The Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim
Services in Corrections project, sponsored by the National Center for
Victims of Crime, et al. with support from the U. S. Department of Justice,
Office for Victims of Crime, contains three texts that are designed to help
adult and juvenile correctional agencies develop and enhance services for
victims of crime:
- "Victim Services in Corrections."
- "Responding to Workplace Violence and Staff Victimization."
- The "Victim Impact Classes/Panels for Offenders" program curriculum for
teachers and offenders/students.
Within each of these curricula are extensive strategies for program planning
and development, victim and public outreach, education and awareness, and
information related to the creation of policies, procedures and protocols that
provide the foundation for corrections-based victim services. In addition,
numerous programs are highlighted as models worthy to consider for replication
in local, state and federal jurisdictions.
This compendium is designed to provide the reader with a high level overview
of the most essential components of corrections-based victim services. It is
important to note that every topic highlighted in this compendium is expanded
upon in the three curricula noted above.
It is the hope of the Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim
Services in Corrections project team to offer innovative ideas and
practical applications to agencies and professionals who seek to initiate or
improve corrections-based victim services. This compendium provides a foundation
that, when combined with the full project curricula, can help improve the
treatment of crime victims in the post-sentencing phases of their cases, and
encourage inter-agency collaboration to improve victims' rights and services.
The discipline of corrections-based victim services is
a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. Historically, crime victims
and their allies focused on the "front end" of the criminal justice system: law
enforcement, prosecution, the judiciary and courts. It wasn't until the late
1980s that the post-sentencing phases of victims' cases were addressed in a
Professionals and volunteers in the corrections community -- with support
from national victim advocates -- provided the leadership to initiate and
enhance victim services in adult and juvenile institutional corrections and
parole. A number of landmark activities comprises the rich history of
corrections-based victim services:
1986: The American Correctional Association (ACA) published
a broad policy statement that said victims should be treated with dignity and
respect by correctional agencies, and should be notified of the status of their
1987: The ACA appointed a Victims Task Force that developed
15 recommendations relevant to implementing corrections-based victim services.
1989: The Director of the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC)
within the U.S. Department of Justice testified before the ACA Task Force, and
announced support for a national Crime Victims and Corrections training
and technical assistance project.
1990: The first national conference to address
corrections-based victim services -- sponsored by OVC and a project team
spearheaded by the National Victim Center -- was held in Sacramento, California,
with 150 participants from 40 states.
1991: A national survey of adult and juvenile correctional
agencies and paroling authorities identified the scope of corrections-based
1991: The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA)
and Association of Paroling Authorities International (APAI) established Victim
1991--1994: Eight states and the military received intensive
training on corrections-based victim services, with technical assistance for
program implementation provided to an additional 15 states.
1995: The ACA Victim Committee issued the landmark
Report and Recommendations on Victims of Juvenile Offenders.
1995: The Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim
Services in Corrections project was sponsored by OVC, and expanded to
include victim services in jails.
1996: A national survey of jails provided data on the scope
of jail-based victim services.
1996: The National Survey of Adult and Juvenile
Correctional Agencies and Paroling Authorities -- originally conducted in
1990 -- was updated and offered data on trends in the implementation of
corrections-based victim services over a five-year period.
1996: The Association of State Correctional Administrators
(ASCA) established a Victims Committee.
1996: The ACA established an ad hoc Restorative Justice
Committee that included victim advocates and corrections professionals.
1996: The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) conducted
a public hearing, with testimony offered by national and state victim advocates
relevant to corrections-based victim services.
1997: OVC sponsored a training-for-trainers project
spearheaded by the National Center for Victims of Crime on Responding to
Workplace Violence in Correctional Settings.
1997: The U. S. Department of Justice, Corrections Office,
OVC, and NIC, as well as ASCA and the Promising Practices project
co-sponsors, produced films that articulate the vision of state corrections
Directors on the importance of and need for victim services.
A number of factors have affected the significant increase in
corrections-based victim services, including but not limited to the following:
Strong leadership from ACA, ASCA, APPA, and APAI -- with support from OVC,
NIC, the Corrections Office, and the National Center for Victims of Crime -- has
provided impetus for initiating and improving victim services in corrections.
More correctional agencies today perceive victims as "clients" of their
agencies who deserve rights and services (see the Texas Corrections Association
Position Statement on Crime Victims' Issues, Appendix A).
Federal and state laws increasingly expand the scope of victims' rights in
the post-sentencing phases of their cases.
As of November 1996, 29 states have adopted constitutional amendments that,
in most jurisdictions, mandate victim notification, impact statements,
protection and restitution throughout correctional processes.
The need for increased accountability from juvenile offenders, as well as the
juvenile justice system, has expanded victims' rights and services in this
More correctional agencies are incorporating the principles of restorative
justice into their missions, policies and programs -- values that include
crime victims, offenders, and the community.
Core Elements in Corrections-Based Victim Services
In 1997, the ASCA Victims Committee -- with support from the
Promising Practices and Strategies project -- developed ten core
elements that should form the foundation of a corrections-based victim services
program. Guidelines for implementing these core elements are incorporated
throughout this handbook.
The ASCA Victims Committee ten core elements recommend that correctional
- Incorporate victims' rights and needs into the overall agency mission
statement, and develop a mission/vision statement specifically for victim
- Designate a full-time staff person to plan and implement a comprehensive
victim services program, and victim service representatives at institutions
and regional offices to augment the agency's centralized victim services.
- Provide core services to victims of crime that include: notification of
offender status; protection from intimidation, harassment and harm; victim
input into parole proceedings; victim restitution; and information and
referral to supportive services in the community.
- Create a Victim Advisory Council (comprised of victims and practitioners
from corrections, victim services and allied professions) to guide program
- Establish written policies and procedures for victims' rights and
- Develop a public information plan and outreach program that describes the
services and assistance provided to victims by the agency, including an
informational brochure and training curriculum for victim service and allied
- Develop and utilize a training curriculum for orientation and continuing
education for all agency staff on victims' rights and needs, agency services
and related policies, legislative mandates, and national/state/community-based
services for information and referral.
- Develop and implement policies, procedures and protocols on how to respond
to incidents when correctional staff are victimized on- or off-the-job.
- Implement the "Victim Impact Classes/Panels for Offenders" program to help
offenders understand the impact their crimes have on their victims,
communities and families, utilizing the curricula and related resources
available from the California Youth Authority.
- Designate an agency representative to participate in local, state and
regional victim services coalitions, and serve as the agency's liaison to the
victim services community.
Agency Mission Statements
The majority of adult and juvenile corrections
agencies and paroling authorities have mission or philosophy statements that
address their overall goals. Yet according to data derived from the 1996
National Victim Services Survey of Adult and Juvenile Corrections and Paroling
Authorities (conducted by the National Center for Victims of Crime as part
of the Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in
Corrections project), only 40 percent of adult corrections, 51 percent of
juvenile corrections, and 66 percent of paroling authorities include any
reference to crime victims or victim services in these statements.
The inclusion of victims' rights and needs is important for three reasons:
- The overall concept of "public safety" -- for which corrections agencies
strive -- will not be a reality unless "victim safety" is considered.
- It sends a strong message that victims are considered "clients" of the
agency who deserve services and support.
- A balance in philosophy can be achieved, which recognizes that while
correctional agencies are "offender-directed," they can also be
There are two approaches commonly utilized for mission/philosophy statements:
Overall Agency Mission Statements
Some correctional agencies have broad mission statements that
cite victims. The Oregon Board of Parole's mission statement is as follows:
"The Board's mission is to work in partnership with the Department of
Corrections and local supervisory authorities to protect the public and reduce
the risk of repeat criminal behavior through incarceration and community
supervision decisions based on applicable laws, victims' interests,
public safety and recognized principles of offender behavioral change."
Following a comprehensive victim services training program on victims' rights
and services, the District of Columbia Board of Parole developed a mission
statement that addresses victims, offenders, and the community:
"The mission of the District of Columbia Board of Parole, a quasi-judicial
criminal justice agency, is to protect the public safety and welfare, to provide
for the rights of victims of crimes of violence, to promote the rehabilitation
and community adjustment of offenders, to protect parolees' individual rights,
to enhance juvenile justice services, and to promote a safer community for the
citizens and visitors in the District of Columbia. The Board accomplishes its
mission by determining if and when to grant or revoke parole, establishing the
terms and conditions of parole, supervising parolees in the community with a
special focus on young adult offenders, and administering the Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Act Program."
Other agencies, such as the Maine Department of Corrections, have "guiding
principles" that support its broad mission statement. Of Maine's six guiding
principles -- risk management, risk-focused intervention, prevention,
restorative justice, applied research, and quality services -- two specifically
- "Prevention is our moral and professional obligation. We will promote,
support and facilitate prevention activities by working with families and
communities to address these factors which put children at risk, and to
protect children from those risks."
- "Restorative justice challenges us to design and administer a system
that places the needs of the victims and the harm done by the offending
behavior at the center of the process by which we sanction and hold the
Victim Service Program Mission Statements
Written statements that specifically guide the
protocols, policies and services of corrections-based victim service programs
provide a strong foundation for program development and implementation. For
example, the California Youth Authority, Office of Prevention and Victims
Services adopted the following mission statement:
"The Youth Authority and staff are aware of and sensitive to the plight of
victims of crime, and will provide assistance to them by:
- Being an advocate for the victim, i.e., legislation, representation.
- Providing direct services to victims, i.e., restitution collection,
victim/offender meetings, notification, etc.
- Training staff regarding sensitivity to victims' issues.
- Holding the offender accountable for his/her behavior.
- Educating offenders about the impact of crime on victims."
Similarly, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole has a mission
statement for its Office of the Victim Advocate, which "is dedicated to
representing, protecting and advancing the individual and collective rights and
interests of crime victims."
Victim service program mission statements, as evidenced above, can contain
the program's basic philosophy, as well as program goals and specific
initiatives that are relevant to both victims in terms of rights and services,
and to offenders in terms of accountability.
In the Guide to Enhancing Victim Services Within Probation
and Parole published by the American Probation and Parole Association in
1991, five purposes of program planning were offered, which are to:
- Identify target population(s) and problem(s).
- Specify nature of program services.
- Describe program goals and objectives.
- Define action steps to achieve goals.
- Give a step-by-step "blueprint" of service provision.
Five barriers to effective program planning that were identified by APPA
- The agency's general climate.
- Insufficient information.
- Lack of time.
- External forces.
- Inadequate funding.
APPA also stressed the importance of utilizing automated management
information systems to collect, store, retrieve and share program data, at
considerable savings of time, money and human resources.
Any agency seeking to initiate or enhance a victim services program must
first ask the question: "Who will this program affect?" It's a good idea to
establish a planning committee that involves the key stakeholders in the
program, who fall into two categories: internal and external. Potential internal
planning committee members could include:
- Representative of the Director.
- Public information officer.
- Therapeutic staff.
- Program staff.
- Staff training officers.
- Line staff.
- Victim service coordinator.
Potential external members of the committee could include:
- Crime victims.
- Victim service providers.
- Allied criminal justice officials, such as law enforcement, prosecutors,
public defenders, courts and other correctional agencies.
- Allied community-based professionals, such as mental health, social
services, medical professionals, clergy members, schools, higher education,
The planning committee should be manageable in terms of size (10-12 members),
and should be diverse by gender, culture and area of expertise.
Planning Committee Responsibilities
Depending upon the scope of the victim services program that an
agency wants to create, there are eight objectives that are listed below in
order of importance to program development:
- Develop short- (one year) and long-range (two-to-five years) plans for the
victim services program (which will incorporate the objectives that follow).
- Draft policies and procedures.
- Plan and implement a victim task force.
- Identify program staff and responsibilities.
- Develop a plan for public awareness and victim outreach.
- Develop a plan for networking with allied professionals at the local,
state and national levels.
- Develop a plan and schedule for internal training.
- Identify benchmarks for program evaluation.
Guidelines for fulfilling these, and other related objectives that the
planning committee may develop, are incorporated throughout this handbook.
The Planning Process
Once the planning committee has been established, and planning
issues have been identified, the planning process can begin. A facilitated
session with committee members can help identify the priority in which planning
issues can be addressed.
Planning time lines can vary, depending on the agency's overall strategic
planning initiatives, as well as any deadlines related to pending issues. Time
lines can be:
- Short-term (usually 90 days in duration).
