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Kristen Crain of JRSC on NOLA Criminal Justice System’s Neglect of Sexual Assault Cases
12m30s Judicial Reforms For Sex Crimes (JSRC) is a coalition of survivors of sexual violence and their supporters who are focused on collecting data on New Orleans' criminal justice system’s neglect of of sex crimes. To follow up after a press conference they held last Friday on the steps of the DA’s office, Kristen Crain of JSRC is speaking to us at WTUL News and Views.
This piece contains mature and potentially triggering content, and it may not be appropriate for all listeners. Please be aware that our guest is a survivor of sexual assault, speaking about her experience in the New Orleans criminal justice system.
Sexual assaults have historically been ignored and under-reported by the New Orleans Police Department, and in 2015, the Office of the Inspector General investigated this neglect. According to their report, officers charged with investigating sex crimes had failed to follow up on 86 percent of nearly 1,300 assault cases from January 2011 to December 2013. One sex crimes detective claimed to have cleared the backlog of rape kits, with all collected DNA samples sent to the lab for processing, but the investigation revealed that samples hadn’t left NOPD premises. Another detective stated that she didn’t even believe “simple rape,” the legal term for rape which takes place under circumstances of extreme inebriation and unconsciousness, was a crime.
A press statement issued in June of last year asserted that over 300 neglected cases were being given a comprehensive review by a special police task force, and that they “completely overhauled the Special Victims Section.” NOPD’s sex crimes unit moved from the police station to the Family Justice Center, a partnership of agencies dedicated to ending family violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. In an interview for Antigravity Magazine in 2016, Amanda Tonkovitch, who operates out of the Family Justice Center, said she felt the reforms had been successful, “That the detectives that are investigating sex crimes are in the same building as advocates keeps them both held accountable… Every other week the police bring their cases to advocates at the FJC, such as social workers, counselors, nurses that are doing the evidence collection, and the District Attorney’s Office all review their cases and make sure survivors are getting the support they need.”
However, in 2017, the criminal justice system’s neglect of sexual assault cases made headlines again; this time the spotlight is on the District Attorney’s office. In April, New Orleans’ District Attorney, Leon Cannizzaro, came under fire when Charles Maldonado of the LENS NOLA reported on the DA’s office using fake subpoenas to pressure witnesses to talk to them, and Court Watch NOLA called DA Cannizzaro out for arresting victims of sexual assault in order to force them to testify.
Two weeks ago the CAN Cannizzaro campaign launched a movement to recall the DA for these offenses. The lead organizer stated, "Confidence, trust and transparency in our criminal justice system has been eroded by the unethical and fraudulent activity of DA Cannizzaro. This abuse of power through false documents and bullying victims is appalling and we must stand together and demand an end to this type of behavior. Our community deserves better than this."
The message about Cannizzaro jailing rape victims is such a stark contrast from what survivors know of him: that Cannizzaro routinely turns down sexual assault cases. A recently formed coalition of survivors of sexual assault and their supporters, including Judicial Reforms For Sex Crimes (JSRC), Amplify NOLA, and the LGBT Community Center held a press conference this Friday to talk about the problems survivors face in this community.
Judicial Reforms For Sex Crimes (JSRC) is a coalition of survivors of sexual violence and their supporters who are focused on collecting data on the criminal justice system’s neglect of of sex crimes, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of rapists being convicted. They are asking for support as they bring to light the shocking and sad details of the way the criminal justice system treats those it’s charged to protect. To follow up after a press conference they held last Friday on the steps of the DA’s office, Kristen Crain of JSRC is speaking to us at WTUL News and Views.
For more information, assistance, or resources:
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Crescent House Healing & Empowerment Center Crisis Line
New Orleans Family Justice Center
Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault
Women with a Vision
Judicial Reforms For Sex Crimes (JSRC)
LGBT Community Center
Learning Good Consent https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bz3ZOITO-pbBVnFzbkMzb2JWbDA
Hold Your Breath: Refusal to Report Sexual Violence Isn’t Just About Stigma – Antigravity Magazine http://www.antigravitymagazine.com/2015/01/hold-your-breath-refusal-to-report-sexual-violence-isnt-just-about-stigma/
AG Report on Sexual Assault in New Orleans – Antigravity Magazine http://www.antigravitymagazine.com/2015/11/ag-report-on-sexual-assault-in-new-orleans/
Charles Maldonado recently reported on the District Attorney, Leon Cannizzaro, using fake subpoenas http://thelensnola.org/2017/04/26/orleans-parish-prosecutors-are-using-fake-subpoenas-to-pressure-witnesses-to-talk-to-them/
Court Watch NOLA called DA Cannizzaro out for arresting victims of sexual assault in order to force them to testify: Court Watch NOLA’s 2016 Criminal District Court Annual Report continues to be cited in support of a City Council resolution adopted to urge the District Attorney to stop the practice of incarcerating crime victims for failing to testify for the prosecution. Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, Jr. also published a letter in The New Orleans Advocate in response to CWN’s report. WWLTV Channel 4, WWL Radio, Nola.com/The Times-Picayune, New Orleans Advocate, and Associated Press reported on the resolution, which passed 6-1. Two additional New Orleans Advocate articles recently cited CWN’s report, written by Victoria Coy, Executive Director of Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition, and Matt Sledge, along with Ken Daley of Nola.com/The Times-Picayune.