the American Correctional Association's Task Force on Victims of Crime from 1987 to 1992, Mr. Cook was commended for his work in helping to formulate 15 national recommendations to improve the rights of crime victims in correctional agencies. Due in large part to Mr. Cook's efforts, the State of Georgia passed legislation requiring and implementing victim notification in correctional settings. In the early 1990s, Mr. Cook was instrumental in the development of an innovative community restitution program for

federal prisoners housed in a minimum security prison. The program utilized inmate labor to replace the roofs and weatherproof the homes of the elderly poor. In 1989, Mr. Cook founded the Crime Victims Advocacy Council, which provides free counseling to hundreds of crime victims, particularly homicide survivors, and he has served as its president, secretary, and advisor. Mr. Cook's 22-year commitment to victims' rights and services has been fulfilled primarily in a volunteer capacity and has resulted in the establishment of model restorative justice programs across the country.


Jeanne Landdeck-Sisco, Executive Director

Tucson, Arizona

Casa de los Ninos (House of the Children) opened the nation's first crisis nursery for severely abused children in November 1973. The organization offers beds to children from birth to nine years of age who have been physically or sexually abused, criminally neglected, abandoned, left homeless or medically vulnerable. The average length of stay for children is 43 days, but some remain for more than a year. During their time at the nursery, children receive comprehensive medical and dental care. Licensed nurses are on staff 24 hours-a-day to ensure proper treatment for residents, including injured children who could not be cared for outside the hospital, and drug-exposed, premature infants. Casa de los Ninos also cares for child victims with severe burns, seizures, feeding tubes, and those in wheelchairs and body casts. In addition, staff utilize a Strength and Resiliency Building Program for the older children, which gives them opportunities to develop skills and boost their self-esteem. With the help of the Southern Arizona community, Casa has sheltered over 25,000 children. While there are hundreds of shelters in the United States that are modeled after Casa de los Ninos, very few are able to provide the breadth and depth of services, especially medical services, to the nation's most vulnerable child victims.


Vista, California

In 1985, Wayne Fortin founded Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc. (TIP), a non-profit organization that serves victims of crime. Under his leadership, TIP has grown from a local victims' support program to a national network that serves 75 cities and counties across the nation. TIP trains and supervises citizen volunteers who are contacted round-the-clock by police and other emergency personnel to provide emotional and practical support to crime victims, including victims of seemingly "minor" crimes such as purse snatching. As a result of Mr. Fortin's work, thousands of crime victims have received on-the-scene support, police departments across the nation have replicated the TIP model, and emergency responders in many locales have benefitted from "emotional first aid training" to enable them to provide compassionate care to victims. The Ford Foundation and Harvard University honored the program with the Innovations in State and Local Government Award.


Mary Blake-Holley, Chief

Jacksonville, Florida

The Jacksonville Victim Services Center is the nation's first full-service, one-stop victim services center and has served over 20,000 child and adult victims of crime since it opened in 1987. By utilizing city funds and a specialized Victim Assistance Trust Fund, victims receive assistance with the filing of compensation claims; counseling; court advocacy; emergency food, shelter, and transportation; pharmaceuticals; medical referrals; hotline counseling; and home security enhancements. The Center utilizes a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) to respond to sexual assault victims and provides free forensic exams. It also provides community education through a variety of means, including a radio talk show and a monthly cable television program run by and for crime victims. The Center operates a police academy training program and a five-week summer youth crime prevention and education program and collaborates with law enforcement to maintain a crisis response team. The Center's Hospital After Hours Program is located in a local hospital emergency room and notifies victims of services, make referrals, and serves as a liaison between families and medical staff. Its Beaches Satellite Office offers convenient services to beach residents victimized by crime. In 1999, the Center expanded its outreach and education efforts further by assisting a local historic black college located in a high crime area to establish a campus victim assistance program and to implement an elder/disabled victims' home van service to serve victims who cannot come to the Center.


New York, New York

Through 22 years of dedicated service, Thomas Alessandro has developed the Witness Aid Services Unit into a comprehensive program addressing the needs of all crime victims who come to the New York County District Attorney's Office. At the same time, he has strived to reach underserved victims in the community through numerous partnerships. During his tenure as director, Mr. Alessandro has been responsible for a number of organizational enhancements, including establishment of a counseling department and creation of a child victim specialist position. The counseling staff is now made up of certified clinical social workers who provide individual and group therapy for victims. Mr. Alessandro also directed the development of new technology to increase the efficiency and availability of victim services, including protection order tracking and victim notification systems. He has forged partnerships with organizations outside the criminal justice system to offer additional services to victims, including the AT&T Cell Phone Project, which, along with many other services, provides crime victims with 911-programmed cell phones for use in emergencies. Mr. Alessandro extends his active and innovative advocacy for victims beyond his professional role, and has been actively involved with numerous other state and local initiatives, such as the development of the New York City Victim Information and Notification System. His dedicated efforts have succeeded in securing numerous new rights and services for crime victims.


Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Helga Azizkhan was thrust into an activist's role when a drunk driver killed her son, a surgical resident at a local hospital, in 1982. Ms. Azizkhan used the public attention focused on her son's death to help launch her area's first Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter in a three-county area of Pennsylvania. Since 1983, she has served several terms as the MADD chapter's president and has sat on the boards of several related organizations. She has worked tirelessly in the area and throughout Pennsylvania to raise the state's minimum drinking age and prioritize DUI license suspensions. In 1994, the national MADD organization awarded her its national Golden Achievement Award, the highest honor given to MADD volunteers, for the significant contributions she has made to her community and state. Ms. Azizkhan and her husband have created a trust fund in their son's memory-the Dr. Karl Azizkhan Memorial Fund-which is used solely to support victim services. She plans to use her Crime Victim Service Award as a platform for furthering awareness of the plight of victims in Pennsylvania.