- Annual (a plan for one year).
- Long-term (usually three-to-five years, and coinciding with the
overall strategic planning initiatives of the agency).
Strategic plans should clearly specify a variety of information and resources
related to the plan's implementation, including but not limited to:
- Overall activity that describes the general scope.
- Goal of this activity.
- Objectives to be taken to accomplish this goal.
- Tasks (numbered in order) to be accomplished in conjunction with each
- Staff responsible for implementation of each task (this can include more
than one staff, department or even agency).
- Resources needed to accomplish each task.
- General budget for each task.
- The date each task is due.
- Status (that determines progress in completing each goal/objective/task).
Strategic planning forms can be automated to include "reminder notices" when
deadlines are approaching.
A Strategic Planning Form developed for victim service programming
implementation for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons -- based upon a restorative
justice model that delineates categories of inmates, staff,
and victims/community -- is included in Appendix B.
Developing Policies and Procedures
Policies and/or procedures must be written to guide program
development, and to clearly identify roles and responsibilities for program
implementation. Issues that require written policies and procedures include, but
are not limited to:
- Victim notification.
- Victim input at parole hearings.
- Victim restitution.
- Responsibilities of internal or external program advisory committees.
- Responding to incidents of workplace violence in correctional settings.
- Victim/offender programs, such as "Impact of Crime on Victims" classes,
victim impact panels, mediation, etc.
- Protecting victims from intimidation, harassment and/or harm.
- How to handle complaints from victims.
- Program principles or values based upon the premises of restorative
Written agency policies and procedures for the victim service program should
- Authority (either by legislative mandate, correctional agency policy, or
- Purpose statement.
- Applicability (to victims, offenders, staff, members of the public, or
combinations of the preceding).
- Definitions (of persons, offices and programs involved).
- Person(s) and/or unit(s) responsible for implementation of policy and/or
- Policy that states goals and objectives.
- Procedures that clearly delineate how program objectives will be achieved
(i.e., the "who, what, when, where, how and why").
- Funding (if applicable).
- Any provisions for suspension of policy or procedures (usually in cases of
Victim service program-related policies should be reviewed and updated (as
needed) on an annual basis. Departmental bulletins should be issued that explain
new or revised victim-related policies in detail; in addition, victim service
program policies and procedures should be incorporated into staff orientation
and continuing education training.
While program policies should be developed and approved in accordance with
established agency procedures, examples of victim service program policies and
procedures from the California Department of Corrections are included in
Establishing A Victim Services Advisory
The importance of creating a program Advisory
Committee was stressed by a recently-appointed parole-based victim service
coordinator, who said: "If corrections agencies do only one thing in
developing their victim service programs, it should be to sponsor a Victim
Services Advisory Committee."
An Advisory Committee can serve a variety of purposes, such as:
- Making recommendations for program development and implementation to the
- Contributing to expanded victim outreach efforts.
- Coordinating victim services with allied criminal justice, state-level and
community-based agencies, and serving as liaisons to these professions.
- Enhancing public education about victims' rights and services in
- Developing curricula for in-service training, educational efforts directed
toward victim service providers, and cross-training programs with allied
justice and victim service professionals.
Committee members should be appointed by the agency Director. The structure
of the Advisory Committee should incorporate the following issues:
- Committee size (with a maximum identified).
- Designated membership slots (i.e., specific justice or victim service
agencies/coalitions represented; diversity by culture, gender and geography;
victim representation; etc.).
- Committee responsibilities.
- Term of office (rotating appointments help maintain continuity in
- Frequency and location of meetings (i.e., two to four times a year).
- Reimbursement (usually for expenses only).
A sample policy statement developed by the Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections for its Victim Services Advisory Committee is included in Appendix
Victim advocate Ellen Halbert describes the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice Victim Advisory Board as the "springboard for the development of the
partnership between crime victims and corrections that we all want to happen. It
is rare to see crime victims' groups complain about the agency any more; they
are educated and they are listened to."
When corrections-based victim service programs were
first established in the 1980s, many agencies utilized existing staff to conduct
program operations. This approach was usually necessitated by considerable
restrictions on agency budget and personnel. However, as the specialized
discipline of corrections-based victim services has evolved, most agencies have
designated staff with agency line item budgets.
When state legislatures pass new laws that mandate important victims' rights
and services for which correctional agencies have responsibilities (such as
notification, restitution, victim involvement at parole, and victim protection),
efforts should be made to secure designated funding for staff positions. Support
for such funding should be sought from crime victims, service providers and
statewide victim service coalitions -- all of whom stand to benefit from the
implementation of victim services in corrections.
Another possibility for funding corrections-based victim services is the
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund, which supports victim compensation and victim
services at the federal level, and in all 50 states and the District of
Columbia. VOCA monies are derived from fines and assessments on persons
convicted of federal crimes. Since "victim notification," "case disposition
information," and "post-conviction advocacy for victims" are all victim services
eligible for VOCA funding, some state VOCA programs fund direct services in
adult and juvenile corrections agencies and paroling authorities. The decision
to provide VOCA funding for these purposes lies with the VOCA
Administrator in each state (a roster of state VOCA Administrators is
included in the "Resources" section of the Promising Practices and
Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections notebook). Corrections
officials interested in pursuing this possibility should contact their state's
VOCA Administrator directly. (See Appendix E for the Illinois Department of
Corrections Director's announcement article for a VOCA-funded victim services
program recently begun within his department.)
Victim Services Representatives
Currently, most corrections-based victim services programs have
one centralized unit with core staff located at the agency's main office.
However, more and more agencies are developing an internal network of employees
at each work site -- either institutions, parole or probation offices -- to
provide victims with services, information and referrals. For example, the Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has designated a victim services
representative at each institution and community corrections division office.
A percentage of these employees' time is designated by the site administrator
for victim assistance purposes. Group training programs, held once or twice a
year, keep victim services representatives up-to-date on policies and procedures
(which they can help revise, as needed, based upon their experiences), trends in
both victimization and victim services, and victims' most salient needs.
The use of victim services representatives serves a number of valuable
- Providing direct assistance to victims at the local level.
- Serving as the site liaison to the central victim services unit.
- Participating in local victim service coalitions and commemorative
- Providing training about the agency's victim services to local service
providers and allied criminal justice professionals.
- Organizing victim/offender programs on-site.
- "Trouble-shooting" to make sure that victims' needs, which are often
diverse by their location and access to support and services, are met by the
A duty statement for the California Department of Corrections victim services
representatives is included in Appendix F, as well as a job description for the
Tarrant County (Texas) Community Supervision and Corrections Department position
of supervision clerk (courts), who reports to the victim services coordinator.
Use of Interns and Volunteers
Many agencies have recruited and obtained volunteers and interns
to assist with the many tasks associated with victim services. Volunteers and
interns, who should represent the cultural diversity of the victims served by
the agency, require intensive supervision and on-going training to fulfill their
jobs in their respective agencies. However, volunteers and interns can augment
professional staff in a variety of capacities, including but not limited to:
- Sending letters to victims requesting notification.
- Processing victim information into the computerized notification database.
- Providing information and referrals to victims in person, in writing or by
- Helping to develop and disseminate information about victim services in
corrections to crime victims, service providers and concerned citizens.
- Other duties deemed appropriate by correctional staff.
A promising practice initiated in 1997 by the Missouri Department of
Corrections involves a partnership with the Missouri Organization for Victim
Assistance. A network of volunteer advocates will be established and trained to
accompany victims to parole hearings.
Many colleges and universities offer paid and non-paid internship programs in
a variety of disciplines for their students, including criminal justice,
corrections, social work, sociology and communications. The Chairpersons of
these departments should be contacted for information about internship programs,
which provide additional staff for the victim services program while, at the
same time, offer students a valuable learning experience that will benefit them
as they enter the professional job market upon graduation.
The AmeriCorp Program, which provides matching funds to public service
agencies that hire college students, is another good source of talented staff.
Volunteers can be sought for both long-term, institutionalized program
efforts, as well as for specific events or activities (such as victim impact
panels or commemorations of National Crime Victims' Rights Week in April).
Potential sources for volunteers include:
- State victim service coalitions and/or local victim service programs.
- United Way Voluntary Action Centers.
- County/Community Volunteer Centers.
- Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).
- Some local newspapers (especially weeklies) also provide free classified
advertisements for volunteers.
Corrections-based victim service programs should provide volunteers and
interns with clear job descriptions that clarify duties, responsibilities and
agency expectations, and also meet the needs of the volunteer employee.
Volunteer programs must consider and be responsive to liability issues
relevant to the use of volunteers and interns, especially when they have access
to confidential victim information, or have responsibilities that expose them to
inmates or offenders under community supervision.
One of the key elements of any corrections-based victim services
program is its public awareness and victim outreach efforts. There are four good
reasons to focus on this area:
- Unless victims know that rights and services are available to them, they
will not seek to access them.
- Many of the program's efforts require cross-disciplinary efforts with
allied justice professionals, as well as state-level and community-based
victim and social service programs.
- The agency's victim services can provide positive influences on public
policy makers who make decisions that affect the direction and funding
resources available to correctional agencies.
- Perhaps most importantly, the agency's program offers excellent public
relations opportunities that will cast a positive light on correctional
efforts that benefit crime victims and the victim service community, and
promote public safety and offender accountability at the same time.
Public awareness, with a focus on victim outreach and education, can be
accomplished in a number of ways:
Direct Victim Outreach
In many states, officials in the "front end" of the justice
system provide pocket-size cards to victims that enumerate their rights,
including those in the post-sentencing phases of their cases. These cards also
include contact information for state and/or local victim services -- including
toll-free information numbers -- and should list the telephone number for the
corrections-based victim services program.
In some states that have passed constitutional amendments that provide
victims with rights to be present, heard and informed throughout the criminal
justice system, e.g., Arizona and Colorado, a multi-copy, color-coded, pressure
sensitive form is utilized that allows victims or their lawful representatives
to simply check the rights they request or waive. These forms -- available for
victims of both adult and juvenile offenders -- are then provided to the
- Victim, or his/her lawful representative.
- Law enforcement agencies.
- Custodial agencies.
- Victim/witness program.
- Corrections-based victim services program.
- Court/diversion programs.
This form provides consistency in both victims' requests for enforcing or
waiving their rights, and in the chain-of-accessibility of this vital
information across agencies within the criminal or juvenile justice system
continuum. A sample of the "victim request for, or waiver of, rights" is
included in the "Victim and Community Notification" section of the Promising
Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections notebook.
Toll-free Telephone Number
For many victims, a long distance telephone call poses a
financial burden. As such, many correctional agencies have toll-free telephone
numbers, often with automated answering systems available 24 hours-a-day, seven
days-a-week that refer inquiries to the appropriate staff. This type of service
is particularly beneficial to victims for whom location or cost might be
barriers to accessing rights and services.
Many victims, citizens and even victim service providers don't
fully understand correctional systems -- how they work and integrate with other
justice agencies, the differences between community and institutional
corrections, and the differences between probation and parole. All victim
services programs should have a brochure that provides the following
- Description of the agency.
- Victims' rights and services available from the agency, and how they are
accessed, e.g., victim notification enrollment requirements -- upon request
only, by completing certain forms, etc.
- How (or if) the agency interacts with allied justice agencies.
- The most common questions victims ask about rights and services.
- Confidentiality provisions (if applicable).
- Contact information (address, telephone number [toll-free, if applicable],
fax, e-mail address, and agency web site address).
- Contact information for supporting victim services at the state and
community level, e.g., victim compensation, statewide coalitions, etc.
- A list of national toll-free information and referral numbers for
additional victim assistance.
In addition, some states -- such as Kansas, Washington, Pennsylvania and
South Carolina -- have a brochure panel dedicated to victim notification
requests that is detachable, and can be mailed to the victim services program
for enrollment for this service.
Brochures should be developed in conjunction with the agency's communications
or public information office, and can be designed to have a "family look."
Sample brochures are featured in the appendices of the "Public Awareness and
Victim Outreach" section of the Promising Practices and Strategies for
Victim Services in Corrections notebook.
