The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has changed the method for notifying victims of violent crime if their attacker has violated parole.
Karin Richmond is a former lobbyist, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C.. In 1983, while in her hotel room in Austin, Richmond was brutally stabbed more than a dozen times, her nose cut off, and blinded by her attacker, an employee of the hotel.
“He was imprisoned for a sentence of 90 years which came to 30 years and now he’s been released on parole with a GPS monitoring bracelet," Richmond said.
But what if the paroled attacker were to violate his parole and go off the grid? Richmond said the state’s notification of that kind of violation was unacceptable and too slow.
“The victim would be told by a letter from the Texas Deptartment of Criminal Justice saying that ‘your assailant has broken the terms of his parole,' " she said.
Richmond set about the job of getting the department to stop sending letters in the mail -- she suggested victims would rather be notified more quickly and efficiently by a text message.
“We sent out approximately 6,000 letters and emails," TDCJ spokesman, Jason Clark, said. He said Richmond convinced the department and February 10, the texting procedure went live for potentially all of those 6,000 victims of violent crimes – if they respond to the email.
“And the letters were letting them know that they had the opportunity, if they choose, to enroll in a new notification system that would send them a text message on three areas of notification. And those three areas would be when an arrest warrant was issued, when an arrest warrant was withdrawn, or when an arrest is made regarding their offender,” Clark said.
Richmond said state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D- McAllen, helped her to work for the procedural change.
“With this change, registered victims of a statutory offense will receive a text message notifying them that a warrant or actionable offense has been issued against their assailant," she said. "And she will know that within approximately 20 minutes.”
Richmond has written a book about her attack and recovery and continues to work through the trauma by lobbing and pushing for legislation that helps others. She was honored for her work with the Art of Peace Award at St. Mary’s University last week.
St. Mary's English professor Dr. Richard Pressman helped to found the President’s Peace Commission at St. Mary’s and created the award. He said working for peace is not just about politics.
“There’s an aesthetic side to it. There’s a touching of people’s souls. And there are many ways to do it. And so we try to bring that idea and we try to be an open forum as well,” Pressman said.
The award was presented during St. Mary’s three-day criminal justice program. It is given annually to an artist in any medium whose life work has promoted peace, justice and understanding. Other recipients have included poet laureate Dr. Carman Tafolla, author John Philip Santos, artist Brother Cletus, and editorial cartoonist John Branch.
In accepting the award, Richmond said she hopes the texting procedure will help other victims of violent crimes and encourage them to sign up through the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice website.