Margaret Hoaglen, Program Coordinator

Covelo, California

The Round Valley Indian Tribes' S.T.O.P. Violence Against Indian Women Program opened in May of 1998 and has already made an extraordinary impact on the community it serves. Program staff set to work immediately to forge partnerships with local agencies, entering into formal memoranda of agreement with the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office and the County Victim Witness Unit. They also completed a draft tribal domestic violence ordinance that has generated open discussion of domestic violence issues. They have conducted local workshops to test community attitudes toward women of color and tribal tradition. The program works collaboratively with the local domestic violence shelter and has provided funding to support its Children's Program, which includes licensed day care, counseling, and support for children living in the shelter. The Round Valley S.T.O.P. program is an example of how dedication and collaboration with local resources can make a positive difference in the lives of domestic violence victims and their children.



Casper, Wyoming

Judy and Dennis Shepard have used the attention generated by the murder of their son, Matthew, as a platform for positive change in the criminal justice system's response to crimes motivated by hate. In October 1998, Matthew, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, was lured to a rural road, tied to a fence, beaten into unconsciousness, and left to die. Matthew's funeral and the subsequent trials of his killers generated tremendous media interest. The Shepards have used their visibility to draw attention to the nation's growing concern about the prevalence of hate crime, in which thousands of Americans are victimized each year because of their skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. They have also spoken out on the need for stronger state and federal legislation to protect against hate-inspired violence.


Thurman Byrd, brother of James Byrd, Jr.

Early in the morning of June 7, 1998, James Byrd, Jr. was walking home along Martin Luther King Boulevard in his hometown of Jasper, Texas when he was picked up by three white men. He was beaten, chained by his ankles to a pickup truck, and dragged to his death. The crimes' brutality sparked national debate on the state of race relations in the United States. The Byrd family, however, spoke out against any attempt to appropriate James' death for divisive purposes. In a statement of extraordinary conciliation released soon after his murder, the family said that "we as human beings are all inter-connected" and implored the nation not to allow James' death to "be a spark that ignites more hatred, alienation and retribution."




Willie Rae QPM, Chief Constable

Police Headquarters, Cornwall Mount

Dumfries, Scotland


Andrew Campbell, Convener and Senior Elected Member

Dumfries, Scotland

The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988 claimed the lives of 270 people from 21 countries, including 189 Americans. The tragedy affected not only the family and loved ones of the passengers, but also the residents of Lockerbie in south Scotland, the town over which the explosion occurred. Thousands of police, fire officials, military personnel, rescue workers, and citizens responded.

The Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, the smallest of eight police divisions in Scotland, set the standard not only for the Office for Victims of Crime's and the federal government's response to the Pan Am 103 families, but also for the response of law enforcement officials everywhere to crises. Officials spent three years identifying and cataloging victims' human remains and personal belongings and returning them quickly to relatives. Officers went to extraordinary lengths to retrieve the remains and belongings from the 845 square mile field of debris and match them with victims, in some cases using magnifying glasses to identify items from photographs. As a result of these extraordinary efforts, most of the Pan Am 103 families were able to recover at least a few of their loved one's possessions.

Over the years, the police have made visits to the United States to meet with families to explain autopsy results and bring them up to date on the case. They initiated, and along with other Scottish officials and representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, participated in a recent briefing for 200 American relatives on the upcoming trial. This past Christmas, more than 600 relatives received a newsletter and Christmas card from the Constabulary. The officers at Dumfries and Galloway have demonstrated consistent professionalism, whole-hearted commitment, and remarkable compassion in responding to an extraordinary tragedy.

Despite their own trauma and loss, the citizens of Lockerbie and the region, represented by the Dumfries and Galloway Council, mobilized to aid the families of the Pan Am 103 victims. Working with the local Lockerbie council, the Council set up a community support office to coordinate volunteer efforts by both private citizens and professionals. The volunteers assisted police with the preparation of victims' belongings for return to the families, which involved constructing a warehouse for inventorying items, washing and ironing articles of victims' clothes, drying soggy diaries and letters, and packaging belongings. The Council also helped to create the Lockerbie Trust for handling donations coming in from around the world. The Trust has provided assistance with travel and funding for counseling, and has contributed to building a memorial cairn at Arlington National Cemetery.

The community support office also created a "Friendship Group" to attend to the needs of bereaved relatives who traveled to Lockerbie to visit the site where their loved ones were found. Citizens opened their homes to the visiting relatives. A local cab driver spent a week driving a young widow around the area and refused payment. The compassion, generosity and resilience of the people of Lockerbie, represented by the Dumfries and Galloway Council, show that the Pan Am 103 story is one not only of devastating tragedy, but of great human spirit.

OVC is the federal government's chief advocate for crime victims and their families. In addition to funding state victim compensation and victim assistance programs, OVC trains those who work with victims and develops projects to enhance victims' rights and services. This frequently involves responding to high profile incidents such as the Pan Am 103 bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine and other school shootings, the Capitol Hill shootings and the embassy bombings in Africa.

OVC's activities are financed by the Crime Victims Fund. Criminal fines collected in one year by U.S. Attorneys, the U.S. Courts and Bureau of Prisons are deposited into the fund and are available for grant awards in the following year. The fund is supported solely by these fines, which are paid by federal criminal offenders - not taxpayers.

Further information about OVC, its programs and resources is available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/, from the OJP home page at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/, or by calling the OVC Resource Center at 800/627-6872.



After hours please contact: Linda Mansour on 202/616-3534 or page on 202/516-6843

Date Created: June 3, 2020