Telephone Rolodex Card
A Rolodex card that includes contact information for the agency's
victim services program -- including address, telephone number, and e-mail
information -- is an excellent outreach tool for crime victims, service
providers and allied professionals. An example of the Rolodex card utilized by
the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is included in Appendix G.
A number of agencies, such as the parole boards in the District
of Columbia and Georgia, have designed posters that enumerate victims' rights,
how victims can access these rights and related services, and who to contact for
additional information. Such posters are excellent, cost-effective tools for
both victim and public outreach, and should be distributed to victim service
organizations, allied justice agencies, and sites where important public service
information can be posted (such as community bulletin boards, libraries, student
centers at universities, etc.).
Public Service Announcements
Victim services programs can work in conjunction with the
agency's audio/visual services to develop 30 and 60 second public service
announcements -- in both audio and video formats -- for statewide distribution
to television and radio stations. In Maine, an excellent video public service
announcement that describes victims' rights, and provides the Department of
Corrections' toll-free telephone number for victim assistance, was developed as
a volunteer project by students from Southern Maine Technical College. The
script was prepared by the Department, and narrated by Jeff Merrill, Warden of
the Maine State Prison.
The Department of Corrections in Oklahoma and Ohio have published
excellent compendia of victims' poetry and writings for widespread
dissemination. These publications display a true commitment to the agencies'
efforts to generate broader understanding of victims' feelings, needs and
Many correctional agencies also publish newsletters that focus specifically
on victim-related issues. A sample copy of the Oklahoma Department of
Corrections Victim Services Unit's monthly newsletter, Trends for
Victims, is included in the "Public Awareness and Victim Outreach" section
of the Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in
In 1991, the California Department of Corrections Victim Services
Program developed an 11-minute videotape entitled "Helping Crime Victims" that
describes the agency, provides basic information about what happens to
prisoners, and enumerates on available victims' rights and services. Produced
through a partnership between the agency's Victim Services Program and
Department of Communications, the videotape is an excellent promising practice
for replication. All victim service representatives utilize copies of the
videotape for presentations to victims, victim service agencies, and public
forums. The videotape is also used for in-staff training.
Criminal or Juvenile Justice System Videotape
In South Carolina, the Victim Assistance Network utilized VOCA
funds to produce an outstanding 30-minute film that depicts "a walk through the
criminal justice system" for victims of crime. Beginning with law enforcement
and culminating with corrections and parole, the speakers on the videotape --
who are actual justice and victim service
professionals -- provide simple, specific information about victims' rights
and services at their juncture in the criminal justice system. The continuum of
victim services is emphasized as crucial to providing quality, comprehensive
As corrections "enters the Information Age," many agencies are
establishing sites on the World Wide Web that provide public information about
their mission, programs and services. Agency web sites should include a page
designated specifically to victim services, such as that sponsored by the Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (www.drc.ohio.gov). In addition, web
sites can offer electronic linkages to other web sites dedicated to victim
assistance issues, such as that sponsored by the National Victim Center
Another innovative application of web sites hails from the Illinois
Department of Corrections. Crime victims who have specific identifying
information for their incarcerated offenders can access information about that
offender's status and location through the Department's web site.
National Crime Victims' Rights Week
Since 1981, victims, advocates and justice professionals have
sponsored public awareness activities nationwide to commemorate National Crime
Victims' Rights Week, (NCVRW) which is held during April each year. In many
states, correctional agencies sponsor or co-sponsor special events and
activities, such as:
- Inmate and staff fundraisers in California that raise hundreds of
thousands of dollars for victim services programs.
- Training conferences in many states that focus on victims' needs, rights
and services throughout the justice system, including community and
- Distribution of brochures, public service posters and buttons about
victims' rights and services. For example, in Ohio an inmate designed the
artwork for the 1997 NCVRW button with the state slogan "Tying the Knot With
- In 1996, the California Youth Authority published a "newspaper" dedicated
to victims' issues and concerns, which was distributed statewide and even at
national victim service and correctional conferences.
- A tree-planting sponsored by the Missouri Department of Corrections in
1997 at 38 district offices and 19 prisons, with the ultimate goal being the
creation of "peace parks." Trees were donated by the State Conservation
Department, and the event was planned in collaboration with local victim
service providers in each community.
- Ceremonies that honor the memories of crime victims, such as those
sponsored over many years in Texas and California.
- A National Crime Victims' Rights Week Resource Guide sponsored by
the U. S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime -- available free
to correctional agencies from the OVC Resource Center by calling (800)
627-6872 -- contains a variety of public education and victim outreach
resources, in camera-ready format for simple replication and distribution.
Organizational members of the National Center for Victims of Crime receive an
annual National Crime Victims' Rights Week Strategies for Action Kit
which includes suggestions and guidelines for public awareness activities and
special events, along with a series of public service posters to promote
victims' rights during National Crime Victims' Rights Week and throughout the
Many states have planning committees to coordinate National Crime Victims'
Rights Week activities that would welcome involvement and input from
In the 1990s, the victim services discipline has focused many of
its efforts on creating comprehensive, multidisciplinary approaches to victims'
rights and related programs. This focus seeks a seamless web of communications
among all entities that have responsibilities for the enforcement of
victims' rights and the provision of victim services, and attempts to ensure
that victims don't "fall through the cracks" of a system that should be designed
to protect them. Corrections-based victim services are an integral component of
these important networking efforts.
There are several useful "tools of the trade" to enhance multidisciplinary
networking efforts, including but not limited to:
Information and Referral
With over 9,000 victim service organizations nationwide, there
are endless sources of valuable information and victim support available of
which corrections-based victim service programs must be aware. Each program
should be capable of making referrals to the following:
- Local, state and national victim services programs and services, including
- All local and state criminal justice agencies.
- The national toll-free information and referral telephone numbers that
specifically provide assistance and support to victims of crime and criminal
justice resources (see Appendix H).
- The U.S. Department of Justice-sponsored resource centers -- accessible by
telephone, in writing or by electronic mail -- such as the Office for Victims
of Crime Resource Center and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
- The numerous web sites and victim chat rooms/discussion forums available
on the Internet that provide information and peer support for victims. (A
roster of victim-related web sites is included in the "Resources" section of
the Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in
- Local, state and national training opportunities in which victims who
contact corrections agencies might be interested in attending.
- State and local programs that seek victims as volunteers.
Each corrections-based victim services program should develop
training modules to inform and educate allied professionals -- including victim
service providers -- about its programs and services. The same types of
information can be condensed or expanded to fit training time requirements; 30
minute, 60 minute and 120 minute modules are most appropriate. The use of
audio/visual materials -- including brochures, fact sheets, videotapes, and
overhead transparencies -- enhance the quality of presentations.
Similarly, correctional agencies should seek opportunities to train their
employees about victims' rights and services in their state available from both
system- and community-based agencies. Segments can focus on topics such as:
- Victims' rights and agency responsibilities within law enforcement, courts
and other correctional agencies.
- Victims' rights and services that require a continuum of cross-agency
collaboration, such as restitution monitoring and ensuring that victim
notification requests made to the prosecutor are forwarded to the correctional
agency and/or paroling authority.
- Victims' needs, rights and services relevant to specific victims,
including victims of property crime, child abuse, sexual assault, family
violence, elder abuse, drunk driving, juvenile offenders, and survivors of
Guest speakers from allied agencies should be invited to present these topics
at orientation and continuing education classes. Their curricula and related
resources can be incorporated into standardized staff training manuals.
Often, victims' rights and services are not properly implemented
because different agencies believe another entity has responsibility for their
delivery. The best way to overcome this obstacle -- which often re-victimizes
victims who need and expect their rights to be enforced and
services to be provided -- is to develop inter-agency agreements that detail the
- Authority of specific rights and services, i.e., by law, agency policy,
- Who is responsible for implementation, i.e., individual(s) and/or
- Time frame for implementation.
- The chronological order of implementation.
- Any rights or remedies a victim has when his/her rights are not enforced,
or mandated services are not provided.
Inter-agency agreements fill gaps in service delivery, and provide a "safety
net" for victims who need assistance.
At the very core of most corrections-based victim services
programs are notification services that inform victims (and sometimes witnesses)
about the status of offenders under the supervision of the agency. Three-fourths
of adult correctional agencies, over half of juvenile correctional agencies, and
eight out of ten paroling authorities have requirements to notify at least some
types of victims about changes in the status of their offenders. As of 1997, 23
states provide victims with the constitutional right to notification of
an offender's status in the post-conviction release and/or release proceeding --
a public policy approach that is rapidly gaining widespread application.
While the "Victim and Community Notification" section of the Promising
Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections notebook
contains detailed information about initiating and enhancing corrections-based
victim notification programs, there are nine core elements for consideration in
notification program development:
- Policies and procedures to guide program implementation.
- Program staffing -- including central office staff and/or work site staff.
- How victims and/or witnesses are qualified for notification services.
- Who is eligible for notification, i.e., all or some victims/lawful
representatives, and/or all or some witnesses.
- Program enrollment process and requirements for enrollees.
- Specific types of notification for which victims/witnesses are eligible.
- When does notification occur (e.g., how far in advance of an offender's
- Victim confidentiality of notification requests and related information.
- Use of paper-based versus electronic notification tracking systems.
In addition, correctional agencies must have comprehensive victim outreach
resources -- including brochures, enrollment cards, public service posters, etc.
-- that publicize the availability of victim notification services, and how
victims and witnesses can access such services.
Victim Impact Statements
The right to be heard at key stages of the justice and
corrections processes has, historically, been one of the key tenets of the
victims' rights discipline. Most states provide victims with varied rights
relevant to victim impact. According to the National Victim Center's 1996
- Forty-four states provide victims with the right to be heard as part of a
- All 50 states provide for the right to be heard at sentencing.
- Forty-three states provide for the right to be heard at parole hearings.
- Sixteen states provide for the right to be heard at pardon, commutation,
and/or clemency proceedings.
Types of Victim Impact Statements
There are currently eight types of victim impact statements (VIS)
that are utilized by courts and correctional agencies in the United States:
- Written VIS, accepted either in a written statement/letter from the
victim, or on a designated VIS form.
- Oral VIS (also known as "allocution"), where the victim personally
addresses the sentencing court or paroling, commutation, or clemency
- Audiotaped VIS.
- Videotaped VIS.
- Closed-circuit television VIS (which are especially applicable with cases
involving victim/witness intimidation).
- Child VIS offered in measures that are commensurate with the child
victim's age and cognitive development.
- Teleconferenced VIS (which are especially applicable for out-of-town
victims, and/or victims with disabilities).
- Community impact statements, utilized in federal cases involving drugs
and/or gang activities, in which representatives from affected neighborhoods
are invited to submit written VIS, or oral testimony, at community meetings
about how crime, drugs and gangs affect the quality of life in their homes and
The Value of Victim Impact Statements
In general, VIS provide victims with the opportunity to discuss
the physical, financial and emotional effects the crime has had on their
families, as well as themselves. Such input is vital to helping courts and
correctional authorities make informed decisions about sentencing and release.
In addition, VIS provide useful information about issues such as:
- Other financial obligations (such as child support, rent/mortgage
payments, costs for medical bills and counseling, insurance, living expenses,
- Financial losses (including repairs for crime-scene cleanup, and
replacement value of lost or stolen property).
- Measures to promote victim safety and security (including protective
orders, non-contact orders, supervised child visitation, and special
conditions of probation or parole).
- Victims' wishes relevant to their participation in victim/offender
programs (such as mediation/dialogue, family group conferencing, community
reparation boards, etc.).
- Victims' recommendations for offender treatment and supervision (including
attendance at victim impact panels, alcohol or other substance abuse
treatment, sex offender treatment, anger management, job skills development,
Barriers to Effective Victim Impact Statements
There are eight barriers identified by victims and service
providers that may inhibit effective, comprehensive usage of VIS:
- Indifferent forms.
- Multiple forms that must by completed more than once by victims, and that
are not shared among criminal/juvenile justice and correctional authorities.
- Using VIS as a restitution document only.
- The format of some VIS forms, which does not ask appropriate questions to
garner the most useful information, nor provide ample space for answers.
- Limited explanation of instructions for completing the VIS.
- Language barriers.
- Confidentiality concerns, i.e., whether or not the convicted offender
and/or his/her counsel have access to the VIS information.
- Lack of consideration of VIS by judicial and correctional authorities.
