Alum Receives Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award
Posted: April 25, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has named George Mason alumnus Jeff Dion, a senior attorney at the National Center for Victims of Crime, the recipient of the first Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award.
Dion (BA International Studies ’90 and JD ’93) was honored as an outstanding individual whose leadership, vision and innovation have led to significant changes in public policy and practice that benefit crime victims.
“We are so proud of Jeff, and I am delighted that the attorney general has chosen him for this prestigious award,” said Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “The Crime Victims’ Rights Week Awards are the highest honors in the crime victim services field.”
Dion began advocating for crime victims as a teenager in 1982 when his sister Paulette was murdered by a serial killer. Dion pressed the police for information on the case and, after it was solved, decided to pursue a career in law to help other victims of crime.
“I had to find a path to honor my sister’s memory,” said Dion. “I soon learned that the most important things I could do to help victims were to offer them my hand for guidance and support and offer my voice on behalf of those who have been silenced.”
Dion has scored a series of important victories for victims of crime. As a private practice attorney and volunteer advocate in the mid-1990s, Dion led a coalition of crime victims that convinced the Virginia legislature to pass 13 pro-victim laws. These measures expanded the legal definition of victim and ensured victims’ rights to be present in the courtroom, offer oral impact testimony, confer with prosecutors and testify by closed- circuit video.
“Without Jeff’s powerful advocacy, these bills would not have become law,” said Virginia Sen. Toddy Puller, who played a leadership role in passing the legislation.
In 1998, Dion began working full-time on victims’ issues when he joined the National Center for Victims of Crime, where he now serves as deputy director of the National Crime Victim Bar Association. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he worked with more than 1,500 victims and surviving family members to help them understand their rights and trained more than 2,000 attorneys on working with survivors.
In 2002, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner appointed Dion to the Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board, where he chairs the Victim-Witness Issues Advisory Committee. Last year, he was named Champion of Justice by the Northern Virginia Victims’ Alliance and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services named him one of the most influential advocates for crime victims’ rights in Virginia over the past 10 years. He also played a key role in defeating legislation that would have diminished crime victims’ rights in Florida.
“It is a tremendous honor for my work to be recognized, and I will continue to advocate for crime victims’ access to justice in both the civil and criminal justice systems,” said Dion.