Running to promote victim’s rights

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Kim Gustafson and Taylor after their 5K to Celebrate National Crime Victims’ Week.

BRAWLEY – Kim Gustafson, Imperial County program supervisor for the victim witness program, bounced Jackson, her young son on her hip as she took a phone call, while hosting the Victim Witness’ second annual 5K Run/Walk, Saturday in celebration of National Crime victims’ Rights Week. Gustafson had run the course, starting at the Cattle Call Rotary Park then winding through the countryside adjacent to the park, with the forty registrants and now she and her son waited with the others for their pancake breakfast award.

The Imperial County Victim Witness Assistance Program is operated through the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office. The program has trained Victim Advocates to work with victims, witnesses, and their families throughout and beyond the criminal justice process.

Marsy’s Law, the California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, enacted by voters through the initiative process in the November 2008 general election, is an Amendment to the state’s Constitution and certain Penal Code sections The Act protects and expands the legal rights of victims of crime to include 17 rights in the judicial process, including the right to legal standing, protection from the defendant, notification of all court proceedings, and restitution, as well as granting parole boards far greater powers to deny inmates parole

Gustafson said this event was not a fundraiser, but another outreach to the community to share the progress victims have made since 2008 when Marsy’s law was instituted. According to Gustafson, a mother whose daughter, Marsy, had been murdered saw the killer at a grocery store close to her home. She had no idea he had been paroled.

Since the enacting of the law, 17 rights have been granted to victims of crime, including being apprised of all court dates and hearings, all parole hearings, prison releases and several more.

Participants received a pancake breakfast with all the fixings at the end of the run, as well as a shirt promoting the Witness Protection program.

Erasmo Gonzales held watch over the man-sized griddle as many pancakes simultaneously cooked, letting the participants carb-up after the run.