Since I began at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office with Victim Services department, I have learned an extensive amount of information about the criminal justice system from the many different types of case that come into our office. I have the opportunity to meet with many victims and their families. It has been an eye opening experience to see the emotions of the victims. With victim services, the advocates are there to help the victims in every step they need during court, searching mental health treatments, and being the liaison with the assistant district attorney.
In court, especially with sensitives case such as homicides, domestic violence, and sexual assault, the victim is very vulnerable and it’s victim services job to provide the support. The advocates assist the victims with emotional support when a victim must testify, reliving relive the incident during a court proceeding. While seeing many court cases proceed, you realize that there is still a backlog in cases because most of them are from previous years. In San Francisco, this just demonstrates the increase of violence that has been occurring in the county.
There are many Latinos in the community and most of them do not speak English. I am always glad to assist them because it is very difficult for them to understand the criminal justice system. Many of them come in with information that is in English that is vital to their case, needing an explanation of the forms that are given to them. Some of them are undocumented immigrants who are terrified to speak about their incident because of the constant terror of being deported. Some of them who have been a victim of a violent crime have the option of applying for a U-visa but have to demonstrate that they were cooperative with law enforcement and during court.
I am most proud that I can answer many questions that our clients come in with and that I have been able to assist them. For example, I do intake interviews with victims without supervision, assist in filling out the California Victims of Violent Crimes application. It is great that the advocates trust me to be able to explain the program and services to our clients as well as to help them with information they need because of the language barrier. It is great knowing that the clients appreciate us assisting them with basic services such as reading letter and explaining the process of the application and the case.
I am building skills that I can take to further my interest in the legal system. I have learned from the advocates and assistant district attorneys the importance of communication within the justice system. Without having communication with one another in a work environment it is very challenging to have a resolution. For example, someone from the advocate team would talk with the victim to be their support, but the assistant district attorney would give the same person different information. This would confuse the victim and frustrate the common goal of providing assistance. I will be able to use this in academic life because while focusing in my classes I need to communicate with my professors and peers to be able to succeed. If I don’t then I will not be able to get the best grades that I can achieve. I will need their assistance to make sure that I fully comprehend the material. In my future career, I would like to communicate with my co-workers to share a common objective for all of us to thrive. Within the justice system, it is key to have communicated because it creates conflict and there is no resolution for those who have been affected. The main goal is for the victim to feel safe and supportive. The justice system is there to help the victim find a closure that will help them move forward.