Special Considerations for Victim Impact Statements
Courts and correctional authorities should be aware of and, to
the degree possible, provide the following special services for victims in
completing their VIS:
- Interpreters for oral VIS when victims speak languages other than English,
including sign language.
- Assistance for illiterate victims to complete written VIS.
- Child victim impact statements.
Measures to Increase and Improve the Use of Victim Impact Statements
The most significant measure to expand and improve the use of VIS
is training and crosstraining of prosecutors, judges, probation and paroling
authorities, and victim service providers. In addition, victims should be
informed of their statutory or constitutional right to submit VIS at every
juncture of the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Agencies should practice due diligence in locating victims to secure VIS
information, and guarantee the confidentiality of such information. Plea
bargain, sentencing and parole hearings should be postponed until victims who
choose to submit VIS are allowed to do so. Finally, VIS provided at the time of
pre-sentencing or sentencing should be included in a confidential section of
offenders' case files, and should be reviewed by paroling, commutation, and/or
clemency authorities at the time of the offender's consideration for release.
Samples of VIS derived from the Victim Impact Statement: A Victim's Right
to Speak, A Nation's Responsibility to Listen manual published by the NVC
and MADD with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of
Crime, are included in Appendix I.
While all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the
federal government have statutory provisions for victim restitution, it is one
of the most under-enforced of all victims' rights. There are myriad barriers to
the enforcement of restitution, including but not limited to:
- Judicial orders of restitution which are not carried through to paroling
authorities to incorporate as conditions of community supervision.
- Other financial obligations -- such as court costs, fees, fines and costs
of incarceration -- often take precedence over victim restitution.
- The often misguided belief that "you can't squeeze blood from a turnip,"
referring to offenders who appear to be indigent.
- Lack of coordination among agencies regarding who collects and disburses
restitution to victims.
- Lack of automated systems to manage and expedite restitution collection
Correctional agencies must acknowledge -- through policies and practice --
that restitution is a basic right that holds offenders financially accountable
for their criminal actions, and provides victims with some monetary compensation
to cover their losses resulting from crime, which include property loss, medical
expenses, costs of counseling, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, and many
other considerations. Restitution should be ordered from adjudicated persons in
every case, regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed, in which a crime
victim suffers a loss, unless compelling and extraordinary reasons exist to the
The basic principles of a corrections-based victim restitution program should
include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Understanding of and adherence to state laws that govern the ordering,
collection and disbursement of victim restitution.
- Policies and procedures that clearly state who within the agency is
responsible for restitution collection and disbursement.
- Interagency agreements among courts, community corrections, institutional
corrections and relevant victim agencies (such as victim compensation)
regarding the management of restitution collection and disbursement.
- Cross-training programs among agencies having any responsibility for
victim restitution that identify and fill gaps in program implementation.
- Written information made available to victims that clarifies their rights
to restitution, as well as the specific roles and responsibilities of
individuals and agencies to implement these rights.
Helping Victims Document Their Losses
To ensure accurate and complete restitution orders, victims are
required to document their losses in writing for the court or paroling
authority. It is important to provide victims with guidelines about the types of
documentation that are needed to depict their out-of-pocket and projected
expenses for the future.
Some considerations for guidelines that should be provided in
writing to victims include, but are not limited to:
- Employer statements (letters or affidavits) that document unpaid time off
from work the victim took as a result of injuries from the crime, or
involvement in justice processes.
- Documentation of any workers' compensation claims submitted and/or claims
payments received by the victim.
- Copies of bills for services directly related to victims' financial
recovery from the crime.
- Any receipts for items or services.
- Documentation that estimates the value of stolen property.
- Photos of valuables that were stolen.
- Copies of any documentation, often provided by local law enforcement
agencies (e.g., records of serial numbers, photos, etc.), that is intended to
aid victims in the recovery of stolen property.
- Any law enforcement records that indicate the status of stolen property
(e.g., property recovered, recovered but damaged, etc.).
- Copies of victims' applications to and/or copies of checks received from
the state victim compensation fund.
- Copies of insurance claims and related correspondence between the victim
and his/her insurance company, as well as copies of checks the victim may have
received to cover losses.
During the presentence investigation, victims should be asked to
report information about their losses by completing or updating a financial
worksheet, and providing documentation as described above. A sample financial
worksheet is included in Appendix J.
The range of these losses can include the following:
- Emergency transportation to the hospital.
- Rape kit examinations that are not immediately paid by a third party.
- All expenses related to the hospital stay, including the room, laboratory
tests, medications, x-rays and medical supplies.
- HIV testing expenses, if applicable.
- Expenses for care provided by physicians (both inpatient and outpatient),
medication and medical supplies.
- Fees for physical or occupational therapy.
- Replacement of eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other sensory aid items
damaged, destroyed or stolen from the victim.
- Rental and related costs for equipment used for victims' physical
restoration, i.e., wheelchairs, wheelchair ramps, special beds, crutches, etc.
Mental Health Services
- Fees for counseling or therapy for the victim and his/her family members.
- Any costs incurred as a result of the victim's participation in support or
- Expenses for medications that doctors may prescribe for victims to help
ease their trauma following a crime.
- Costs associated with burials, i.e., caskets, cemetery plots, memorial
- Expenses for travel to plan and/or attend funerals.
Time-Off From Work
- To repair damage following property crimes.
- To attend or participate in court or parole proceedings.
- To attend doctors' appointments for injuries or mental health needs
directly resulting from the crime.
- Crime scene cleanup.
- Costs of replacing locks, changing security devices, etc.
- Expenses related to child or elder care when victims have to testify in
- Relocation expenses.
- Fees incurred in changing banking or credit card accounts.
Victimization often results in injuries or losses that are
long-term in nature. While it is not possible to accurately document such
projected expenses, it is possible to document expert opinions as to future
financial obligations the victim might incur as a direct result of the crime.
Victims should be advised to seek documentation (a letter or affidavit) from
professionals who are providing them with medical or mental health services that
offers an estimate of the victims' future treatment needs, as well as related
expenses. Such costs can include:
- Long-term medical treatment.
- Physical or occupational rehabilitation or therapy.
- Mental health counseling or therapy.
- Time that must be taken off from work to receive any of the above
The justice professional responsible for assessing victims' restitution needs
should provide this documentation to the court or paroling authority.
Assessing the Offender's Ability to Pay
The "other side of the coin" of victim documentation of financial
losses is conducting an assessment of the offender's ability to pay, in order to
recommend an appropriate restitution payment plan. The responsible justice
agency should evaluate the offender's current and future financial status in
making recommendations about both the amount of restitution, as well as the
Issues for consideration include, but are not limited to:
- Current employment status, including salary, benefits, and pension plans.
- Projections on future employability (that assess the type of job and
remuneration offenders might secure).
- Assets not essential to the offender's quality of life (excluding home or
automobile ownership), including such assets as savings accounts, investments
such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds, income from investment properties,
- Potential contingency funds, such as state and federal income tax returns,
winnings from lotteries, or inheritances.
In Summit County, Colorado, the Fifth Judicial District Probation Department
trains its officers to examine the entire financial situation of offenders when
looking at issues concerning their ability to pay restitution. For example, if
an offender owes restitution and owns expensive, non-necessity items (e.g.,
television or compact disc player), then the probation officer can ask the judge
to order the offender to sell their possessions to pay restitution to the
Alternative Methods of Restitution Collection
At times, it becomes necessary to employ innovative and more
controlled methods for collecting restitution when offenders fail to pay as
scheduled. Efforts implemented by a variety of agencies and jurisdictions
include the following:
- Civil remedies.
- Forfeiture of bond money for restitution obligations.
- Collection of restitution while offenders are institutionalized, as well
as once they are placed on parole.
- Providing incentives for incarcerated offenders to pay restitution.
- Acceptance of credit card payments.
- Converting restitution orders to community service.
- Extending the term of community supervision until the offender fulfills
his/her restitution obligations.
- Use of private collection agencies.
Additional resources relevant to victim restitution are included in the
"Restitution" section of the Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim
Services in Corrections notebook.
One of the most effective ways to encourage victim participation
in the entire criminal justice process is to ensure their safety from
intimidation or harm by offenders, or those associated with offenders. Whether
"participation" denotes serving as a witness for the prosecution, providing
victim impact statements, or offering testimony relevant to parole revocation
hearings, victims and witnesses are more likely to be involved if efforts are
made to promote their personal safety.
Correctional agencies have an important obligation to protect victims from
intimidation, harassment and/or harm by offenders under their supervision. A
combination of sound policies and modern technology offer many innovative
approaches to increasing and enforcing victim protection measures, including but
not limited to:
- Protective orders, restraining orders, or "no contact" orders, issued upon
the victim's request at no cost (with the most effective orders having no time
constraints, but rather issued as "permanent" orders by judges or paroling
- Protection for victims of domestic violence and/or stalking through
JurisMonitor -- a unit in the victim's home that signals the victim, local law
enforcement, and a centralized operations center when an offender, who is
wearing an electronic monitoring device, comes within a 150-500 foot perimeter
of the victim's home.
- Cell phones automatically programmed to dial "911" when a victim feels
threatened or at any risk from an offender.
- Panic buttons on necklaces that are linked to "911."
- Inmate phone systems that only allow pre-approved telephone contacts that
can preclude the victim.
- Institutional correctional agencies' policies and practices that monitor
inmates' outgoing correspondence and phone calls.
Paramount to victim protection are clearly written policies and procedures
- Conform with and enforce provisions of all state laws relevant to victim
protection, including protective orders, anti-stalking statutes, etc.
- Define intimidation, harassment and/or harm.
- Clarify what victims must do to seek protective measures, and which
individual(s), agency(s), or unit(s) are responsible for enforcement.
- Provide guidelines to victims for documenting instances of intimidation or
- Provide for inter-agency agreements that clarify respective roles and
responsibilities for victim protection and security.
Additional information about protecting victims is included in the
"Protecting Victims from Intimidation, Harassment or Harm" section of the
Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections
Handling Complaints from Victims and Witnesses
The majority of correctional agencies have received complaints
from victims and witnesses about harassment, intimidation or retaliation by
offenders and their families, and/or about issues related to offenders' release
and location. Yet only 40 percent of adult correctional agencies, 48 percent of
juvenile correctional agencies, and 50 percent of paroling authorities have
formal procedures for handling victims' complaints.
Policies and procedures for handling victims' complaints must be developed
- Designate to whom a victim should address his/her complaints and concerns.
- Establish guidelines for investigating the validity of complaints.
- Identify the range of responses an agency can take when complaints are
found to be valid.
- Notify the victim of the agency's response to his/her complaint.
The agency should educate victim service providers about its process for
handling victim complaints, so they can explain procedures and provide
appropriate contact information for victims, upon request.
For many victims, the parole process can be an intimidating and
frightening experience. Any feelings of safety or security they have had due to
the offender's incarceration are jeopardized by even considering the inmate for
parole. The need for information about the parole process becomes vital;
similarly, the importance of victim input into parole proceedings cannot be
There are 12 basic rights and services that paroling authorities should
provide to crime victims before, during and after the parole process:
- Information about the parole process (including parole hearings),
available in written, audio and/or video formats in languages commensurate
with victim populations in the agency's state.
- Notification (upon request and in writing) of upcoming parole proceedings
at least 60 days in advance of any hearing.
- Designation of professionals or volunteers to accompany victims to parole
- Procedures to keep victims and offenders separate by sight and sound at
parole hearings (i.e., in states where victim presence at the parole hearing
does not require offender presence at the same time).
- Waiting areas for victims that are separate by sight and sound from the
offender and his/her family and friends.
- Acceptance of victim impact statements before or during parole hearings in
person by the victim (allocution), written, audiotaped, and/or videotaped, and
in measures that are commensurate with the victim's age, cognitive
development, and culture (multilingual).
- Confidentiality of victim information and victim impact statements from
the offender and his/her counsel before, during and after parole hearings.
- Timely notification of the outcome of any decisions resulting from parole
- Notification of parole violations and relevant hearings to both the victim
of the original offense that resulted in incarceration, as well as the victim
of the offense for which the revocation hearing is being conducted.
- Information for victims about parole supervision, conditions of parole,
the name of the parole agent, and who to contact within the paroling authority
for additional information or resources.
