COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, with Mat Heck, Jr.

Season 2Episode 6March 27, 2020

How is our criminal justice system responding to the novel coronavirus, especially when it comes to keeping kids safe from abuse?

Prosecutor Mat Heck is our guest today. Amid a pandemic, public health experts are urging us to stay home and stay away from each other to avoid spreading the deadly virus. At National Children’s Alliance, our entire staff is teleworking—and in fact, you’ll hear that this interview was conducted over the internet. Our criminal justice system, however, is built around in‑person interactions. Now, virtually overnight, many aspects of the system had to start operating remotely. What still needs to be done in person, and how do we proceed when public health and public safety are at odds?

As the elected prosecutor for Montgomery County, Ohio, Heck is dealing with this issue directly. How has the pandemic impacted his work? How can victim advocates and forensic interviewers at Children’s Advocacy Centers do their jobs under these difficult conditions? Should we expect a rise in child abuse and other crimes? And how is Heck helping his own staff deal with the added stress of a pandemic on top of an already difficult job?

Topics in this episode:

  • The challenge for law enforcement and prosecutors
  • Essential vs. nonessential work
  • Victim advocacy during a pandemic
  • Making sure children are protected: Children’s Advocacy Centers and the forensic interview
  • Child protective services checking in on families
  • Will we see a rise in crimes like domestic violence and child abuse?
  • Helping our workforce deal with the added stress
  • Our next episode: Dr. David Finkelhor and changes in rates of child abuse and neglect over time


NCA’s coronavirus resource page for CACs, partners, and caregivers

Mat Heck, Jr., is the elected prosecutor for Montgomery County, Ohio

Victim/Witness Division and Child Abuse Bureau of the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office

CARE House Child Advocacy Center

Webinar on CAC triage plans: COVID-19 and CACs

Montgomery County Children Services


Transcript to come.