A major initiative for the Renée Olubunmi Rondeau Peace Foundation (RORPF) will be to work for the establishment of legal assistance facilities for crime victims both in the state of Georgia and around the nation. This is a recognition of the fact that, although much good work has been done at both the state and Federal level to document the rights of crime victims in law, most of these initiatives contain little or no enforceability provisions. As a consequence, the defined rights of crime victims are completely subject to the whims of the court and thus, in reality, victims today have no rights.
This represents a strange departure from the original intent of the founders; it was the case that, in the beginning, the victim actually brought the case to court. In effect, the victim was the prosecutor. Over time, however the prerogative of the victim gradually eroded; the state usurped control to the extent that the victim became an afterthought and was simply not a party to the process. In fact, the victim could, if the court pleased, be excluded from the trial proceeding altogether. It wasn’t until the mid-1980’s that a movement began to re-establish rights for crime victims in the criminal justice system.
Gradually, states have enacted laws that codify a set of victims rights; some have even enshrined those rights in their state constitutions. While this is progress, until and unless those rights are made enforceable, victims will continue to be abused by the system.
The Federal Crime Victims Rights Act (CVRA), signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004, in addition to establishing rights for crime victims in Federal cases, defined the concept of Legal Assistance Clinics whereby states would be encouraged to establish pro-bono legal assistance services for crime victims and funding would be available through the US Dept. of Justice for that purpose. States that have established such facilities are:
-Maryland: The Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center
The RORPF initiated an effort here in Georgia to take advantage of that law; we began an effort in 2010 to update the existing Crime Victims Bill of Rights in such a way as to strengthen our position to secure some of the available Federal funding. Things that remain to be done are: 1) Make the Georgia law enforceable and 2) identify/create an organization that would/could host such a facility.
Work is on-going for this initiative and we are actively looking for organizations willing to support our work with ideas, resources, etc..