Pete Skandalakis

Pete Skandalakis

Dear Editor:

Crime victim advocates have been diligent in their quest to ensure all victims are informed of their rights since the Georgia Crime Victims Bill of Rights was enacted in 1995. In 2018, Marsy’s Law passed with 80% support ensuring these rights are constitutionally protected and enforced.

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother walked into a grocery store where she was confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas has made it his life’s mission to give victims and their family’s constitutional protections and equal rights.

On October 1, 2020, Marsy’s Law for Georgia and the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council (PAC) of Georgia partnered to create the Georgia Crime Victim’s Rights Notification card. Since the state of Georgia does not have a centralized state-wide notification system and resources vary across local jurisdictions, Marsy’s Law and PAC decided to create one comprehensive, customizable card for law enforcement, prosecutors and victims’ services organizations to present to crime victims. The notification card was designed to help victims better understand their rights while also listing local resources available to assist them in navigating their case.

The notification card was an important step in improving victims’ knowledge around their rights, providing a simple yet effective tool for law enforcement, prosecutors and other victims’ services organizations to use throughout Georgia’s 159 counties. With numerous agencies and organizations connecting with crime victims across jurisdictions, the wallet-sized card can help bridge any notification gaps that may occur as crime victims navigate through the complexities of the criminal justice system.

While the notification card requires empathy, compassion and a human touch, which can be healing following a traumatic event, the drawback is also the possibility for human error.

Miscommunication or a missed notification about the release of an attacker can prove deadly to victims if they are uninformed and unaware of the potential danger facing them.

Ideally, the next step in the evolution of improving victims’ rights would be a statewide, automated notification system that a crime victim or family of a crime victim can easily opt into once to receive all communications involving their case in a timely, efficient

manner. Until then, we celebrate the Georgia Victims’ Rights Notification Card’s one-year anniversary and commend our Victim Witness Assistance Programs in local prosecutors’ offices for their notification efforts and their continued work toward ensuring all victims are aware of their rights and connected to the resources necessary for beginning the healing process following a traumatic event.

Pete Skandalakis

Executive Director, Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia

LaGrange

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