Victim Rights During Offender Re-entry -more updates #WhenIBecameFree

The fight for it is starting to feel like I am pawn in a game of shell. Welcome to the world of politics.

Victim/survivors rights during offender re-entry shouldn't even be a question, it should be a given
that the victim is a stakeholder and has a voice that needs to be heard. This is especially true for victims of abuse, whether it is domestic abuse, child abuse or sexual abuse at the hands of a known person in their lives. Crimes perpetrated on someone once trusted to the victim, usually an authority figure, or a  family member or an intimate partner.

This past year plus I went out on a limb and made my fight to be heard very public. A decision that was not easy to make, but was needed to keep my abuser from being placed on extended supervision within 6 blocks from my home in the rural community where we have one grocery store, one library, a handful of traffic lights and gas stations. Inevitability there would be contact made - not to mention how close I would be should he have vengeful thoughts in his head.

There have been many posts to my blog, on Facebook and speeches made telling my story to various audiences including prisoners and politicians . Through it I have met others dealing with similar stories and bonds towards the ultimate goal of being recognized as a vital part of offender re-entry have been made.

I've had to face my own insecurities and triggers of PTSD to be heard. All of us fighting for these basic rights have dealt with ignorant comments such as "just move" , "stop playing the victim", "get on with life."

Luckily for me, my children- who were also victims in that last crime that sent my ex-husband to prison for 8 years, have been extremely supportive of me and this cause. I know it is not easy on them as my story is part of their story - their childhood memories that more than likely they'd like to forget.

It is a story which keeps having layers added to it, little things with potential for a huge impact, all added on top of one another -

Through it all I've kept in close contact with my state assembly representative, Ed Brooks.

I have stressed that victims need to have a LEGAL voice during the offender re-entry process.
I have shared with his office legislation in other states (California and Texas) where a victim can state they do not wish their offender to be released on supervision and/or parole within a certain specified distance from their home and employment.
I have also provided a victim checklist for offender reentry from the State of Minnesota

About a decade plus ago there was a push in some states, with guidance from the national level, to make victim rights during offender reentry a priority. If you do research on it you can from some instances where states moved forward with legislation, and then you may find that there's not much else out there, at least not a concrete/solid approach or model. Sadly, there's a lot of talk, and very little action.

Following quotes taken from -
By Keith Martin, Assistant Editor
Published: 12/17/2001
. There is also another population, however, that has just as many if not more needs when offenders are released - victims. Corrections agencies nationwide are making positive steps to ensure that the needs of these individuals are not only considered, but being met as well.

'Historically, in corrections, the customer is the offender,' says Peter Michaud, Victim Services Coordinator for the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. 'Remembering to serve the victim wasn't as much a focus in the past as it is now.'...
 The Value of Victim Input 
...'For a lot of victims, reentry [of offenders] can be a trauma trigger,' says national victim advocate Anne Seymour. 'A lot of victims are interested in when their offender is coming out and where they are going and want to know that [offenders] aren't just given 10 dollars and a bus ticket upon release. A lot of victims know the person getting out and want to know that they are being supervised, getting help with their substance abuse, getting a job [and other assistance].'

To alleviate some of these concerns, Seymour advises giving the victim a vital role in an offender's reentry. From sharing information on the crime from their point of view to expressing what they feel should be a part of an offender's conditions of supervision, the victim can give concrete information while defining their own safety needs.
Yes, so 14 years ago victim rights during offender reentry was a topic among corrections and other officials across the nation, so why then did I and others run into so many roadblocks when advocating for ourselves when our offenders were being released in Wisconsin on extended supervision?

And why then, even after bringing issue to the lack of victim rights in Wisconsin, did we experience even more issues regarding our offenders being out on extended supervision?

For instance in early November I received an email from the probation and parole unit overseeing my abuser's supervision.  The following email came 3 days after the incident being reported -

I am writing on behalf of Agent (redacted) as he is out of the office this week. I wanted to inform you Mr. R(redacted) s is currently in custody at the Monroe County Jail.  I was not sure if Monitoring Center had notified you.  Information is limited at this time as an agent will be investigating the situation. However, what we do know is Mr. R(redacted) did not return in time to his residence on 10/31. Per policy for offender’s on GPS an apprehension request was issued by our Monitoring Center.  Mr. R(redacted) was then apprehended at his residence when he returned. His whereabouts and activities during this time are unknown, however an agent will be investigating and determine his location and activities during this time.  It does not appear as though he entered any exclusion zones.

Months prior to this incident I requested that I be notified immediately should such a situation arise. A request that the agent said would be made, and was for my own safety. This notification came days after the fact and after he was in custody - what is even more alarming is the agent writing it wasn't aware if I had been notified (seriously?). Luckily it turned out to just be a minor rules violation but just imagine the fatal domino effect the gaping hole in their protocol has for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, such as myself?

Somewhat ironically after I received this email one of the other women (survivors) I am working with contacted to let me know that her abuser, a man who for 17 years repeatedly raped her when she was a child, had an account on Facebook and was befriending mutual people. Needless to say she was highly upset and for justifiable reasons. I told her to immediately contact probation and parole, and other law enforcement - report the violation.

It took well over a week before anyone got back to her on the status of her complaint, meanwhile the registered sex offender's profile remained active on the social media site.

Is it a wonder why she, others and myself feel ignored by the system that supposedly is in place to protect all of us? Is it a wonder why we feel victim rights during offender reentry needs to be a priority in Wisconsin? That there should be laws on the books spelling this out?

This past week I contacted Rep. Brooks office to check on the status of where things stands on the possibility of such legislation being pushed in Wisconsin.

And this is the response I received:

We are making progress.  Stephanie Hove who is the director of Victim Services for DOC, has been working with her counterpart in Minnesota.  The implementation of a form such as the one you sent on to us (Minnesota Selection) is being pursued for use in the pre-release tool box for WIDOC.
As I mentioned to you previously, we want DOC to put a policy in place rather than our having to force them into a process by statute. 
Is it me or do you also feel as if a "policy" is just a pat on the head? How does that address victims having legal rights during offender reentry?

I have a feeling more work is needed! If you are a victim of a violent crime in Wisconsin and have had problems regarding your offenders reentry on extended supervision, contact me! 

If you are a survivor of abuse (child, domestic, sexual) living in the rural midwest please visit my website at   #WhenIBecameFree  -The Heartland Project  and learn about me project - we need survivors willing to tell their stories!


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