SAM DA ProgramCalifornia
The California District Attorneys Association's Sexual Assault Mentor DA Program (SAM DA Program) links requests for assistance with the investigation and prosecution of physical and sexual abuse of children, and sexual abuse of adults, to experts in the specific area of need. At the request of the recipient DA's office, the program delivers geographically convenient onsite training by experts.
There are three designations of mentor, although many serve in more than one capacity.
- Expert mentors answer questions via telephone and e-mail on specific areas, such as charging and sentencing or interviewing victims. Each person is listed as an expert in specific areas, based on his or her preferences.
- Regional training instructors provide regional training.
- All-around regional mentors are available to district attorneys' offices within the mentor's geographic region for brainstorming, strategizing, answering questions, and so forth.
To date, the project has enlisted 25 mentors.
The SAM DA Program can be accessed directly or through the California District Attorneys Association's (CDAA's) Web site. The site provides a description of the project; the list of expert mentors, both by name and by expertise; information for mentors; access to forms for requesting mentor assistance or becoming a mentor; and links to related sites.
CDAA maintains a listserv through which mentors can exchange information. Moreover, any prosecutor needing an answer to a technical question about a child abuse, neglect, or sexual assault case can query all mentors via the mentor listserv by e-mailing CDAA's senior training consultant, who will forward the questions or issues to the mentors. The mentors respond directly to the questioner and copy CDAA.
Two new audiocasts funded by the grantGeneral Voir Dire Mechanics and Issues and Cross-Examination Tipswere added to the association's growing library and are available to child abuse prosecutors via CDAA's Web site. The group is planning an additional audiocast on human trafficking, which will include information about sex trafficking of minors.
CDAA e-mails news articles on human trafficking and information on California's human trafficking law to prosecutors biweekly. Thirteen "news alert" e-mails have been sent since January 1, 2007.
CDAA also produced the 2006 Crimes Against Children Reference Guide, which contains legal resources. Nearly 800 copies of the guide were distributed to prosecutors in California. CDAA provided legal updates for the guide by electronically transmitting legal briefs of appellate court opinions pertaining to child abuse. The association also provided updates on human trafficking through news alerts.
The SAM DA Program fills a long-standing void by providing efficient, expeditious, and systematic expert assistance to prosecutors, law enforcement, victim advocates, medical professionals, and all other allied professionals in need of counsel at critical junctures in a criminal case.
Making the Idea a Reality
To date, the project has enlisted 25 mentors. All mentors sign an MOU agreeing to serve as mentors for at least 1 year. The program began in 2004 with 18 mentors.
Benefits to Victims
It is essential that prosecutors, while prosecuting criminal cases justly, also be adequately trained in how to reduce the trauma experienced by children who are victims of child abuse and exploitation and adults and children who are victims of sexual abuse.
Since the program began in 2004, mentors have logged more than 581 hours assisting prosecutors, peace officers, victim advocates, SART personnel, social workers, community organization members, and others. This number is especially impressive given the fact that an average mentoring event lasts 10 minutes. To date, more than 1,100 prosecutors; more than 1,600 peace officers; more than 550 victim advocates; and more than 1,030 allied personnel, including SART personnel, social workers, and community organization members, have been assisted or trained by the mentors.
Benefits to Victim Service Professionals
Again, since the program's inception, more than 550 victim advocates and more than 1,030 allied personnel, including SART personnel, social workers, and community organization members, have been mentored.
CDAA maintains a listserv through which mentors can exchange information. Moreover, any prosecutor needing an answer to a technical question about a child abuse, neglect, or sexual assault case can query all mentors via the mentor listserv by sending an e-mail to Senior Training Consultant Suzanne Hunter and/or Research Attorney Shannon Stokes, who will forward the questions/issues from the prosecutor to the mentors. The mentors respond directly to the questioner and copy CDAA.
Mentors use a log to document their activities. Jurisdictions can request onsite mentor assistance by filling out a form available on the mentor Web site.
CDAA maintains a file of correspondence, e-mails, forms, and other documents related to this project.
Marketing the SAM DA Program is very important. We have made great strides over the years by informing prosecutors and allied professionals about the program, as is evidenced by the dramatic increase in usage over the years.
California District Attorneys Association
Suzanne Hunter, Senior Training Consultant
731 K Street, 3d Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814