Mayfield pushes bill for crime victims' rights

02/26/2011

By Long Hwa-shu Special to The News-Sun

State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, held a town hall meeting at the Waukegan Public Library to seek input on legislation on victims' rights.

Few crime victims are aware of "the pot of gold" they can tap at the Illinois Attorney General's Office, according to state Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan.

The chief sponsor of the House Bill 1237, the Survivor Rights Act, spoke confidently of passage Saturday afternoon at Waukegan Public Library. The measure would reinforce crime victims' rights and calls for the formation of a statewide Crime Victims' Rights Compliance Office.

She said current law allows $27,000 per victim, but few people seem to know about it.

"It's a pot of gold sitting there," said Mayfield, a freshman lawmaker who was appointed in July to succeed the late Eddie Washington. The 60th District covers Waukegan, North Chicago and the eastern part of Park City.

"They're not going to cut you (a victim) a check for $27,000, but they can reimburse you for (legitimate) expenses," Mayfield said.

The Survivor Rights Act was based on a draft by Denise Rotheimer of Ingleside, founder of Mothers on a Mission to Stop Violence. She said crime victims are too often unaware of their rights under the law and are usually "railroaded" into accepting something less than they are entitled.

Rotheimer said that for five years she had been seeking a legislator to introduce the bill in Springfield before she approached Mayfield, whom she called "a fighter." Mayfield praised Rotheimer for being "the one person to sparkle the community" with her crusade.

"Nobody would want to touch the bill until I talked to her," Rotheimer said.

One reason is apparent. The bill would give victims "the right to file for civil remedy against offending (government) agencies or officials found to have violated their rights as stated in the law."

"Currently, the ... Violent Crimes Act does not provide crime victims with any redress when victims' rights are violated, nor does it promote compliance among law enforcement authorities or state's attorneys with victims' rights obligation," says part of the bill as drafted by Rotheimer.

Mayfield said the bill is on first reading with amendments to be added "to beef it up."

The Crime Victims' Rights Compliance Office would act as a statewide agency to investigate and attempt to resolve complaints from crime victims, Mayfield said. "It will have the ability to assert their rights and "impose consequences on offending agencies or officials found to have violated victims' rights."

Mayfield envisions the office as "one-stop service" with the least amount of red tape possible.




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