VOCAL is a group of dedicated individuals led by my longtime friend Miriam Shehane that serves a most important function in our state. VOCAL’s goal has always been to help victims of crime and it has done a tremendous job. But VOCAL has experienced severe financial problems due to a lack of state support over the years. They need help now! The following is an editorial from the Eufaula Tribune that discusses VOCAL’s needs:
It’s been more than 30 years since Clio native Queenie Shehane was murdered in Birmingham. Queenie was a beautiful, bright young lady who was attending Birmingham-Southern College at the time. Her promising life was way too short. It wasn’t long after Queenie’s death that her mother, Miriam, went to work as an advocate for crime victims and their families. God only knows the thousands of individuals she has assisted in the past three decades. She co-founded VOCAL (Victims of Crime and Leniency) in 1982, a program that has statewide significance. We’ve heard Attorney General Troy King praise the program on numerous occasions.
Queenie’s name lives on today in part through VOCAL. Rep. Billy Beasley hopes her name will live on in the future. Beasley recently introduced the Quenette Shehane Act in the House. If approved by Montgomery lawmakers, it would create a victims’ service fund to assist programs within the State of Alabama. As of Wednesday the bill was in the committee on government appropriations. The bill would provide a $2 court cost on each conviction. The money would go to the victims’ assistance programs. Programs that would be assisted include: the Statewide Victims Information and Notification System, the Victims Service Officers with the Office of the Attorney General, the VOCAL Angel House Crime Victims Board and the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center.
The bill would also provide funding for two victims’ service officers to work within the Attorney General’s office. This is an important bill for obvious reasons. According to its Web site, Wiregrass Angel House advocates for victims’ rights and services for victims of violent crime, provides direct services to victims and their families, and provides public education and awareness. “Our staff members are available to assist the family and loved ones of a homicide victim,” the Web site states. “Advocates assist survivors in communicating with police, the Attorney General’s office, and Governor’s office and provide emotional and physical support throughout the course of your case. Advocates work closely with the staff in all phases of the criminal justice system.”
What a great source of help and strength in a time of such loss. We commend Rep. Beasley for introducing this valuable piece of legislation, and hope it does not get bogged down in the current session. Our lawmakers should vote yes.
Even though 2010 is an election year, I hope the Legislature will pass the bill mentioned above. VOCAL and victims of crime need it!
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