A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Whitney Westerfield: First step for victims’ rights complete, more work to be done in November

Last year in Kentucky there were 23,785 felony cases that resulted in a conviction. In each case, there was a victim who had to navigate a complicated judicial system at a severe disadvantage to those accused of doing them harm. Too often, the criminal justice system meant to work for them caused even more anguish.

Sen. Westerfield

It shouldn’t be this way in Kentucky. And, with your help in November, it won’t be much longer.

As the 2018 legislative session began in January, I asked my colleagues in the General Assembly to take a stand for crime victims. And, I am both thankful and humbled that they so quickly responded in overwhelming bipartisan fashion, making Marsy’s Law the very first bill to pass.

This is a major milestone in the fight to protect our state’s crime victims. But it is only the first step in making it a reality. The duty now falls to the people of Kentucky, who must cast their votes to adopt Marsy’s Law as an amendment to our state constitution.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) begian on April.  During the week, we will celebrate both what we have done for crime victims, and more importantly, the work that remains. It is a fitting way to end the 2018 legislative session, and launch the statewide campaign to educate voters on why Kentucky needs Marsy’s Law.

In the coming months, you’re going to hear a lot about Marsy’s Law. This commonsense amendment to our state’s constitution will improve the criminal justice system and help the thousands of Kentuckians who become victims each year.

Kentucky is an outlier when it comes to providing constitutionally guaranteed rights to crime victims. But if Marsy’s Law is adopted, we will join the 34 other states which afford victims’ rights equal to the accused, truly balancing the scales of justice.

Marsy’s Law will ensure victims have important, fundamental rights like the right to be informed, the right to be heard, the right to be reasonably protected from the accused, and the right be notified of the release or escape of the accused and convicted, among others.

The need for Marsy’s Law is not hypothetical. Each year, thousands of Kentuckians, including people you know, become victims of crime. For these Kentuckians, the need to be protected and given a voice is deeply felt.

On November 6, Kentuckians will have the opportunity to permanently enshrine these rights into the state constitution. But to ensure this happens, we need your help. Help us spread the word about Marsy’s Law by telling your friends, neighbors and colleagues about this important effort.

When the times comes, I ask every Kentuckian to vote YES when asked the following question on their ballot:

“Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and to have a voice in the judicial process?”

Let’s make 2018 the year we will finally give victims the protections, the voice and the dignity they deserve.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville,  represents Christian, Todd and Logan counties, and is the Senate Bill Sponsor for Marsy’s Law (SB 3).

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