- Training for all staff involved in parole proceedings about basic
victimology theory, along with an overview of state law, policies and victim
services relevant to the agency.
- Training for all state and local victim service providers about the parole
process and related victims' rights.
These rights and services should be described in detail in policies,
procedures and staff duty statements.
Additional information is included in the "Victim Services in Parole" section
of the Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in
There are four key issues relevant to all staff in the
correctional agency, as well as its victim services program team:
- Internal training.
- Informational bulletins.
- Internal advisory committee.
- Departmental forums.
All correctional agencies should incorporate a four-hour training
program for new employees, and at least a two-hour training program for veteran
employees as a component of their annual training. Issues to be addressed should
include, but not be limited to:
- Agency policies and procedures related to victims' rights and services.
- An overview of state victims' rights laws, especially those that mandate
corrections-based victims' rights and services.
- A system-wide perspective of victims' rights and services from law
enforcement through corrections, focusing on inter-agency collaboration.
- Victimology theory, victim trauma, the range of victim reactions to crime
and the criminal justice system, and victims' needs specific to the crimes
that were committed against them.
- National, state and local resources for victim information and referrals.
When possible, victims and local service providers should be asked to
co-present at any internal training sessions sponsored by the agency.
Agencies should also establish internal training goals that focus on how the
training will translate to improved programs and services for victims of crime.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) -- which incorporates divisions
responsible for community justice assistance, institutions, state jails and
parole -- established ten program goals that can be obtained through
comprehensive training, and which are to:
- Ensure that victims are treated with respect and dignity by all TDCJ
- Ensure that victims are provided with accurate information in the most
expedient manner possible.
- Ensure victims are aware of their rights in the criminal justice process
regarding notification and parole protest procedures.
- Ensure that TDCJ personnel are trained in victim sensitivity issues.
- Develop and assist a statewide professional victim liaison network in each
Community Supervision and Corrections Department, District Parole Office, and
Institutional Division prison unit.
- Create a Crime Stoppers program "behind the walls" of the Texas Department
of Criminal Justice Institutional Division facilities.
- Provide victims of violent crime the opportunity to have a structured,
face-to-face meeting with their offender(s) in a secure, safe environment, in
order to facilitate a healing recovery process.
- Develop a staff victimization and crisis response program for the TDCJ.
- Provide for the creation of a library for victims, victim advocates and
TDCJ staff on a statewide-access basis.
- Provide opportunities for the greatest possible access and use of
volunteers within TDCJ Victim Services.
The concept of informational bulletins, developed by the
California Department of Corrections Victim Services Program, provides
information to internal staff, as well as to agencies throughout the state and
nation that are interested in corrections-based victims' rights and services.
The bulletins (published quarterly) contain information about the Victim
Services Program's policies, services, current activities and programs, and
future plans. In addition, issues that are most important to victim clientele --
such as restitution, notification, allocution, protection, etc. -- are
summarized, with innovative solutions to meeting victims' needs offered whenever
Informational bulletins are helpful tools to keep agency staff apprised of
program activities and changes in policies or procedures relevant to victim
services, especially changes that may involve or affect them. For other
correctional agencies and allied professional justice agencies -- such as
prosecutors and the courts -- the bulletins share innovations and ideas that can
be easily replicated at the local, state and national level in other
Internal Advisory Committee
Members of the internal departmental advisory committee serve in
an advisory and review capacity to staff of the victim services program, and
assist in the development of program policies, procedures and resources.
Departmental training forums provide staff with an understanding
of various victim issues and concerns, as well as on-going activities and
programs within the agency. Activities include the identification of topics
(which are often tied to current trends affecting victims and/or the agency in
the state), resources needed, research of current activities and issues, and the
presentation of information to departmental staff.
The best place to host departmental forums is on institution or department
grounds. Considering the possibility that victim service providers may be
involved in the forums, this is a good way to introduce them to the department
Departmental forums should be conducted as "trainings-for-trainers" so that
participants can return to their work sites and educate other staff. Forums
should be held at least quarterly throughout the year. Presenters can include:
- Victim services program staff.
- Community-based victim service providers.
- System-based victim service providers, e.g., law enforcement, prosecutors,
public defenders, courts, etc.
- Crime victims and witnesses.
Responding to Workplace Violence in Correctional Settings
Physical assaults. Sexual harassment. Hostage-taking incidents.
Spitting and throwing feces and urine. Rape. And the ultimate violation: murder.
What to some people appears to simply be a litany of our worst violent crime
fears is, for many correctional professionals, a daily threat in their
workplace. While much attention has been focused on increasing incidents of
workplace violence in America, little attention has been paid to the violent
acts committed against those who dedicate their lives to public safety and
protection: corrections, probation and parole professionals.
There is a flawed assumption that people who choose corrections as their
profession must accept risks to their personal safety, and that being victimized
is "just part of the job." Certainly, corrections is a tough job that is made
even more difficult by the threat and carrying out of violent acts. And such
difficulties are enhanced when correctional agencies fail to adopt strong
policies and procedures that promote worker safety and victim assistance when an
employee is victimized on- or off-the-job.
Stress, Trauma, and the Corrections Professional
Stress theory, developed by Dr. Hans Selye and others, notes that
individuals exist in normal states of equilibrium, where they establish their
own personal boundaries, usually based on a certain order and understanding of
the world. Occasional stressors will move the individual out of the
state of equilibrium, but the majority of people most of the time stay within a
familiar emotional range. Trauma throws people so far out of their
range of equilibrium that it is difficult for them to restore a sense of balance
in life. And when they do establish a new sense of balance, it will often be
different than prior to the trauma, with new boundaries and new definitions.
Like most people, corrections professionals face developmental
stressors, which come from transitions in life, such as marriage and
divorce, parenthood and retirement. However, the level of chronic
stressors that occur over and over again is extraordinarily high for
corrections professionals: supervising heinous criminals; job tensions; and
feeling unsafe on an on-going basis due to the clientele with whom they
interact. When corrections professionals are faced with the sudden,
arbitrary acute stressor of a violent act perpetrated against them --
which compounds the many other stressors they endure -- the resulting trauma can
Ten Suggestions for Correctional Agencies and Administrators
Every correctional agency has an important obligation to its
employees to promote their safety and well-being. In order to shape the issues
that must be addressed, California Youth Authority, Office of Prevention and
Victims Services, Assistant Director Sharon English and public safety consultant
Anne Seymour developed ten suggestions for agencies and administrators to
respond to workplace violence:
- All corrections, probation and parole agencies should have clear policies
and procedures for responding to workplace violence that encourage reporting
of criminal incidents, and provide support for the victimized staff, witnesses
and entire unit or office in which the critical incident occurred.
- All agencies should have emergency response teams available around the
clock, with members trained in victimology theory, responses and
- Staff safety training programs should incorporate victim assistance, in
addition to worker safety and critical incident prevention.
- Management and administrative staff should be professionally trained in
death notification procedures that include in-person sensitive notifications,
crisis intervention, and on-site and continuing support for murdered
employees' family members.
- Supervisors and managers must receive training on how victimization
affects their employees' career choices, how victimized employees might treat
inmates, parolees, or probationers, and how victimized staff are viewed by
- Procedures on staff reintegration must be established and practiced,
focusing not only on the victimized staff member, but on his/her professional
peers as well.
- Corrections professionals should be involved in any disciplinary hearings
or criminal proceedings resulting from their victimization, including:
notification of case status; the right to be present at key proceedings;
submission of a victim impact statement; and protection from intimidation,
harassment or harm.
- Corrections has an on-going responsibility to the family of victimized
staff members. Efforts should be made to provide them with information, input
and support, not only at the crisis stage of the victimization, but in the
months that follow.
- Agencies should establish policies and procedures for rumor control
following a staff victimization or critical incident, which includes a brief
statement of facts for agency employees, as well as for the news media.
- Corrections, probation and parole agencies should establish strong
affiliations with local victim service organizations. Over 9,000 local
agencies can provide crisis intervention, support groups for victimized staff,
and training on victim trauma and reactions following a crime.
Appropriate Treatment for Victims and Survivors of Workplace
Agencies can lay a strong foundation upon which to implement
workplace violence strategies by clarifying employees' rights when they are
victimized in the line-of-duty. Just as crime victims in all 50 states and at
the federal level have a "Victims' Bill of Rights" that guides how the criminal
justice system should treat them, and how their cases will be handled, so should
correctional agencies articulate similar rights for the fair treatment of
correctional staff who are victimized by violence in the line-of-duty.
Guidelines for Correctional Employees Who Are Victimized in the Line-of-Duty
The following guidelines, modeled after "Victims' Bills of
Rights" adopted in most states, provide correctional agencies with ideas for
appropriate treatment of victimized staff, and offers employees a "checklist" of
supportive services that can be provided by the agency:
"As a victim of a serious crime committed while you were performing your
duties, you will:
- Be treated with dignity and respect by the Department and all of its
- Be provided with direct assistance and support from the Department's
Office of Victim Services for both you and your family.
- Be informed of these guidelines, as stated here, by your immediate
supervisor within 48 hours following the critical incident.
- Receive timely information about the status of the administrative and/or
criminal proceedings related to the critical incident.
- Have a timely disposition of your case.
- Be allowed to be present, upon request, at any administrative proceedings
related to the critical incident -- or to have a representative of your choice
present at such proceedings -- and to be present at any criminal proceedings
related to the critical incident, pursuant to state law.
- Have the opportunity to submit a victim impact statement -- either
written, oral, audiotaped or videotaped -- prior to the administrative
disposition of the case, and to have a record of your victim impact statement
maintained in a confidential section of the offender's case file, and to be
afforded this right in the event of a criminal prosecution, pursuant to state
- Be notified about the final disposition of the case in a timely manner.
- Be encouraged to enroll in the Department's Victim Notification Program --
regardless of whether your case is pursued as an administrative or criminal
matter -- in order to be kept informed of the offender's status and location,
pursuant to state law and agency policy, and to have your notification request
and related information kept confidential from the offender.
- Be provided with reasonable protection from the accused.
- Receive restitution from the offender, either monetarily or as an
appropriate form of community service within the corrections community, based
upon a recommendation from you.
- Receive workers' compensation and/or victim compensation, and to receive
assistance with completing the associated requirements.
- Receive referrals for mental health counseling, upon request, for both you
and members of your immediate family from a competent professional who is
qualified in providing crisis intervention and sensitive trauma response.
- Receive information about and a referral to supportive victim services and
assistance in your community."
* The rights in criminal proceedings must be defined by individual
correctional agencies in accordance with state (or federal) law.
Additional information about policies, protocols and programs relevant to
violence in the corrections workplace is included in the "Responding to
Workplace Violence and Staff Victimization" section of the Promising
Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections notebook.
Many corrections-based victim services are mandated by law. Of
the 27,000 federal and state statutes that currently guide the implementation of
crime victims' rights, many apply to correctional agencies. In addition, 29
states have passed state-level crime victim constitutional amendments, the
majority of which address victims' rights to participate throughout the
correctional process. The proposed federal constitutional amendment for victims'
rights introduced in the 104th Congress in 1996 (see Appendix K) also provides
for victims to participate and be heard in the corrections and parole processes
in adult, juvenile and military justice systems.
Corrections-based victim services programs, along with agency legislative
divisions, should work closely with state-level victim service coalitions to
determine victims' needs and concerns that can be addressed by new laws. These
important partnerships help develop mutual understanding of roles and
responsibilities relevant to victims. It also enhances the increasingly popular
approach of offering "team testimony" to legislative committees relative to
corrections-based victims' rights, with representatives of correctional agencies
testifying with victims and service providers about not only proposed
mandated rights and services, but also fiscal notes that determine the money
necessary to enforce new mandates.
The National Center for Victims of Crime in Arlington, Virginia has a
legislative database with 27,000 victims' rights statutes. Its 1996 Victims'
Rights Sourcebook offers a compilation and comparison of victims' rights
laws, many of which are pertinent to corrections. Correctional agencies can tap
these valuable resources to compare their states' corrections-based victims'
rights, and secure samples of other states' statutes -- affecting victim
notification, protection, restitution, victim input, and other topics -- that
can be used as models for replication.
This overview of program evaluation is derived from the
"Program Design, Development and Evaluation" chapter of A Guide to
Enhancing Victim Services within Probation and Parole, published by
APPA with support from the U. S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of
Crime in 1994.
