Section Chief: Linda Burkett
Phone: (856) 225-8440
The Victim Witness Unit was established to ensure the rights of crime victims and witnesses, and to see that the criminal justice system is responsive to and respectful of them. The dedicated advocates and administrative staff of the Victim Witness Unit provide victims with information about the criminal justice process, their rights as crime victims, and services available to assist them with the aftermath of victimization. They provide case-specific information, court accompaniment and emotional support to prepare victims for their encounter with the criminal justice system, and make appropriate referrals to meet victims’ physical, emotional, financial and other needs resulting from their victimization.
The unit's staff advocate on crime victims’ behalf, promoting their rights within the criminal justice system. Every effort is made to ensure that the voices of victims are heard, that the criminal justice system is responsive to victims as well as to defendants and that the victim is not re-victimized as he/she proceeds through the system.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Victim Witness Unit consists of the Victim Witness Coordinator, the Multi-Disciplinary Team Coordinator, six victim advocates, the unit secretary and the post-conviction notification clerk. Victim advocates are assigned to specialized units within the Prosecutor’s Office, including the Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Juvenile, Homicide, Major Crimes, and Trial Team Units. One advocate is assigned to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence in the municipal courts.
The six Victim Advocates' roles are expansive. Crime victims experience trauma that can persist well after the criminal event. Crime causes physical and psychological damage. It can shatter social networks and families, both emotionally and financially, and leave people feeling unsafe in their own homes. The Victim Advocates work to mitigate that damage as much as possible. Part of this job involves accompanying victims or their families to court hearings, but the advocates job doesn't end at the conclusion of a hearing or trial. The advocates, many of whom are on-call, reach out to such disparate groups as hospitals, landlords and social service agencies to keep a victim or a victim's family afloat in the aftermath of crime.
Victim Witness staff positions are either fully or partially funded by Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) or State Office of Victim Witness Advocacy (SOVWA) grant monies. Grant funds also provide for staff training, equipment, consumable supplies, and an emergency Victim Aid fund.
The unit's staff act as a liaison between victims and assistant prosecutors, investigators and court personnel, and is responsible for providing crisis intervention, needs assessments, court accompaniment, assistance with applications for various entitlements, and referrals for social service agencies to ease any burdens associated with participation in the prosecution of the offender.
The Victim Witness Unit telephones and sends letters to victims, informing them of case status, from the time the case is opened until the case is resolved. Victims of crime are entitled to have input into decisions made by the Prosecutor’s Office regarding defendants’ admission into certain programs and plea agreements. Through written and oral victim impact statements, victims let the Prosecutor’s Office and the Court know how they have been affected physically, emotionally, and financially. If they have suffered losses, victims can request restitution as a condition of the defendant’s sentence.
Innocent victims of crime can apply for compensation from the Victims of Crime Compensation Office for out-of-pocket, uninsured medical, counseling, and funeral expenses, lost wages, loss of support and other expenses. Advocates can assist victims with the application process. Victims receive notification of bail hearings, post-conviction events and parole hearings, and can register to be notified of any change in custody status of defendants, through the VINE system.
The Victim Witness Coordinator supervises and trains the unit staff and handles victim assistance grants to support the Victim Witness Unit. She works with law enforcement recruits, officers and the general public to increase awareness of victims rights and the services available to victims. She is responsible for assisting indigent victims of sexual assault in obtaining post-exposure prophylaxis and informing victims of the results of their offenders HIV/AIDS tests.
The Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) Coordinator and Victim Advocate facilitates bi-weekly meetings where cases of child sexual abuse and serious child physical abuse are discussed. She also provides service to victims of child physical abuse, child sexual abuse and neglect.
The clerical staff, along with their clerical duties, inform victims and law enforcement agencies of offenders release from custody.
Camden County Prosecutor's Office 25 North 5th Street Camden, New Jersey 08102 856-225-8400