EDITOR'S NOTE: In observance of National Crime Victims Rights Week, the Daily Press will be publishing articles throughout the week authored by agencies which support the victims of crime locally. Today's column is by the UPCAP Resolution Services Program.
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ESCANABA - UPCAP Resolution Services Program provides mediation services to 10 of the 15 counties in the U.P. The UPCAP, Resolution Services Program provides free confidential community dispute resolution services to Delta, Schoolcraft, Menominee, Dickinson, Iron, Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton Keweenaw and Baraga counties. Areas of special interest and commitment include the Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel. Our program has worked collaboratively with courts and law enforcement agencies for the past 12 years. Our Victim Impact Panel focuses on first time drunk drivers and other alcohol and drug related offenders are be sentenced by the court to attend the Victim Impact Panel presentation. The panel is extremely important in alcohol and drug related sentencing because it brings home the real life consequences of what can happen when you mix drinking/drugs and driving. For the first time these offenders walk away saying "that could have been me."
A panel of two or three victims to speak briefly about the drunk driving a crash in which they were injured or in which a loved one was killed or injured, and what that has meant to them. The victims do not blame or judge those who attend the panel, they simply tell their stories and how their lives and families have been affected by the crash. A panel coordinator moderates the panel to monitor time, etc. Victims never speak to groups in which their own offender is present. There is no interaction between victims and offenders during the Impact Panel presentation. To finish the evening we have local law enforcement describe what it is like to respond to the scene of a fatal crash, give a death notice to a family and arrest drunk drivers.
Doris Maloney, whose son David was killed by a drunk diver and she is one of our volunteer presenters. She has found at the end of our presentation, many offenders come up to shake her hand, apologize for what they did, or just hug and cry. Not everyone reacts that way, but most are affected. We know that we are having a strong impact on these offenders. We believe our work may stop other mothers from losing their children. If we reach only one person that alone makes it worthwhile.
Panels are a good way to make a difference in the community. Impact panels have proven to be a tool for healing for families who have experienced these losses. If you have been hurt or someone you love was killed or injured by a drunk/drugged driver and you think your story may help our victim impact panel to help make our roads a safer place, please call. If you or someone you know would like more information regarding the Victim Impact Panel now or in the future, pleasse call Cheryl Goc at (906) 789-9580.