Program design, development and staffing are the critical first phases of a
victim services program. These steps lay the foundation for program
implementation, which includes a specification of program features,
identification of a target population, articulation of program policies and
procedures, and a scheme for selecting, hiring and training program staff.
Programs are never instituted in a vacuum, i.e., they often can have significant
repercussions or effects on other areas of department operations and functions.
They are also rarely installed without a variety of problems or complications.
Moreover, programs are obliged to demonstrate that they are fulfilling claimed
objectives, and they are servicing an identifiable, needy population. Programs
should not be inaugurated without a method to learn about their planning,
structure, methodology and impact. Hence, there is a need for program
What is Program Evaluation?
Program evaluation is a set of tools for gathering information to
examine program formulation, implementation and outcomes. It is a means to
document the establishment of the program, and to show whether the program is
achieving its purported goals and serving its targeted clients. Program
evaluation is actually a multidisciplinary field of applied social science,
which draws on concepts and research protocols from psychology, sociology,
education, economics, administration and statistics. Program evaluation
ultimately seeks to improve the quality of program services through the
application of skills and methods for determining whether the program is:
- Necessary and useable.
- Delivering services as planned, and is meeting the expectations and needs
- Attaining its stated goals and is achieving those goals according to
- Having any unforeseen consequences or undesirable side effects (Posavac
& Carey, 1989).
Purposes of Program Evaluation
Program evaluation can accomplish a variety of purposes,
including but not limited to:
- Determine whether a particular program or programs are needed in a
specific area of service.
- Assist in the planning, staffing and budgeting of programs.
- Ascertain whether a program has been implemented according to its original
design and intent.
- Help determine whether a program should be continued as implemented,
expanded, modified or altogether eliminated.
- Gather information to improve ongoing program practices and services, and
to monitor the effectiveness of programs.
- Measure the intended and unintended impact of programs, and establish if a
program is achieving its goals and objectives.
- Yield information to satisfy internal record-keeping requirements, as well
as requests for information from funding bodies, the public and outside
- Provide a systematic, running record of program expenditures.
- Help make a choice between different programs or approaches being offered
in the same area of services.
- Aid in ensuring that a program is performing according to set standards
(Posavac & Carey, 1989).
Types of Program Evaluations
Evaluations of programs may be conducted from a number of
different viewpoints, and can be differentiated by the kinds of questions asked,
and the kinds of answers needed to make informed decisions about programs.
Therefore, the scope of an evaluation depends on the specific purposes for which
it is being considered (Rossi & Freeman, 1982).
The four general categories of evaluations are:
An assessment of need is designed to answer questions about the
target populations, such as their background characteristics, problem areas, and
the kinds of services they perceive to be important and helpful. Need
evaluations occur during the program planning stages, and provide data to shape
program structure and services. They may also suggest that a program is
unnecessary because the proposed services can be found elsewhere; because a
target population cannot be identified clearly; or because the identified
population does not express a strong desire for services or assistance. A need
evaluation of a victim services program would attempt to answer these questions:
- What types of victim services are currently offered through local criminal
- Will the prospective services supplement, replace, overlap or complement
existing victim services?
- Based on a survey (written, telephone, or in-person), what are the most
pressing needs of local crime victims as expressed by the victims themselves,
and by probation, parole and corrections staff?
- What are the present procedures for collecting victim restitution (or
notifying victims, seeking impact statements, providing protection from
- How would the future program coincide with current operations?
- Are victims' reported needs serious and broad enough to warrant a special
victim service program?
- Are there alternative mechanisms in the department to meet victims' needs
other than the proposed program?
- Approximately how many potential clients can be served by the proposed
- Given the program's initial conceptualization, what victims should be
targeted for services?
- Which of these victims would be easiest to access and most likely to be
helped by the program? Why?
An assessment of process is designed to answer questions about
program implementation. Once a program has been administered, evaluators can
document the extent to which the program was implemented as designed and is
serving the target population. Process evaluation is an examination of the
effort invested in a program and does not seek to establish program
effectiveness. Rather, it provides a systematic exploration of whether a program
is being administered in conformity with its original conceptualization (Rossi
& Freeman, 1982). A process evaluation of a victim services program would
attempt to answer these questions:
- How many victims are being assessed and contacted by program staff (daily,
weekly, monthly, yearly)?
- How many times, on average, is each victim contacted?
- What is the nature of these contacts (i.e., mail, phone, in-person, at
home, or within the agency)?
- How closely do written procedures correspond to the actual delivery of
- What are the specific disparities between plans and practice, and how
seriously do they affect operations?
- How does the victim services program interface with other department
- Are program policies and procedures consistent with those of the host
- How often do other department staff interact with program personnel?
- What is the purpose of those interactions (i.e., referral, advice, or
- Are program services being delivered within a reasonable period of time?
- Are there ways to expedite service delivery?
An assessment of outcome traditionally has been the major focus
for program evaluators, and is designed to answer questions about program
effects. Outcome evaluations are conducted after the program has been running
long enough to register an impact on its clients. An outcome evaluation gauges
the degree to which a program has influenced changes in the desired directions.
To conduct an outcome evaluation, a researcher must show persuasively that
impact was a function of program interventions, and cannot be accounted for in
other ways (Rossi & Freeman, 1989). An outcome evaluation of a victim
services program would attempt to answer these questions about program success:
How satisfied are victims with program services?
Are they satisfied with the:
- Types and range of services offered.
- Correspondence between their particular needs and program services.
- Number and nature of contacts they have had with program caseworkers.
- Their caseworker's responsiveness and sensitivity to their problems and
- Outcome of their case.
- Amount of restitution and compensation they have received.
- Timeliness of their case notifications.
- Information they were given about victim services and crime prevention.
- Services they received through referrals.
- Comfort and safety of the program office environment.
Are crime victims served through the program better off physically,
emotionally and economically, when compared to non-participating crime victims?
Do program services correspond with mandated victims' rights?
How do other department staff and allied justice professionals rate the
performance of the program with respect to professionalism, staffing, dedication
An assessment of expenditures is designed to answer questions
about program economics. Specifically, expenditure evaluations address the
cost-effectiveness of programs (i.e., do the benefits of the program justify the
investment needed to provide the services?) and the cost efficiency of programs
(i.e., is the program the most economical way to provide services, or can other
programs provide the same services at a lower cost?). A comprehensive evaluation
of expenditures requires estimates of the tangible and intangible benefits of
the program(s), as well as the direct and indirect costs of undertaking the
program(s). Cost analysis techniques have been well developed in business and
industry, and can be adapted to study human service programs. An evaluation of
expenditures for a victim services program would attempt to answer these
- What is the per capita cost of handling a case through the program?
- How does this cost compare with the costs reported by other programs in
probation, parole and corrections?
- What are the total overhead (including such costs as office space,
telephones, copy/fax machine use, and e-mail) and personnel costs of the
program (salaries and benefits)?
- Is the program exceeding its original budgetary allocation? Why are there
- Can any services be cut back or eliminated to save expenditures? Will
these reductions jeopardize program operations?
Client Needs Assessments
This section is taken from the"Program/Service Outcome
Evaluation" chapter of the training and resource manual Focus on the
Future: A Systems Approach to Prosecution and Victim Assistance
published by the National Victim Center with support from the U. S. Department
of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime in 1994. It was written by
Promising Practices and Strategies Project Director Trudy
One of the most valuable tools for a victim services program is regular
assessment of its clients concerning the effectiveness, sufficiency and quality
of its services, and the effectiveness and professionalism of its staff. All
programs receive some informal feedback from their clients, in the form of
letters or commendations or complaints, telephone calls, etc. But most programs
survey their clients more systematically at one time or another in order to find
out how they feel about the program's services, and to receive input on
improving program services. Victim assessments can be conducted through written
surveys that are given to clients as they exit the program or mailed to them
after the conclusion of their case. One disadvantage of mail surveys is that
many people do not respond, and it is difficult to be sure whether those who do
respond are truly representative. Assessments can also be conducted by telephone
or in person. These evaluations can be either random or routine.
Victim assessment surveys can help program personnel examine their current
policies, protocols and procedures to ensure that the program and service
providers exemplify the needed sensitivity and effectiveness when dealing with
crime victims. The useful data collected should indicate needed changes,
enhancements or revisions to improve the program's delivery of services and
enforcement of victims' rights.
Two examples of victim assessment surveys that can be easily modified for
correctional agencies -- developed by the Delaware County Juvenile Court Victim
Services Unit (Pennsylvania) and the Marion County District Attorney's Victim
Assistance Program (Oregon) -- are included in Appendix L.
Technology to Enhance Corrections-Based Victim Services
This section is adapted from the 1996 National Victim
Assistance Academy curriculum sponsored by the Victim Assistance Legal
Organization with support from the U. S. Department of Justice, Office for
Victims of Crime. It was written by Promising Practices and
Strategies Project Manager Anne Seymour.
Information Is Power
With the explosion of the information age, and the expansion of
the "information superhighway," victims, service providers and criminal justice
professionals have myriad opportunities to augment their individual and
collective power by accessing and sharing information electronically.
Information comprises the very foundation upon which many victims' rights and
services are based, including information about:
- Victims' rights mandated by statute and case law.
- Victim services available locally, at the state level or nationally.
- Case status.
- Offender status.
- Research that documents trends in crime and victimization.
- Personal support and resources available to help victims reconstruct their
lives following a crime.
In 1997, virtually all of these types of information are available
on-line to anybody who has a personal computer, telephone line and modem.
The growth in technological applications to manage the expansion and
development of victim service organizations, enhance case management and
tracking information for both victims and offenders, and simplify and expand
communications through the worldwide "information superhighway," holds great
promise for the discipline of corrections-based victim services. Knowledge about
and use of existing and emerging technologies can save greatly need time, money
and human resources for victim advocates, as well as crime victims.
The primary purpose of the victim service discipline is to help crime victims
obtain three basic objectives: rights, recovery and respect. Yet victims are
often barred from securing these objectives by ignorance, mis-impressions, and
lack of information. In a very real sense, information is the key that
allows access to victims' rights, recovery and respect. Unless victims are
made aware of their rights, as well as how and when to exercise them, such
rights have no meaning or usefulness. Simply put, information is the means
to victim service providers' ends. Indeed, it is the stock and trade of the
victim service discipline, and the driving force behind most services for
victims of crime. How victim advocates are able to gather, synthesize, analyze,
expand, distribute and dispense this precious commodity has a direct impact on
the success of the victims' rights movement.
Barriers to the Use of Technology to Benefit Victims
There are five common barriers to the implementation of
technologies that could benefit victims of crime:
- Security of victim information.
- The need for change management.
- Government and judicial policies relevant to technology.
"Technophobia" is the fear of utilizing new technologies. Victim
services and, indeed, the entire criminal justice system have traditionally
operated on a paper basis. The volumes of information relevant to crime victims,
in both criminal cases and in the provision of quality services, can generally
be found in paper format and files.
While some agencies are equipped with personal computers, are able to
communicate via facsimile machines, and have access to the "information
superhighway" through the Internet, many others utilize no technology
applications in their day-to-day activities.
Undoubtedly, the victims' rights discipline and, to some degree, the field of
criminal justice have been slow to harness the powers of technology. Very real
fears exist about technology applications: Will computer files be lost? What if
the electricity shuts off and our systems go down? Can we protect the
confidentiality of victim information? How can we become "computer literate"?
However, all these and other fears can be overcome with careful planning,
training, technical assistance and implementation of technology applications
that benefit victims. While initial efforts to become technologically savvy are
challenging, and at times difficult, service providers must view "the big
picture" in terms of the time, money and human resources that can be saved
through advances in technology, keeping in mind that the ultimate beneficiaries
are victims of crime.
For many agencies, the cost of technology appears to be
prohibitive to implementation. However, the cost of not harnessing the
effective powers of technology will soon outweigh the initial investment.
Both corporate America and the technology industry are reaching out to social
service organizations to augment their use of technology, as well as their
expertise relevant to computerization and management information systems. For
example, clearinghouses exist that provide used computers to non-profit
organizations for free. More and more victim service agencies are securing the
volunteer support of technology professionals on their Boards of Directors or in
advisory capacities to initiate and enhance the use of computers. As the
competition among technology firms grows more fierce, victim service providers
benefit from the marketing of software packages that are inexpensive and
adaptable to most personal computer systems. Furthermore, public policy
developments are beginning to support the implementation of technologies that
improve the provision of victim services (such as the Violence Against Women
Act passed by Congress in 1994 that authorizes the use of technologies that
benefit victims as a fundable outcome).
