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PRESS RELEASE: OVA Expands Victim Services in Philadelphia DA's Office


STATEMENT FROM OVA REGARDING ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF ALTOONA-JOHNSTOWN SEXUAL ABUSE CASES

 
The Office of Victim Advocate is disgusted and saddened to see yet another cover-up of sexual violence that spans decades with hundreds of victims. We applaud the Attorney General's office for the good work of uncovering the painful and horrific facts in this case that harkens back to the 1950’s-victims who otherwise would have no legal path to justice due to arbitrary and time-constrained statute of limitations in the state of Pennsylvania. The OVA strongly supports the outright elimination of any statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases. Victims must be supported and given all legal remedies that the courts can offer so that they may heal and find justice against the perpetrators who have harmed them.  
 
What is further troubling in this case is that the “victim advocate” assigned to these cases was in fact solely advocating on behalf of the church. This is a gross manipulation in what victim advocates are in place to do and highlights the need for truly independent victim advocates whose only interests are for the safety and well being of the crime victims.
 
To fully understand how confusing our existing Statute of Limitations are, PCAR has created this great infograph

 

The Supreme Court just ruled that Miller vs Alabama is retroactive. This means that the 479  juvenile offenders convicted of murder and currently serving life sentences in PA could now be eligible and considered for parole and potential release from incarceration. OVA has been continuously updating our affected victims, who include families and loved ones of those murdered in PA. We are currently working hard to inform and empower our victims about today's ruling and will ensure their voices are heard during any possible parole considerations that may result from today's decision.
 
 

The Office of Victim Advocate 2015/2016 Legislative Session Priorities

 
Restitution in Pennsylvania
Continuing to support the House and Senate Bills that have been introduced and will be reintroduced as a result of our outreach and seek any other appropriate remedies within law.
 
HB 1167 (Barbin) requires that the amount of any outstanding restitution, court fees, fines, or court costs be deducted from any state income tax refund that otherwise would be remitted to a taxpayer.  This bill was reported out unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee last session as HB 2382. PASSED THE HOUSE (Vote: Y:194/N:  0)
 
HB 1167 (Barbin) requires that the amount of any outstanding restitution, court fees, fines, or court costs be deducted from any state income tax refund that otherwise would be remitted to a taxpayer.  This bill was reported out unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee last session as HB 2382. PASSED THE HOUSE
 
HB 1167 (Barbin) requires that the amount of any outstanding restitution, court fees, fines, or court costs be deducted from any state income tax refund that otherwise would be remitted to a taxpayer.  This bill was reported out unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee last session as HB 2382. SIGNED INTO LAW BY GOVERNOR WOLF
 
HB 123 (Delozier) provides for the deduction of restitution, fees, fines and costs from bail monies that would be otherwise returnable to a defendant.  Amendment filed and accepted to ensure that 3rd party depositors were given greater discretion by the courts  PASSED THE HOUSE  H-Final Passage (Vote: Y:154/N: 39) IN SENATE JUDICIARY.
 
HB 758 (Toepel) authorizes wage attachment for the payment of restitution, fines, and costs.  This bill maintains first priority status for support payments and grants second priority to restitution.  Current law governing the attachment of wages gives priority status only to support obligations. PASSED THE HOUSE ON 6/23/2015   (Vote: Y:194/N:  0)
 
HB 758 (Toepel) authorizes wage attachment for the payment of restitution, fines, and costs.  This bill maintains first priority status for support payments and grants second priority to restitution.  Current law governing the attachment of wages gives priority status only to support obligations. PASSED THE HOUSE ON 6/23/2015   (Vote: Y:194/N:  0)
 
HB 758 (Toepel) authorizes wage attachment for the payment of restitution, fines, and costs.  This bill maintains first priority status for support payments and grants second priority to restitution.  Current law governing the attachment of wages gives priority status only to support obligations. IN SENATE AWAITING A VOTE
 
 
HB 1070 (D. Costa) requires that each county establish an internal unit dedicated to the collection of restitution, fines, fees, and other court-imposed obligations.  Counties that outsource collections are not subject to the requirement.  The bill also enhances an existing data-collection mandate.  PASSED THE HOUSE ON 6/23/2015   (Vote: Y:194/N:  0) it is now in Senate Judiciary.

