Sentencing the Victim

Governor Mark Sanford to Sign Bill S.935 in Charleston, S.C. on July 28

"This new law acknowledges the key role of victims in the decision-making process and creates the sensitivity that all crime victims deserve. It's an important part of justice and what society deserves.” — Joanna Katz

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For the program companion website, visit 

(Charleston, SC) — July 27, 2004 — South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will perform a ceremonial signing of Bill S.935, a new law designed to make the parole process easier on the victims of crime. The new law was inspired by the experiences of Charleston native Joanna Katz, a rape survivor who shared her story in the documentary film SENTENCING THE VICTIM, which aired nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens in March of this year. SENTENCING THE VICTIM was the highest-rated single episode of the Emmy®-nominated series during the 2003-2004 season. 

Signing of the bill will happen on July 28, 2004 at 11 A.M. in the Grand Courtroom of the Charleston County Courthouse, located at 84 Broad Street. In 1988, Joanna Katz and a friend were abducted at gunpoint, brutally raped, beaten, and systematically tortured by five men for over five hours. SENTENCING THE VICTIM tells the story of how a blood-soaked 19-year old was able to walk away from her attackers, save her friend from certain death and fight for the convictions of her assailants. But that is only part of the story. Despite their 30-to-35-year sentences, Katz's attackers became eligible for parole after serving only a fraction of this time. 

Before the passage of S.935, criminals in South Carolina who participated in a group assault received separate parole hearings on separate days. Victims who wished to oppose parole for their attackers, as did Katz, had to subject themselves to an emotionally agonizing experience that must be repeated year after year. In order to ensure that her attackers would remain behind bars, Joanna Katz traveled over 100 miles from her home in Charleston to the state capital of Columbia numerous times every year to attend separate parole hearings for each of the five men who assaulted her. S. 935 corrects many of the injustices suffered by Joanna Katz and other victims of violent crime in South Carolina. 

1) The new law requires that parole hearings for all co-defendants convicted of a single crime be heard on one day, ensuring victims will never have to oppose parole more than once every two years. 2) The new law also allows victims outside of the Columbia area to testify before the Parole Board via a closed circuit two-way television system, making the process accessible to those who would otherwise not be able to travel. Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C. will be the first of three future sites that will be utilized for the satellite videoconferencing for victims in South Carolina. 3) The law requires that S.C. Probation, Parole and Pardon Services provide victims with review information on all defendants who meet parole eligibility prior to the parole hearing date. 

The new law was made possible by the lobbying efforts of the S.C. Victims Assistance Network and was introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, and supported by S.C. Representative Bobby Harrell, R- Charleston. "The victim has had enough pain, without being re-victimized by the criminal justice system,” said Laura Hudson, public policy coordinator for the S.C. Victim Assistance Network. "Joanna Katz has accomplished what few victims are able to do — turn her personal tragedy and pain into positive change, both for herself and the unknown victims of the future.” 

"To see this project come full circle is truly amazing. This film began with a conversation over a haircut and is ending, almost ten years later, with meaningful legislation for victims in South Carolina. I think that speaks volumes as to the power of this medium and one story told,” said Liz Oakley, Co-Producer and Director of SENTENCING THE VICTIM. 

"We're extremely proud that the PBS broadcast of SENTENCING THE VICTIM helped bring about this change,” said PBS President and CEO, Pat Mitchell. "As our country's only public service media company, PBS and its stations are devoted to making a difference in communities nationwide.” 

"When I sat down to watch SENTENCING THE VICTIM, I couldn't stop watching,” said Independent Lens Series Producer, Lois Vossen. "I knew that anyone who saw Joanna's story would be moved by her honesty and quiet courage. This film represents the best of independent filmmaking by telling a personal story with a message that inspires audiences and has the great potential to impact communities." The film will be receiving the Community Awareness Through the Media Award at the American Probation and Parole Association's 29th Annual Training Institute in Orlando, Florida on July 25th, 2004. 

The program's interactive companion website is features detailed information about the film, including an interview with the filmmakers, cast and crew bios, as well as links and resources pertaining to the film's subject matter. The site also features a "talkback” section where hundreds of viewers have shared their ideas and opinions. 

Produced by: Liz Oakley and Joanna Katz
Directed by: Liz Oakley
Videography: Ed Bates
Edited by: Liz Oakley and Ed Bates
Graphic Design by: Ed Bates Steven Katz 

About Independent Lens 
Independent Lens is a weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10 P.M. on PBS. The acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history, which prompted Nancy Franklin in The New Yorker to write: "Watching Independent like going into an independent bookstore—you don't always find what you were looking for but you often find something you didn't even know you wanted.” Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites, and national publicity and community outreach campaigns. Further information about the series is available at lens. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

About ITVS 
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10 P.M. on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People. 

Community Connection Projects
ITVS selected SENTENCING THE VICTIM as one of its Community Connections Projects (CCP), supporting the film through a variety of community, campus and professional development engagement activities and resources. This program ensures that social-issue television programs achieve their potential impact, reaching the audiences for which they were created, and which are sometimes difficult to reach through broadcast alone. The SENTENCING THE VICTIM outreach team and its partners (including American Probation and Parole Association, Security on Campus, Victims and the Media) worked with Joanna Katz to develop an outreach campaign, targeted to crime victims and survivors; families, friends and colleagues of victims; criminal justice professionals; hospital and mental health professionals; public policymakers and educators. 

This campaign educated these audiences about the short and long term impact of violent crime on victims and their families; the ways in which participation in the criminal justice process can further traumatize victims and their families and the benefits of their participation to their healing process; the sensitive treatment of victims and their families by criminal justice and allied professionals, colleagues and friends and how their treatment can affect a victim's ability and capacity to heal in the aftermath of a violent crime. The materials developed also offered recommendations to improve treatment of victims and their families by criminal justice and allied professionals, colleagues and friends. For more information about ITVS's Community Connections Project and to download materials for SENTENCING THE VICTIM, visit 

About PBS
PBS is a private, nonprofit media enterprise that serves the nation's 349 public noncommercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is the leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of educational services for adult learners. PBS' premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (, continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet. PBS is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. 


Posted on July 27, 2004