Announces first-of-its-kind virtual event to help the public learn about the work and services offered by the California Department of Justice
Reminds prosecutors of approximately $1.7 million in available funds administered by DOJ for witness protection services
Releases new video to help increase awareness about the availability of supports for all Californians who have been the victim of a crime
OAKLAND – As part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a short guidance document highlighting information and resources available through the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Victims’ Services Unit (VSU) to support and empower victims, survivors, and their families. In addition, the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement (CARE) will hold a first-of-its-kind virtual public outreach event — starting with an in-depth explainer of VSU — on Thursday, April 28 at 12:00 PM to help the public learn more about the work and services offered by DOJ. The Attorney General urges service providers and all members of the public to use these resources to help ensure all those who have been the victim of a crime are aware of many of the key rights, resources, and protections available to them in California.
“Every single year, tens of thousands of Californians are directly impacted by violence or sexual assault,” said Attorney General Bonta. “These aren’t just statistics. The data represents irrevocable changes to people’s lives — the lives of our children, parents, and neighbors. It’s not enough to just put bad actors behind bars. At the California Department of Justice, we know that a critical part of justice is healing. That’s why we’re committed to helping ensure victims are able to access trauma-informed care, mental health services, and victim compensation. I urge our partners all across the state to take advantage of the resources we’re highlighting today during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. No matter the time of year, we’re committed to reducing harm, breaking cycles of violence, and fighting for the rights of victims, survivors, and their families.”
VSU works in conjunction with victim service providers and frontline prosecutors all across the state to provide client-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally-sensitive support services to all crime victims, including underserved, at-risk, underrepresented, and vulnerable populations. Through the unit’s services, victims can track the status of appeals, recusal cases, and other matters being handled by DOJ’s prosecutors. VSU has a dedicated and well-trained team of advocates who provide appeal notifications to victims and their families. These updates allow victims and their families to exercise their rights to address the court or otherwise participate in criminal justice proceedings. Importantly, VSU’s advocates work to help victims and their families access available resources that are a critical part of the healing process, such as mental health services, safety net services, and assistance through the California Victim Compensation Board for related crime expenses.
Throughout the year and especially during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, VSU’s advocates also directly engage with partners through resource fairs, presentations, and trainings to help ensure continuity of services to all those affected by crime in California. As part of those outreach efforts, VSU will participate in a virtual event to share more about its work to interested members of the public. In addition, in the guidance document released today, the Attorney General highlights information about:
Attorney General Bonta today also sent a letter to California’s 58 district attorneys to remind them of the resources available to them through the California Witness Relocation and Assistance Program (CalWRAP). The program provides protection of witnesses and their families, friends, or associates who are endangered due to ongoing or anticipated testimony in gang, organized crime, human trafficking, or narcotics trafficking cases or in other cases that have a high degree of risk to the witness. CalWRAP is administered by the Attorney General’s office and reimburses state and local agencies for approved services. During the last fiscal year alone, CalWRAP managed more than 400 cases across the state for witnesses who have or will provide testimony against more than 800 defendants in cases involving alleged criminal gangs, high-risk crimes, domestic violence, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Homicide and attempted homicide accounted for 71% of the case charges. Currently, CalWRAP has approximately $1.7 million available to reimburse local and state agencies for witness protection costs.
Members of the public interested in learning more about VSU are invited to attend the virtual presentation on April 28 by RSVP’ing online here. Additional information about the unit is available here. General information on resources around sexual assault and violence is available here.
A copy of the letter sent to prosecutors across the state reminding them of the availability of funds for witness protection services is available here. More information about CalWRAP is available in the most recent annual report here.
The video released by the Attorney General today to help increase awareness about the availability of supports for all Californians who have been the victim of a crime is available here.