Longform

How victim rights became a juggernaut shaping spending, laws and the future of punishment

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Evans plans to start a restorative-justice initiative of her own, working with victims to "get their needs met in a timely manner." But right now she's struggling, like a lot of nonprofit activists, to collect just a few drops from the vast streams of grant money that flow toward the major victim interest groups in the state. "I have spoken with COVA, and they've kind of shooed me away," she says. "They're not really interested in restorative justice."

Her gang-prevention program lost its offices a few months ago after pilot funding ran out. "We're looking for funds for a building now. A lot of minority nonprofits have their credibility questioned, but we've been very active in the Arapahoe County community for years. We do need a building, though, to be effective."

Lewis says COVA welcomes the growing diversity of the victim movement. "I'm encouraged by the Howard Mortons and the Joe Cannatas," she says. "There has been more grassroots victim legislation than with any other cause. Not all of it has been good. But then you have people who serve a population that hasn't been served and bring to light issues we weren't paying attention to."

Evans has thought for years about what she would say if she ever sat down with Raymond Johnson or Paul Littlejohn to discuss the terrible thing they did that extinguished one life and altered so many others. She knows the words. But she's still finding her voice.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast