Being a Victim During a Pandemic

There's never a good time to be the victim of a crime. But being the victim and survivor during a pandemic is even more horrifying than normal.

 

Shortly after the pandemic hit Iowa, when county officials began releasing inmates early as a precaution to COVID outbreaks, we reached out to every county sheriff and county attorneys offices, reminding them that Iowa doesn't currently have constitutional rights for victims when it comes to notification. We stressed the importance that they notify victims of the early release of inmates. We know that many victims and survivors only feel safe when they either know their offender is locked up or they know where they are. 

 

When Courts began resuming trials later this fall, officials tried to think of everything to try to keep people safe. But one thing we spoke out about was that courts ABSOLUTELY MUST prepare for how to include victims in proceedings, even if the circumstances make it difficult. 

 

The COVID pandemic has certainly up-ended all of our lives. But it has also placed a bright spotlight on the problems that victims face in Iowa. Opponents of Marsy's Law often like to say that the law we have on the books is good enough for victims. However, the recent pandemic has shown what victims live through every day - Iowans who become the victim of a crime have no constitutional right to be notified of hearings or proceedings or the status of their offender, and no recourse when the current law is not upheld.

 

Marsy's Law would remedy this problem in the future, and give victims equal access to justice in our courts. It would add rights to our constitution, including: the right to be informed; the right to be notified, present and heard at court proceedings; the right to restitution; the right to reasonable protection from the accused; and the right to enforce these rights in the criminal justice process.

 

We will get through the pandemic together. And together we can ensure that pandemic or not, victims are no longer left out of our process. 

 

Eric Baker

Marsy's Law for Iowa 

State Director