KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Members of the Tennessee Board of Parole visited Knoxville to speak with victims of violent crimes and their families, educating them about their rights and the resources available to them.
“There’s so many questions that we need answers to,” Joan Berry said.
Berry’s daughter, Johnia, was murdered in 2004 and has since dedicated her life to carrying on her legacy.
“Our family members don’t have a second chance,” Berry said. “They don’t get to come back in six years or thirty years, so this is to make sure that we’re going to be heard and justice is going to be served.”
The board held its first forum in Knoxville Tuesday, answering questions about their role in the judicial process.
“Knowledge is power and applied knowledge is even more powerful I believe,” Tina Fox, State Director of Victim Services for the State of Tennessee Board of Parole, said. “And so we give them knowledge through education and we allow them to apply that knowledge by making an informed about whether or not they choose to be engaged physically by presence and/or by letter of opposition.”
The board taught attendees facts that some may not have known, like how a crime victim or family member can write confidential letters to the board to influence parole decisions without jeopardizing their safety.
“Victims’ families are terrified of the person that victimized or took the life of their loved one so they’re hesitant to write a letter or testify because they’re afraid if they do get out, they’re going to harm them or more members of their family,” Berry said.
The goal of the forum: to give crime victims and their loved ones a sense of power and purpose, so that they can help ensure justice is served.
“We have a lot of victim’s voices that are silenced because of loss of life, and so victim’s family members come and allow their legacies to be kept alive,” Fox said.
Crime victims and family members can register for parole-related services and get notified of any hearings or decisions in their offender’s case. They can also provide victim impact statements, either publicly at their offender’s hearing, or through written testimony.