Security of Victim Information
Victim confidentiality is a priority for correctional agencies,
crime victims, and service providers. Much victim information related to
corrections is confidential by law or by agency policy. However, technology
today easily accommodates the security of any information that is deemed
confidential by the courts, including victim information.
Access to computer screens with confidential information can be limited only
to authorized users with passwords when software packages are developed. The use
of encryption, or "scrambling" of documents that are electronically transferred,
further prevents unauthorized access. In developing technologies that benefit
victims, careful consideration and planning relevant to the security of specific
information must be a priority. This can be accomplished by partnerships among
criminal justice and victim service professionals, as well as technology experts
who develop software packages and offender management information systems.
The Need for Change Management
Change management is the means by which organizations
successfully integrate technology with operations and people. While possessing
the most advanced technology to benefit victims is important, it is not
enough to ensure success. The best system can fail if it is not accepted by
the people whose job it is to use it.
There are four key components to change management:
- Leadership: Setting and articulating a compelling vision, mission
and agenda for change, then making this commitment visible, constant and
- Ownership: Creating an environment for the attitude, motivation
and commitment of individuals and groups within and allied to our nation's
victim service discipline, resulting in "buy-in" and ownership of change from
early involvement through the total change process.
- Enablement: Providing professionals with the knowledge, skills,
processes, technologies, structures, tools and advice to perform new roles in
a changing workplace and discipline.
- Navigation: Creating the environment to manage, integrate and
coordinate multiple change initiatives.
(The preceding section was excerpted from Andersen Consulting,
Change Management workshop, International Integrated Justice
Symposium, June 1995, New Brunswick, Canada.)
For corrections-based victim services programs, change management means that
- Understand the benefits to victims that technology has to offer.
- Be actively involved in planning activities that relate to applying
technology to victim services, criminal justice and corrections.
- Be flexible in their willingness to adapt to new ways of doing age-old
Government and Judicial Policies Relevant to Technology
Often state legislatures and/or judicial authorities must pass
new laws and regulations that guide the implementation of technology. The
acceptance of electronic data, imaging and signatures has been accompanied by
legal mandates that authorize their acceptance as official documents within the
criminal justice system. The National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg,
Virginia has shown great leadership in seeking changes in rules and laws that
allow for technological advances that streamline justice and benefit crime
Offender Management Information Systems
In the United States today, there is an important and welcome
move toward incorporating vital victim information into offender management
information systems. Instead of having multiple databases that relate to an
offender's case, and hence the victim's case, many jurisdictions are
centralizing databases that include victim information with substantial security
protections to ensure confidentiality.
One example is the statewide automated juvenile justice tracking system
utilized in Oklahoma. A variety of data about juvenile offenders is included in
the system, such as demographic, social and family information; case status and
disposition; gang affiliations; juvenile profiles; and supervision and placement
tracking. Two other key elements are victim notification and victim restitution.
Juvenile justice and allied professionals who are authorized to access this
information (from anywhere in the state, utilizing a personal computer that taps
into the centralized database repository) can quickly surmise if the victim has
been notified of the juvenile offender's status or release, and if restitution
has been ordered, collected and/or paid.
The incorporation of these and other vital data -- such as victim impact
information and protective orders -- into centralized offender management
information systems, with appropriate security precautions built in to ensure
victim confidentiality, should be a goal of corrections-based victim services
Case Tracking Technology
An important and recent phenomenon utilizes the power of current
technology to track offenders and their victims throughout the criminal justice
process. Case tracking serves five important purposes:
- Maintains up-to-date information on an offender's status and release.
- Provides substantial information about access to victim services, and
whether or not victims' rights as mandated by law are being upheld.
- Holds the criminal justice system accountable by providing useful and
timely data on case dispositions, including arrests, plea bargains, judicial
sentences and time served on actual sentences.
- Provides valuable data about victim and offender typologies.
- Provides law enforcement, criminal justice, corrections and victim service
providers with historical data related to victims and offenders that can guide
their approach to intervention.
The more America knows about criminal activity, the better our nation can be
equipped to prevent and combat crime. Equally as important, the more America
knows about victims -- who they are, what types of services they need
and are able to access, and whether or not their rights are implemented -- the
better our nation can be equipped to serve and assist victims.
The Automation of Victims' Rights and Services
Technological developments have been particularly beneficial to
victims and service providers in two areas: victim notification and victim
More than half of America's correctional agencies have automated
victim notification processes, as depicted in the following data derived from
the 1996 National Victim Services Survey of Adult and Juvenile Corrections
and Paroling Authorities (conducted by the National Center for Victims of
Crime as part of the Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services
in Corrections project):
Computerized approaches to the implementation of this significant victims'
right save time, money and human resources, and ensure that victims are notified
of an offender's release or impending parole hearing in a timely manner that is
in accordance with law.
The process of automated victim notification generally includes the
- Victims who request to be notified of an offender's release (either
through a prosecutor, victim service provider, Department of Corrections, or
paroling authority) have their name, address and telephone number
entered into a centralized database.
- The victim contact information is on a security screen, which means that
only authorized personnel (such as the victim service program manager or case
records personnel at institutions) have access to it.
- Computerized notification letters designed to provide details on the
offender's status, including release, upcoming release hearing, or death, are
keyed into the system, and matched to the relevant victim information file.
- At the appropriate juncture mandated by law (such as 60 days prior to
release), the letter is automatically printed out by the computer and
disseminated by the victim services program (in centralized systems) or case
records personnel (in decentralized systems).
The likelihood of victims "falling through the cracks" of notification
processes is significantly decreased with the use of automated systems.
Automating Victim Restitution
The frustration many victims face in receiving restitution that
has been ordered by a court or paroling authority can be significantly decreased
by automated restitution management software programs utilized by a number of
courts, correctional agencies and paroling authorities. Basically, a centralized
software system tracks restitution orders and compliance with such orders, and
provides victims with disbursement checks, as well as information about
One innovative restitution management program features the following
- Links multiple defendants, victims, cases and responsible officials in a
single case folder.
- Provides complete financial ledgers.
- Provides for pro rata distribution of partial payments.
- Provides 1,000 different levels of distribution priority.
- Provides for joint and several, as well as partitioned, liability.
- Accommodates the assignment of restitution to third parties (such as
- Calculates "ability to pay" worksheets.
- Determines payment schedules.
- Prints receipts for money collected, either individually or in batch mode.
- Provides delinquency tracking.
- Employs three levels of security.
- Prints disbursement checks.
- Tracks unclaimed funds.
- Provides a comprehensive set of reports including collection reports, case
histories, ledgers, impact statements, delinquency reports and payment
The application of this technology simplifies the complex and frustrating
process of restitution collection for the criminal justice system, victims,
service providers and offenders, and helps ensure that offenders are held
financially accountable to their victims.
U. S. Department of Justice Electronic Information Resources
There are a variety of resources available electronically from
the U. S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center and
National Criminal Justice Reference Service. An array of on-line services that
can be helpful to corrections-based victim services programs includes: a gopher
site; World Wide Web page; anonymous file transfer protocol (FTP) site; Justice
Information (JUSTINFO) electronic newsletter; an e-mail information and help
line; and the NCJRS Bulletin Board System.
A complete compendium of these services -- compiled for the 1996 National
Victim Assistance Academy text -- is included in Appendix L.
Fundraising for Victim Services
In recent years, there has been an evolution of networking among
victim service providers and correctional personnel. Correctional agencies
realize that if they are going to provide either mandated or voluntary services
to victims of crime, they need the input and assistance of experts in the field:
crime victims and victim service providers.
Unfortunately, most community-based victim service programs are
insufficiently funded. Generally, they are not-for-profit agencies that have
been founded and operated by people who have been personally touched by crime.
Victim services programs operate on minuscule budgets with limited personnel who
work long hours for low pay, or as volunteers. A growing number of these
agencies are interested in helping correctional agencies meet the needs of
victims. There are many dedicated victim service providers and victims who will
give tirelessly to help correctional agencies develop and operate victim
services programs. However, when it comes to weighing where they utilize their
limited personnel resources, they also need to examine where their financial
support is coming from. Often, this places corrections-based victim service
programs at the bottom of their lengthy priority list.
Some correctional agencies are able to reimburse victims and service
providers for their mileage expenses to attend meetings or provide educational
services such as the "Impact of Crime on Victims" programs or Victim Impact
Panels for offenders. Others provide a small stipend in addition to, or in place
of, mileage reimbursements.
Increasingly, correctional agencies have found unique ways to raise funds for
victim services programs in the communities where their institutions, offices or
work sites are located.
It is important to have clearly delineated policies and
procedures for fundraising activities that involve inmates, offenders under
community supervision, and/or staff. All donations must be strictly voluntary. A
copy of the California Department of Corrections policy on charitable
fundraising campaigns is included in Appendix M.
Fundraising Activities Sponsored by Offenders
Offenders under the supervision of the California Department of
Corrections are encouraged to participate in fundraisers for victim services
programs, and to make monetary donations of their own. Often, fundraising events
are held in conjunction with National Crime Victims' Rights Week during April of
each year. Offenders who choose to organize and participate in these activities
do so to show their appreciation of victims and service providers who
voluntarily participate in inmate education programs. Some offenders also view
their contributions as a way to help make amends for their own crimes.
Correctional staff are also encouraged to help plan for and participate in
In Fiscal Year 1995-96, the California Department of Corrections raised
hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations that were provided to local victim
services programs, many of which were located in the same communities as the
work sites/institutions that raised the money.
In addition to special events and monetary contributions, offenders can offer
many in-kind contributions to victim service organizations and crime victims.
- In South Carolina, parolees build baby furniture for local domestic
violence and homeless shelters.
- In Texas, female inmates make rag dolls that are distributed to needy and
- In some states, part of the profits of sales of inmate artwork are given
to victim services programs.
- The Association of Paroling Authorities, International provided a check to
Ellen Levin, Director of Justice for All, that was derived from proceeds from
its annual conference.
There are many creative ways that correctional professionals and the
offenders they supervise can support victim services, including but not limited
- Organizing or participating in walk-a-thons or fun runs.
- Selling buttons, mugs, t-shirts and other items.
- Food sales (including baked goods and candy).
- Clothing, toy and food drives.
- Portraits/photos (paid for by inmates who like to have pictures to send
home to their loved ones).
- Craft sales and art auctions.
- Sporting competitions.
- Recycling of aluminum cans.
- Benefit concerts.
In addition, correctional agencies often support the charitable and public
awareness activities of state and local victim services programs. Many of these
activities are held in conjunction with annual commemorative weeks, such as
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and National Drunk and Drugged
Driving Awareness Week. Correctional personnel should seek opportunities to
serve on planning activities for these special events, and encourage their
professional peers to get involved through either in-kind or direct monetary
donations. A calendar of victim-related annual commemorations is included in
The Angola "Break-in Run and Walk," an annual event sponsored by the
Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, has corporate sponsorship
from a local casino. Proceeds went to the state's Crime Victims Reparation Fund
and the Department's inmate scholarship fund.
Fundraising for victims' programs not only improves the scope and quality of
services for victims. It also helps cement the bond between professionals in the
disciplines of corrections and victim services -- a bond that provides the
foundation for increased mutual understanding, respect and cooperation.
As the justice community continually seeks new, innovative
approaches to fulfill its mission and goals, the concept of restorative justice
has emerged as an approach that incorporates crime prevention, violence
reduction, offender accountability, victim assistance and public safety.
In the restorative model, offenders, crime victims and the community are
all considered clients of justice processes, including corrections. As
such, the involvement and interests of these three client populations become
core to the planning, development, implementation and evaluation of
justice-related programs and services.
At a national teleconference on restorative justice sponsored by the National
Institute of Corrections (NKC) in December 3996, a panel of experts identified
several core values of restorative justice:
- Crime is an offense against human relationships.
- Victims and the community are central to the justice process.
- The first priority of justice processes is to assist victims.
- The second priority of justice processes is to restore the community, to
the degree possible.
