In 1986 Sandy Templeton was selected by then District Attorney Darrell Wilson to establish the local office.
“At that time there was very few victim assistance offices in operation in the state of Georgia. The Bartow County DA’s office had applied for a grant to begin a new program here, and because of Sandy’s dedication, reputation and work in this community, she was asked to set up the program,” said Victim Assistance Director Julia Richards.
Speaking under the theme “30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice,” Templeton said Reagan’s appoint of a task force in 1982 began the motions that would create the Victim of Crime Act in 1984.
“We will never be totally even [on the scales of justice], but through the last three decades, so much has happened. There has been so much intertwining and innerworkings between agencies, not trying to duplicate services but to enhance services that maybe the victim assistance itself was doing ...,” she said.
Herself an armed robbery victim in 1970, Templeton said the legislation changed the process and experience for victims of crime.
“I had to go to Atlanta to a lineup and y’all would not believe the lineup situation in 1970, nothing like what they show on television at all and nothing like they showed on television in 1970,” she said. “They brought this group of guys out, and I was sitting in a chair right in front of them, I mean, not much space, not a whole lot of space. I was so uncomfortable and so intimidated and so frightened that I had to just quit trembling to try to give an accurate decision on who I thought the two were in the lineup.
“... There was not a screen at all. As I was looking at them, they were looking at me in the eyeballs, and thank goodness that is not the way a lineup is handled today.”
George W. Bush signed into law the Crime Victims’ Rights Act 20 years after Reagan’s bill, beginning the victim services movement across the nation.
“One thing that the creation that the Crime Victims’ Rights Act accomplished was that it improved the way that all the criminal justice agencies interacted with crime victims,” Templeton said. “In addition, there was a passage with that bill of adding on fines and fees to help fund victims services, so that was a plus for the voters. You know, you do the crime, you’re going to pay for it out of your pocket. ... Additionally, with the passage with the fines and fees to fund victims services came the Victims Bill of Rights.”
Working with four employees and a volunteer, the Victim Assistance Unit assisted 3,996 crime victims in 2013.
“The Victim-Witness Assistance Program’s mission is to help victims and families deal with the trauma and effects of crime on their lives. Victim advocates guide victims through the court process, help victims receive restitution, provide crisis intervention and provide referrals to counseling and community services,” according to the unit’s website. “It is our hope that as you walk through the Criminal Justice System, you will be served with compassion and respect.”
“I can tell you that there was not a typical day in that office. ... It is something new and a new situation every day,” Templeton said. “The gift of discernment and the gift of knowing how to not to take things home with you, you have to put into action.”
Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor and Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini signed a proclamation after Templeton’s address declaring April 6-12 Crime Victims’s Rights Week, with a live dove release following.
“My wish is, even though it took three decades for us to get to where we are today, that we are going to be almost like this one day,” Templeton said in closing, gesturing to represent a more even scale of justice.
For additional information about 2014 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week or to learn how to volunteer to serve crime victims in the community, contact the Bartow County Victim Assistance office at 770-387-5106 or visit the Bartow County Government website at www.bartowga.org.