TRENTON – New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced two new leadership positions to strengthen the state’s handling of victim services, appointing Assistant Attorney General Louise T. Lester as the Director of the Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) and recruiting victims advocate Elizabeth E. Ruebman to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of New Jersey’s victim programs and services.
“New Jersey has long been a national leader in promoting victim-centered services, but there’s so much more we can do,” said Attorney General Grewal. “I am delighted that Louise and Elizabeth have agreed to take on these roles, and I know that both of them will help us take New Jersey’s victims services to the next level. At the Attorney General’s Office, we have a special responsibility to ensure that victims are treated with respect, dignity, and compassion, and we will ensure that we strengthen and maintain our state’s victim-centered approach.”
Victims of Crime Compensation Office
Louise T. Lester
Created by statute in 1971 and located within the Department of Law & Public Safety since 2008, VCCO provides compensation to innocent victims of violent crime for expenses they incur as a result of the crime. VCCO is responsible for processing these claims and administering payments to victims pursuant to the Criminal Injury Compensation Act of 1971. VCCO is a payer of last resort, available to victims after they have exhausted other resources, including State benefits and insurance, and covers a variety of expenses, including hospital and medical expenses, up to $20,000 of mental health counseling, and up to $600 per week in lost earnings.
Lester has worked with victims throughout her professional life, having served in a variety of positions as a state, county, and federal prosecutor over the past 25 years. As VCCO Deputy Director, Lester worked to streamline VCCO’s claims processing and expand outreach to community leaders and first responders. Since 2000, she has worked for the State of New Jersey, serving in several leadership roles, including as the Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Corruption Bureau, Acting Senior Counsel with the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, Investigative Counsel with the Office of the Inspector General, and as an Assistant Counsel in the Office of Governor Christine Todd Whitman. Earlier in her career, she prosecuted juvenile, domestic violence and other criminal matters in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, and violent crime, drug trafficking and white-collar matters at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. She graduated with a B.A. from Rutgers College and a J.D. from Rutgers School of Law, Newark.
“I thank Attorney General Grewal for this tremendous opportunity to serve crime victims in New Jersey,” said Lester. “Having served two years as VCCO Deputy Director, I understand the vital work of the office and will do everything in my power to maximize the resources available to victims, deliver those resources expeditiously, and increase public awareness of our services, in collaboration with victim advocates, community leaders, law enforcement, the legal community, and service providers.”
“Throughout her career, Louise has put victims first, and she will do the same as VCCO Director,” said Attorney General Grewal. “While no amount of financial compensation will ever fully repair a victim’s life, Louise understands that VCCO plays an important role in a victim’s road to recovery.”
Review of New Jersey’s Victim Programs and Services
Elizabeth E. Ruebman
At the request of Attorney General Grewal, Ruebman will conduct a review of New Jersey’s victim services and identify ways to strengthen them. As part of this project, Ruebman will propose recommendations to improve existing services and, subject to the Attorney General’s approval, oversee the implementation of those recommendations.
Broadly speaking, the Department of Law & Public Safety serves victims in seven ways:
- Claim compensation. Compensating victims, as a payer of last resort, for expenses associated with the crime, through VCCO;
- Support services. Helping victims obtain the counseling and support services they need;
- Prosecution of perpetrators. Ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice, through DCJ and the County Prosecutors’ Offices;
- Bias investigation. Protecting the civil rights of victims, where there is evidence that the person was a victim of bias or discrimination, through DCJ and the Division on Civil Rights;
- Victim witness services. Assisting victims should they be called to testify against their perpetrator, through DCJ’s State Office of Victim Witness Advocacy (SOVWA);
- Policy development. Developing and implementing statewide policy reforms to improve services for victims; and
- Grant funding. Facilitating grant funding for the state’s non-profit victim services organizations.
In this new role, Ruebman will be tasked with reviewing all seven aspects of the Department’s victim services. Prior to accepting this position, she served as the Chapter Lead for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a statewide network of urban crime victims and victim services organizations. In that capacity, she partnered with the New Jersey Crime Victims Law Center and others to deliver trainings statewide to support urban crime survivor organizations. She also served as deputy director for the Newark Community Street Team, a resident-driven violence reduction strategy that uses casework and high-risk intervention to reduce community violence. Between 2014 and 2018, she was a partner in a New Jersey-based public policy consulting firm, Amplify, Inc., managing projects for non-profit and public sector clients, including work on public safety strategy in Newark. She graduated with a B.A. from Georgetown University and a Masters in Political Management from George Washington University.
“It has been my honor to work on behalf of crime victims to ensure that all victims of crime receive help and healing at their darkest hour,” said Ruebman. “I am excited about this new position, which will enable me to serve victims more effectively. This project will ensure that New Jersey is properly supporting crime victims, thus restoring balance in their lives and making our communities safer. Attorney General Grewal’s unprecedented commitment to this work will allow New Jersey to enhance and innovate victims services and become a model for the country.”
“Our office supports victims in a variety of ways – from helping them navigate the criminal justice system to compensating them for unpaid medical expenses – and we realized that we needed to do a better job making sure that all of these support programs are working together,” said Attorney General Grewal. “With her top-to-bottom review, Elizabeth will help us figure out what’s working and what’s not, and will help us design a comprehensive statewide system to support victims that’s even stronger.”