By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Attorney General Steve Marshall and other crime victims’ advocates said their concerns and voices will continue to be heard amidst the the response to the coronavirus.
This in national crime victims’ rights awareness week. Marshall announced at a press conference on Monday that the usual candle light vigil in front of the Attorney General’s office in Montgomery will now be held virtually because of concerns about COVID-19.
“One thing we wanted to do this week is not to lose sight of the fact that victims need to be heard and they need to have an outlet for their stories to be told,” Marshall said.
This year’s theme is “seek justice, ensure victim’s rights and inspire hope.”
“Our job is to respond with professionalism, with hope and with compassion because when we’re successful, justice is obtained, rights are protected and hope is inspired for those who desperately need it,” Marshall said.
More information on how to participate in the virtual candle light vigil will be sent out on Tuesday.
Marshall and Jill Lee, the Shelby County District Attorney, emphasized that even during this time of social distancing, services and help for crime victims will still be available.
“Amid the chaos right now and the sadness and the uncertainty, victims need to know that they are in fact being thought about, that we are working for them and that there is hope,” Lee said.
Especially for victims of domestic abuse, Marshall said that shelters are still open and those who need immediate help to call the state’s hotline at 1-800-650-6522.
The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles said parole hearings would resume starting May 18 and anyone wishing to advocate for crime victims or protest a parole can do so by sending in a written response either through email, phone or physical mail.
“So even though it is a difficult time, our government has worked to ensure that victims still have their rights and still have a right to protest,” Janette Grantham, the state director for Victims of Crime and Leniency, said on Monday.
Darlene Biehl, the senior adviser of victim affairs for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, said getting victims to report the crimes against them is a challenge. Biehl said a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice last year found that only 42% of violent crimes are reported.
“We want to create an environment where victims know that they are welcomed and that they are going to get the treatment and attention that they need because they are valuable partners in ensuring we get good investigations and good prosecutions and can hold the offenders accountable,” Biehl said.