- The offender has personal responsibility to victims and to the community
for crimes committed.
- The offender will develop improved competency and understanding as a
result of the restorative justice experience.
- Stakeholders share responsibilities for restorative justice through
partnerships for action.
As described by Dr. Gordon Bazemore, Director of the Balanced and Restorative
Justice Project at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Lauderdale, the
conceptual framework of this approach to justice can best be described as a
combined emphasis on three programming priorities (NOTE: Bazemore's
model was developed specifically for juvenile offenders):
"Accountability: Restitution, community service and victim/offender
mediation create an awareness in offenders of the harmful consequences of their
actions for victims, require offenders to take action to make amends to victims
and the community and, whenever possible, involve victims directly in the
"Community protection: Intermediate, community-based surveillance
and sanctioning systems channel the offender's time and energy into productive
activities. . . . A continuum of surveillance and sanctions provides a
progression of consequences for noncompliance with supervision requirements and
incentives that reinforce the offender's progress in meeting competency
development and accountability objectives.
"Competency development: Work experience, active learning and
service opportunities provide opportunities for offenders to develop skills,
interact positively with conventional adults, earn money, and demonstrate
publicly that they are capable of productive, competent behavior."
The shift from what some call "retributive justice" to restorative justice
has many implications for victims of crime. Key to these changes are active
involvement in the justice process, as well as a defined role in achieving
offender accountability. This shift is depicted in the chart below (which
includes definitions of "retributive" and "restorative" justice developed by
noted author Howard Zehr, and "implications for victims" developed by public
safety consultant Anne Seymour).
The shift from "retributive justice" to restorative justice
|Retributive Justice ||Restorative Justice ||Implications for Victims |
|The criminal justice system controls crime. ||Crime control lies primarily in the community. ||The community - including victims and their allies -
participates in and directly benefits from deterrence. |
|Offender accountability defined as taking
punishment. ||Accountability defined as assuming responsibility and taking action to
repair harm. ||Offenders are held directly accountable to
|Crime is an individual act with individual
responsibility. ||Crime has both individual and social dimensions of responsibility. ||Prevention, intervention, and breaking the cycle of
violence are important considerations. |
|Crime is an act against the state, a violation of the
law, an abstract idea. ||Crime is an act against another person of the community. ||The individualization of the victim and
breaking the cycle of violence are important considerations. |
|Punishment is effective:
- Threat of punishment deters crime.
- Punishment changes behavior.
|Punishment alone is not effective in changing behavior and
is disruptive to community harmony and good relationships. ||The victim is individualized as central
to the crime and the criminal justice system process, with the community
duly noted as also being affected by crimes. |
|Victims are peripheral to the process. ||Victims are central to the process of solving a crime. ||Restorative justice principles are
|The offender is defined by deficits. ||The offender is defined by his or her capacity to make reparation. ||Reparations to the victim and to the community are a
|Focus on establishing blame, on guilt, on
past (did he/she do it?). ||Focus is on problem solving, on liabilities/obligations,
and on the future (what should be done?). ||A central goal is to deter future criminal action
through conflict resolutions, problem solving, and fulfilling obligations
to the victim and to the community. |
|Emphasis on adversarial relationships. ||Emphasis is on dialogue and negotiation. ||Victims are active participants in determining
appropriate reparations. |
|Imposition of pain to punish and deter/prevent. ||Restitution is a means of restoring both parties; goal of
conciliation/ restoration. ||Restitution holds the offender accountable and is
meaningful to both him/her and the victim. |
|Community is on the sideline, represented abstractly
by the state. ||Community as facilitator in restorative process. ||Just as the community is negatively affected by
crime, it is positively affected by restorative justice process. |
|Response is focused on the offender's past
behavior. ||Response focused on harmful consequences of the offender's behavior;
emphasis on the future. ||Crime deterrence in the future focuses on victim and
public safety. |
|Dependence on proxy professionals. ||Direct involvement by participants. ||Victims and their allies are directly involved in
the criminal and juvenile justice and restorative justice
In the United States, the concept of victim/offender
programs is relatively new, spanning just two decades of development and growth.
While these programs share many goals, there is usually one important underlying
principle: to provide forums that promote greater understanding of the impact
that crime has on victims and their families, offenders' families, neighborhoods
and communities, and to promote offender accountability and a positive learning
experience for all involved participants.
Why would victims -- who have been harmed by criminal or delinquent
activities -- want to again be face-to-face with the person who hurt them? For
many victims, burning questions in the aftermath of a crime need to be answered:
- Why did you choose to victimize me instead of somebody else?
- Does my offender realize the emotional, physical and financial losses I
have endured as a result of his/her action?
- Does my offender feel any remorse?
- Can my offender, through words or actions, be directly accountable to me
so I can reconstruct my life in the aftermath of a crime?
For juvenile delinquents and criminal offenders, victim/offender programs can
offer substantial value, including:
- An understanding of the impact their crimes have on their victims and
- Incentives for personal accountability in the forms of apologies,
financial restitution and community service.
- A good learning experience and competency development that can provide
positive alternatives to criminal and delinquent activities.
Communities as a whole also stand to benefit from the implementation of
- Crime and delinquency affect not only the direct and indirect victim. The
"domino effect" of any crime -- regardless of its severity -- increases
communities' fears and feelings of vulnerability.
- In many victim/offender programs, the active involvement of community
representatives sends a strong message that crime will not be tolerated, and
that investment in individual and public safety is a community priority.
- Victim/offender programs often provide cost-effective alternatives to more
retributive forms of justice.
- When victims are provided with positive tools to reconstruct their lives,
they are able to function better as contributing members of a community, which
provides universal benefits that cannot be overlooked.
The Implementation of Victim/Offender Programs
Victim/offender programs and services are not for
everybody. Such programs should not operate in a vacuum, but rather be
an integral component of system- and community-based services for both victims
Eleven recommended guidelines for the implementation of victim/offender
programs include the following:
- A clearly stated mission statement, with supporting goals and objectives,
to guide program development, focusing on outcomes and possible benefits
relevant to victims, offenders and the community.
- Leadership from a "change champion" -- either an individual or entity who
can provide vision and guidance in program implementation.
- Consistent involvement in program planning and implementation from victims
and victim service providers.
- Structure that clarifies the role of the program within the criminal or
juvenile justice system, as well its role related to community-based
- Comprehensive knowledge of research and theory related to victimization,
crime, juvenile justice, and offenders to provide a basis for program
- Intensive training and cross-training to establish and clarify program
expectations, and increase knowledge of professionals and volunteers involved
with program planning, development and evaluation.
- Written policies, procedures and protocols to guide planning and
- Measures to ensure that victim participation is strictly
voluntary, with no perceptions of coercion.
- Policies and plans that address program evaluation.
- Understanding of existing victim/offender programs to facilitate knowledge
exchange, and to avoid "reinventing the wheel."
- Written documentation of key program activities (planning, implementation
and evaluation) to facilitate knowledge expansion and exchange among
victim/offender program practitioners and allied professionals.
Examples of Victim/Offender Programs
A number of victim/offender programs are being successfully
implemented in both institutional and community corrections settings:
- Community reparation boards, consisting of community members
appointed by the Department of Corrections, provide a sentencing option for
non-violent offenders to make reparation to victims and the community.
Reparative activities include: restitution; community work service;
mediation/dialogue; cognitive skills development sessions; victim empathy
programs; and decision-making programs.
- Community/neighborhood impact statements provide an opportunity
for citizens whose lives are detrimentally affected by crime -- such as drug-
and gang-related illegal activities -- to inform the court about how such
crimes affect their quality of life.
- Family group conferencing involves the youthful offender and
his/her family, the victim and his/her family or designated representative,
and a representative of the juvenile justice system. The outcome of family
group conferencing is the formulation of a plan that holds the offender
accountable, provides the victim with input and restitution, and helps the
offender learn new skills that will help him/her to avoid future reoffending.
- Victim/offender dialogue (also called "mediation") is a
structured, voluntary meeting between a victim and offender with a trained
facilitator to discuss the impact of the crime, and develop an agreement that
attempts to hold the offender accountable and make amends to the victim, as
well as provide the offender with learning or competency development
- Restitution to crime victims provides monetary compensation for
losses they endured as a result of crime. Restitution can also be made to
crime victim compensation programs or victim service agencies.
- Restorative community service performed by offenders can improve
the quality of life for both the community and victims. Examples include work
crews that clean graffiti, direct service to the victim if he/she chooses, and
improving safety measures (such as locks) for elderly citizens' homes.
- Community work service programs provide opportunities for
offenders to work, develop new skills, and be paid so they can, in turn,
fulfill their restitution obligations.
- Victim awareness education programs/panels provide an educational
opportunity for offenders to learn about how their delinquent and criminal
activities detrimentally affect their victims, their communities, their own
families, and themselves. Such programs range from two-hour panels to a
structured 40-hour educational program.
- Victim impact statements allow the victim to tell the court about
the psychological, physical and financial impact a crime had on them. Victim
impact statements can be delivered in writing, in person, or by
audio/videotape, and in measures that are commensurate with the victim's age,
cognitive development, ability and culture.
- Victim notification of the youthful offender's status keeps the
victim apprised of the case status, from arrest through sentence, community
corrections or detention placement.
Additional information and resources relevant to this topic can be found in
the "Victim/Offender Programs" section of the Promising Practices and
Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections notebook.
This compendium was developed to provide a comprehensive overview
of corrections-based victim services. A more in-depth examination of the topics
contained in this compendium -- along with a wide range of resources for
promising practices -- is provided in the Promising Practices and Strategies
for Victim Services in Corrections notebook.
Four additional manuals are recommended as resources for professionals who
seek to initiate or enhance corrections-based victim services:
- Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in Probation
and Parole published by the American Probation and Parole Association
- National Victim Assistance Academy Curriculum Notebook published
by the Victim Assistance Legal Organization (VALOR).
- Focus on the Future: A Systems Approach to Prosecution and Victim
Assistance published by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
- Helping Victims and Witnesses in the Juvenile Justice System: A
Program Handbook published by the U. S. Department of Justice, Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
In addition, a variety of projects sponsored by OVC, NIC, the Corrections
Office, and ASCA are currently in development, and address topics including, but
not limited to:
- Responding to workplace violence in correctional settings
- Restorative justice.
- Victims of juvenile offenders.
- Promising practices and strategies in technology to benefit victims.
- Victims of gang violence.
Information about these and other valuable resources is available from the U.
S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center by calling
This project was supported by Grant No. 96-VF-GO-K003 awarded by the Office
for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
The Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, coordinates the
activities of the following program offices and bureaus: Bureau of Justice
Assistance; Bureau of Justice Statistics; National Institute of Justice; Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of
Crime. Points of view in this document are those of the authors, and do not
necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department
This compendium of corrections-based programs and services for
victims was developed as part of the Promising Practices and Strategies for
Victim Services in Corrections project, sponsored by the National Center
for Victims of Crime, et al. with support from the Office for Victims of Crime.
The project has benefited from the significant contributions of practitioners
and researchers in institutional and community corrections, and victim services
This overview compendium of promising practices and strategies was developed
by Project Manager Anne Seymour, with significant contributions and editing
support from the following professionals:
- Mary Achilles, Pennsylvania Board of Probation &
- Diane Alexander, National Center for Victims of Crime
- Kay Crockett, Missouri Department of Corrections
- Sharon English, California Youth Authority
- Trudy Gregorie, Project Director, National Center for Victims of
- Ellen Halbert, Texas Board of Criminal Justice
- Karin Ho, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
- Susan Laurence, Project Monitor, Office for Victims of Crime,
U.S. Dept. of Justice
- Mark Lazarus, Florida Department of Corrections
- Brett MacGargle, South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice
- Sandi Menefee, California Department of Corrections
- Cranston Mitchell, Missouri Board of Probation & Parole
- Bill Stutz, Washington State Department of Corrections
In addition, the National Center for Victims of Crime is grateful to the many
correctional agencies who provided summaries and samples of their promising
practices and strategies for victim services in corrections, which are
incorporated throughout this text.
This compendium is dedicated to Susan Laurence, Project
Monitor' Office for Victims of Crime, who has since 1991, provided wisdom and guidance to professionals nationwide who
seek to improve corrections-based victim services.