HB 1089 (Stephens) provides for mandatory deductions from inmates’ wages and deposits made to inmates’ personal accounts for the fulfillment of restitution, costs, fees, and other court-ordered obligations.  Current law authorizes, but does not require such deductions. Amend Bill, page 1, line 18, by striking out "75%" and inserting 50%  PASSED THE HOUSE ON 6/25/2015 (Vote Y: 152/N: 38)<http://www.ctbpls.com/htbin/web_locvot?PA15RHB01089>

SB 126 Amends Title 42 (Judiciary), in sentencing, providing for lottery winnings intercept. REFERRED TO SENATE APPROPIRATIONS 6/29/2015
SB 127 Amends Title 42 (Judiciary), in sentencing, providing for State income tax intercept. REFERRED TO SENATE APPROPIRATIONS 6/29/2015
 
DOC/PBPP/OVA Merger
SB 859 Amends Titles 42 (Judiciary) & 61 (Prisons & Parole), in judicial boards & commissions, further providing for defs., for guidelines; for court files & records; for correctional institutions; for Interstate Compacts; transfer of power

SB 860 Amends the Crime Victims Act, in preliminary provisions, further providing for defs.; in crime victims, further providing for responsibilities of department, local correctional facilities & board; for office; & for supervision programs.
 
The OVA supports attempts to seek efficiencies within the system as a whole and efforts towards its improved transparency and functionality. There are some concerns we share with the overall field of victims services about ensuring the integrity of the OVA independence and that victims voices are not diminished in the process. 
 
Juvenile Lifers Issues-
 
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida.  In Graham, the Court held that sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without parole for non-homicide crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In 2012, the Court decided Miller v. Alabama, holding that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentencing scheme that requires life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on January 25, 2016 in the case of Montgomery v. Louisiana, which presents the question of whether Miller applies retroactively to people convicted as juveniles to serve life sentences without the possibility of parole. The courts ruled it is retroactive. 
479 juvenile lifers in Pennsylvania would be eligible to petition the courts for resentencing.juvenile lifers in Pennsylvania would be eligible to petition the courts for resentencing. Depending upon the new sentences imposed, offenders might have their life sentences reinstated, be sentenced to a term that includes parole eligibility, or receive sentences that would allow them to be immediately released.
Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of juvenile life cases: approximately 479 individuals who were juveniles at the time they committed their crimes.
The OVA has recently published an InfoGraph based upon a PA Victims Opinions of Juvenile Lifers Survey conducted this past year. Over 317 surveys were sent out, close to 100 were returned. Juvenile Lifers InfoGraph PDF.pdf.
  

Victims’ Rights in Court

HB 186 Amends the Crime Victims Act further providing for victims' rights.
SB 377 Amends the Crime Victims Act, in crime victims, further providing for victims' rights.
 
Child Protective Laws

HB1276 Amends Title 23 (Domestic Relations), in child protective services, further providing for definitions, for persons required to report suspected child abuse, for access to information in Statewide database, for release of information in confidential reports, for employees having contact with children and adoptive and foster parents, for volunteers having contact with children, for continued employment or participation in program, activity or service, for certification compliance and for mandatory reporting of children under one year of age.
 
Victim Advocate Speech at Today's Press Conference on awarding NCAA Endowment Act Funds
 
Increasing Penalty Assessments on Certain Offenders to Support Victim Services/Compensation
 
Tolling of PFA’s while the Offender is incarcerated
 
Addressing “Max-Outs” and Public Safety
 
Timely Victim Notification of Post-Conviction Appeals
 
Enabling Victims to Apply for Victims Compensation Assistance beyond the Current Statute of Limitations
 
Strangulation- support of PCADV and PDAA efforts in this area.
 
Statute of Limitations Reform for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse

Death Penalty/Moratorium
• Moratorium
• Victim Witnesses to the Execution in Capital Cases 
• Victims’ Right to Address the Court/Jury in the Sentencing Phase of a Capital Case
 
To view bills and actions please go here  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/session.cfm

Office of Victim Advocate Press Releases

Victim Advocate statement on Criminal Charges Filed Against Bill Cosby

Office of Victim Advocate Reaches Over 2,600 Victims Since May 2015