The Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center and the City of Vandalia honored victims of crime on April 24 during National Crime Victims Rights week. This year’s theme was “Extending the Vision, Reaching Every Victim.” The recognition ceremony was open to the public and held in the South Park at 1 p.m.
Angela Mesmer, Warden, extended a warm welcome to all present, and opened the ceremony with the WERDCC Honor Guard presenting the colors, an invocation by Chaplain Tommy Barnhart, followed by the WERDCC Choir signing the National Anthem.
Guest speaker Roy Harrison shared his experience as a victim of crime when his young granddaughter was abducted while playing in the yard at her home in Louisiana, Mo. in 2010. He spoke about the uncertainty of not knowing about her safety and the hours that followed until she was located at a car wash in St. Louis. Fortunately, she was unharmed and returned to her family safely.
Kay Crockett Department of Corrections, Victims Service Coordinator, spoke on the history of victims rights starting with the administration of Gov. Mel Carnahan and the evolution of victims advocacy in the state of Missouri. She also spoke about V.I.N.E (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) which operates as a notification system where registered victims automatically receive computer-generated telephone calls when any of the following occur: offender release from custody is scheduled, a parole eligibility hearing is scheduled, the offender is transferred from one facility to another, the offender dies while in the Department of Corrections’ custody or the offender escapes (and when the offender is returned).
Deborah Norman, Restorative Justice Coordinator presented a purple afghan to Tina Gish, Victim Advocate for the Audrain County Crisis Intervention Services (purple is representative of domestic violence awareness) and crocheted stuffed animals to Lori Swank of the Van-Far Ambulance. These items were hand-crafted and donated by Restorative Justice offender volunteers. WERDCC presented the City of Vandalia with a park bench that was purchased by the offender organizations (Long Timers, Outreach and NAACP). Alan Winders and Roger Woodward accepted the park bench on behalf of the city. It is located by the playground equipment at the South Park and bears a plaque of dedication “In Memory of Victims of Crime.”
Other special guests attending included representatives from the Vandalia Police Department, Vandalia Fire Department, City of Vandalia, Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, Audrain County Sheriff’s Department, and Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Bill Morgan, Functional Unit Manager, concluded the ceremony by sharing some statistics supporting how restorative justice efforts, impact on crime victims awareness, and legislation advocating crime victims’ rights have been effective in reducing the number of victims of crimes in Missouri. In keeping with the theme of “Extending the Vision, Reaching Every Victim” each person present released a brightly-colored balloon. Each balloon represented “the vision” of one less victim of crime in our community.
Special “thanks” go to City of Vandalia employees for supervising work release offenders’ while setting up for the program, and to Paula Fletcher, Case Manager – ICVC Coordinator, and all staff involved in organizing and presenting this impressive ceremony .