Since the passage of the Georgia Victims of Crime Bill of Rights in 1995, crime victim attorneys have endeavored to educate all victims of their rights. In 2018, Marsy’s law was passed with 80% support to ensure these rights are constitutionally protected and enforced.
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas from California, who was persecuted and killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend. Just a week after her death, Marsy’s mother entered a grocery store, where she faced the accused murderer. The family, who had just returned from visiting Marsy’s grave, did not know that the defendant was being released on bail. To honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas made it his life’s work to provide constitutional protection and equal rights to victims and their families.
On October 1, 2020, Marsys Law for Georgia and the Georgia District Attorney’s Council teamed up to create the Georgia crime victims’ rights notification card. Because the state of Georgia does not have a centralized nationwide notification system and resources vary by local jurisdiction, Marsys Law and PAC decided to create a comprehensive and customizable map for law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim services to be presented to crime victims. The customizable notification card is designed to help victims better understand their rights, while also listing the local resources to help them navigate their case.
The Alert Card was an important step in improving victims’ knowledge of their rights as it provided a simple but effective tool for law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and other victim support organizations in Georgia’s 159 counties. With numerous agencies and organizations associated with crime victims in all jurisdictions, the wallet-sized card can help fill in any notification gaps that may arise as crime victims navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system.
While the notification card requires empathy, compassion, and a human touch that can be healing after a traumatic event, the downside is also the possibility for human error. Miscommunication or a missed notification of the release of an attacker can be fatal to victims if they are not informed and are unaware of the potential danger.
Ideally, the next step in the development of improving victims’ rights would be a nationwide, automated notification system that a crime victim or a family of a crime victim can simply use once to receive all communications on their case in a timely and efficient manner.
Until then, we will celebrate the one year anniversary of the Georgia Victim Rights Notification Card and commend our victim witness support programs at local prosecutors for their notification efforts and continued work to ensure that all victims are aware of their rights and are connected to the resources necessary to support the Initiate the healing process after a traumatic event.
Pete Skandalakis is the Executive Director of the Georgia Prosecutor’s Council.