For the first time for Hall County, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will host a “Victims Visitors’ Day” at Lakewood Baptist Church this month, where board members meet face-to-face with crime victims.
For board spokesman Steve Hayes, it’s about “letting their voices be heard.”
“The board wants to know about the impact of the crime and anything the victim wants to tell the board. All the information that is brought to these meetings by the victims will go in the case files for the parole board members to have accessible when a parole-eligible inmate is up for parole,” he said.
The Oct. 23 event at the Thompson Bridge Road church will be the 30th of its kind since 2006. As of Oct. 5, there were already 190 people scheduled to attend and roughly 70 appointments with the board.
The event is being hosted by the Northeastern Judicial Circuit’s Victim-Witness Assistance Program and is open to all crime victims.
Victims Visitors’ Day
What: Crime victims speak with Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles
When: Opening ceremony at 9 a.m. Oct. 23
Where: Lakewood Baptist Church, 2235 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
To schedule: Victims are asked to schedule meeting with Georgia Office of Victim Services by Oct. 22 at 404-651-5717
Hayes said the board moves the event around the state to make the board members accessible to crime victims. Two members of the board, James Mills and David Herring, are from Hall County.
“Since joining the board in 2011, I have taken part in every Victims Visitors’ Day,” Mills said in a news release. “The board wishes to thank the city of Gainesville and Hall County for being our host. These events are truly special and very important as we meet with crime victims and their families, and this one will have extra meaning for me.”
The opening ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. followed by meetings for the rest of the day. The board is asking for victims to schedule a meeting through the Georgia Office of Victim Services.
The victim services office will notify victims when an offender is being considered for parole. Hayes said another added benefit of the event is getting people registered for such notification.
With 190 people already scheduled to attend, Hayes said the event is “shaping up to be one of the larger ones.” While the victims are able to edify the board members to give their testimonies and concerns, the board members are also able to inform victims about the parole process.
“The board wants victims to understand the process and help the victims on a path toward being a crime survivor and not always feel victimized by the crime that occurred and the offender,” Hayes said.