Just Exits: Achieving Justice: The Prosecutor’s Role

The criminal justice system can serve as both an on-ramp to and an off-ramp from sex trafficking and exploitation. As gatekeepers within the criminal justice system, prosecutors are uniquely positioned to identify sexually exploited women and girls, make fair charging decisions, facilitate criminal record relief, and link survivors with services and support. In these ways, prosecutors can clear the way to a different life path and achieve justice for survivors. 

The presenters bring their lived and professional experience to this presentation, which emphasizes prosecutors’ duties to achieve justice over convictions and to proactively remedy wrongful convictions. Presenters discuss strategies for engaging survivors, avoiding wrongful criminalization, and providing access to just criminal record relief.

Justice in the Time of COVID-19: Strategic Responses

Social distancing and quarantine measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected all aspects of our society, including the judicial system. While these public health measures are necessary to keep our communities safe and healthy, court closures and subsequent delays in case processing, as well as other social distancing measures, will require criminal justice professionals to adapt in order to continue holding offenders accountable while protecting their rights; meeting victim/witness needs; and maintaining public safety.

This panel discussion, featuring Nancy O’Malley, District Attorney of Alameda County, CA; Ed McCann, First Assistant District Attorney of Montgomery County, PA; and Sherry Boston, District Attorney of DeKalb County, GA, as well as AEquitas Attorney Advisors, will provide practical perspectives to help guide prosecutors and other criminal justice system actors through the broad scope of issues raised by COVID-19; current responses from prosecutor’s offices around the country; and logistical and legal strategies for ensuring justice while social distancing measures remain in place. Topics will include (but aren’t limited to) implications on constitutional and statutory rights; challenges in processing, collecting, and testing crucial evidence; jail overcrowding and requests for bail; and the continuity of victim/witness services.

Truth-Detection Devices and Victims of Sexual Violence: A Shortcut to Injustice

An overreliance on truth-detection devices and misunderstandings about the dynamics of sexual violence can correlate with a belief that their use with victims of sexual violence is the best method to conduct complete investigations even though such methods would never be entertained for victims of other types of crimes. This is alarming not only because the results of such tests are unreliable, but the very use of truth-detection devices with victims of sexual violence can do more harm to the victim and frustrate the pursuit of justice. While the utility of truth-detection tests for enticing suspects to agree to be interviewed has long been recognized, there is less appreciation that their use with victims of sexual violence is clearly irreconcilable with trauma-informed interviewing techniques designed to elicit victims’ fullest recollections of events while avoiding further harm. This article provides a brief overview on the his- tory and modern forms of truth-detection devices and discusses how the earliest concerns about their reliability and limitations continue to be valid today. It will discuss why truth-detection devices are inappropriate and how, in many jurisdictions, they are prohibited from being used when interviewing victims of sexual violence. Despite the reliability concerns, it will also be discussed how truth-detection devices remain a potentially useful tool during questioning of suspects.

Summary of Laws & Guidelines – Payment of Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations

Victims of sexual assault often undergo a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) following an assault and may also receive additional medical treatment for physical and emotional injuries. The majority of states provide for partial or complete payment for a victim’s examination costs. This resource is a summary of the statutes and guidelines related to payment for forensic examinations. The research compiled includes: which agency pays, the specific criteria for payment, what services are included and not included in payment schemes, other authorization or eligibility requirements, disqualifying factors, payment methods, whether the state requires restitution from a guilty defendant, and the existence of evidence retention laws related to sexual assault kits (SAKs).

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