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image of three peopleSept. 14, 2018 -- Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Executive Director Denise M. Miranda has honored four New Yorkers for their service to people with special needs at the second annual Justice Center Champion Award ceremonies in Albany. The Champion Award is issued to people and organizations in recognition of their support for people under the jurisdiction of the Justice Center.

Nominees can include individual staff members, community members, people receiving services or service providers. Justice Center employees place someone’s name in nomination and the name is reviewed by a Justice Center Committee, which makes recommendations to the Executive Director.

Honorees this year include Westchester County Deputy District Attorney Fredric Green. Green has been a tireless advocate for coordination between the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Justice Center. Green has been a dedicated public servant for more than 30 years, focusing on helping victims of abuse. With this background, Green ensures his staff understands and collaborates with the Justice Center on all criminal cases. In addition, Green facilitated a joint meeting with the Justice Center and local law enforcement this year, helping forge new and more productive relationships in the county.

“Mr. Green’s career as an advocate for victims of abuse makes him uniquely qualified to understand the complexities of the cases handled by the Justice Center. His work with both his staff and stakeholders across Westchester County ensures cases are thoroughly investigated and bad actors are held accountable at all levels” said Executive Director Miranda.

Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. said, “I congratulate Second Deputy District Attorney Frederic I. Green on this special award from the New York State Justice Center. I am especially proud of his commitment to treating victims with the utmost respect and seeing that their individual needs are met. His deep compassion and belief in justice make Fred a strong leader of our Special Prosecutions Division which serves the most vulnerable in society. I can truly say Westchester County is better served because of him.”

The following have also been honored with the 2018 Justice Center Champion Award:
Prabhudial Balkaran, resident, Bronx - Mr. Balkaran was out walking when he saw a person with special needs being dragged down the street by a staff member. First Mr. Balkaran asked the staff person to stop. When the mistreatment continued, Mr. Balkaran started yelling for help, which got the attention of an off-duty NYPD detective, who intervened. Mr. Balkaran then called the Justice Center to report the incident, despite having no legal obligation to do so, ensuring the staff member responsible was held accountable for their actions.

Diana Dufrense, Surrogate Decision-Making Committee, Massena – Diana Dufrense has logged thousands of miles while traveling as a volunteer for the Justice Center’s Surrogate Decision-Making Program. Her 24 years of service in the North Country have ensured people with special needs get prompt access to needed medical care. As chair of the program, Ms. Dufresne is known for her collaboration, empathy and respect she affords everyone she works with. She singlehandedly gathers and reviews records and arranges meetings to ensure medical decisions are made in a timely manner. In addition, Ms. Dufresne conducts trainings for other Surrogate Decision-Making programs and volunteers. Without Ms. Dufresne, it would be impossible to provide the services of the Surrogate Decision Making program in this area of the State.

Robert Torre, New York State Police Investigator, Red Hook – Investigator Torre has worked diligently during his career to understand the diverse array of people who receive services from providers under the jurisdiction of the Justice Center, and has worked collaboratively with the agency on several investigations. He is frequently able to accept cases that present difficulty for other law enforcement agencies because of his extensive experience investigating criminal cases involving allegations of abuse and neglect. Investigator Torre also goes out of his way to follow-up with and communicate with the families of victims, ensuring they know each step of an investigation.

The Justice Center operates a toll-free hotline for people to report allegations of abuse, neglect, and significant incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone who witnesses or suspects an act of abuse or neglect has been committed can make a report. Because the Justice Center is not a first responder, callers are directed to call 9-1-1 if there is an emergency that requires an immediate medical or police response.

The Justice Center has authority to investigate all reports of abuse and neglect in covered facilities and programs, pursue administrative sanctions against staff found responsible for misconduct, and its Special Prosecutor/Inspector General shares jurisdiction with local District Attorneys to prosecute criminal offenses involving allegations of abuse or neglect. The Justice Center notifies local district attorneys of all cases of abuse and neglect that occur in their jurisdiction.

Justice Center Individual and Family Support advocates provide guidance and information to victims, their families, personal representatives, and guardians about the reporting and investigation process, offer support during criminal court proceedings, and are available to accompany victims during interviews and court appearances.

Pictured left to right above: Second Deputy District Attorney Frederic I. Green, Denise M. Miranda, Executive Director of the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs and NYS Justice Center Advisory Council Chair William T. Gettman