to President Ronald W. Reagan
The 2005 Silver Anniversary of National Crime Victims' Rights
Week is dedicated to President Ronald W. Reagan, who first proclaimed
this time-honored national observance on April 8, 1981.
In proclaiming the first National Crime Victims' Rights Week,
President Reagan said: We need a renewed emphasis on, and
an enhanced sensitivity to, the rights of victims. These rights
should be a central concern of those who participate in the criminal
justice system, and it is time all of us paid greater heed to the
plight of victims. Twenty-five years later, his eloquent
words still ring true.
Consider for a moment the plight of crime victims in 1981.
We need a renewed emphasis on, and an
enhanced sensitivity to, the rights of victims.
President Ronald W. Reagan, 1981
There were 41.4 million crimes committed in 1981, as compared
to 24.2 million violent and property crime victimizations in 2003. Victims' rights were
virtually an oxymoron, as few existed and even less were implemented
in accordance with the nascent law of the era. The federal Crime
Victims Fund was not even on the horizon a Fund that, since
established by President Reagan and the U.S. Congress in 1984,
has provided over $6 billion in financial support for victim compensation
and victim services from fines, fees and assessments from federal
criminal offenders. There were only a handful of programs that
provided assistance and support to crime victims, as compared to
over 10,000 community- and system-based programs in 2005, including
nearly 5,700 programs that receive support from the Crime Victims
President Reagan literally put crime victims' rights, needs
and concerns on the American agenda of public safety and public
health concerns. He established clearly and convincingly that victims' rights
are human rights that affect us all. By establishing his President's
Task Force on Victims of Crime in 1981, and then taking its Final
Report and recommendations to heart, he created a vital venue
that made crime victims' needs and rights a priority for
his Administration and those that followed it, and for our Nation
as a whole.
His historical and pioneering efforts on behalf of victims of
crime in America are best described by California Judge Lois Haight,
who chaired his 1981 President's Task Force on Victims of
Twenty-five years ago, with few crime victims' rights
and very limited victim services, President Ronald Reagan began
truly pioneering efforts that created a vision for our field and,
for the first time, focused national attention on the plight of
victims of crime. Without his efforts, we would not have had the
landmark President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, whose
1982 Final Report and recommendations resulted in the creation
of the Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of
Without the vision and leadership of President Reagan, there would
- National Crime Victims' Rights Week.
- President's Task Force on Victims of Crime that,
in 1982, produced a Final Report and 68 recommendations
that provided the foundation for victims' rights and services
in years to come.
- Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department
of Justice established in 1983 that has become America's
driving force behind efforts to treat victims with dignity and
respect, implement their rights under law, and educate the public
about the impact of crime on victims, families and communities.
- Attorney General's Task Force on Family Violence in
1984 that, for the first time, examined the scope and impact of
domestic violence in America, and developed recommendations to
improve our nation's law enforcement, criminal justice and
community response to offenses that, previously, were considered
merely family matters.
- National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which provided
strong incentives to states to raise their minimum drinking
age to 21 the national law today.
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that
was established by President Reagan in 1984.
- Victim/witness programs within all U.S. Attorneys' offices,
and within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
- National Child Safety Partnership with 26 member organizations
to enhance private sector efforts to promote child safety and
public awareness of child abuse.
- Greatly needed public attention and funding to victims
of crime in Indian Country.
The timing was right. The leadership was committed. The vision
was created. As Former Nevada Governor Robert Miller, a member
of Reagan's President's Task Force on Victims of Crime,
said: The time had come, the place was there and, fortunately,
President Reagan and Attorney General Ed Meese had the foresight
to move forward on it.
Task Force Chair Lois Haight summarizes the influence and impact
of Reagan's efforts: The victims' rights' field
as we know it today would not exist without the amazing
vision and foresight of President Reagan. When crime victims in
2005 are treated with compassion, afforded rights, and have access
to services and support, they can join us all in thanking
and paying tribute to President Ronald Reagan, who paved this vital
path to justice.
One of Reagan's predecessors, President Woodrow Wilson, said, You
are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the
world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer
spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.
This spirit of hope and achievement described by President
Wilson embodies the spirit of the field of crime victim services
today. There is no greater tribute to President Ronald Reagan than
|National Crime Victims' Rights
Week: Justice Isn't Served Until Crime Victims Are
||April 1016, 2005