Chapter 20

Mastering the Information Age

Abstract: The Information Age holds tremendous promise for victims of crime and those who serve them. Innovative technologies are being utilized to streamline the criminal justice process, create a "seamless" delivery of services to constituents including victims, and strengthen our nation's capabilities to assist and serve victims. The wide-ranging potential offered by the Internet provides information and resources on-line, including many from the U.S. Department of Justice, any time to victims and service providers.

Learning Objectives: Upon completion of this chapter, students will understand the following concepts:

1. Barriers to the implementation of technologies that benefit victims.

2. How technologies can be utilized to streamline the delivery of justice, as well as victims' rights and services.

3. The resources available on the "Information Superhighway," as well as how to access them.

4. Victim assistance and criminal justice resources available on-line from the U.S. Department of Justice and allied federal agencies.


Information is power.

With the explosion of the information age, and the expansion of the "information superhighway," victims and service providers 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:

In 1995, virtually all of these types of information are available on-line to any victim or service provider 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 super-highway," holds great promise for the discipline of victims' rights and 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 (Seymour, 1995, p. 1).

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 (Beatty, 1995, p. 1).

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:

  1. "Technophobia."
  2. Cost.
  3. Security of victim information.
  4. The need for change management.
  5. Government and judicial policies relevant to technology.


"Technophobia" is the fear of utilizing new technologies. Victim service providers 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 service providers 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 movement has 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 grass roots victim service providers and small agencies, the cost of technology appears to be prohibitive to implementation. However, 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, 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 service providers. Much victim information related to the criminal justice system 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:

(The preceding section was excerpted from Andersen Consulting, Change Management workshop, International Integrated Justice Symposium, June 1995, New Brunswick, Canada.)

For victim service providers, change management means that they must:

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 victims.

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 insure 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 the victims' rights movement.

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:

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 restitution.

Victim Notification

Approximately half of America's Departments of Corrections have automated victim notification processes. These 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 following:

The likelihood of victims "falling through the cracks" of notification processes is significantly decreased with the use of automated systems.

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 delinquent accounts.

One innovative restitution management program features the following functional specifications:

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.

The Courtroom of the Future

Today, courtrooms are inundated by massive volumes of paper related to court cases. Original and many duplicate copies of case forms, evidence, pleadings and other documents are standard in virtually any criminal or civil case. The storage and dissemination of myriad documents contribute to considerable delays in the delivery of justice, and create a "paper maze" that is often difficult to maneuver for victims, witnesses, and those who serve them in the justice system.

The advent of remarkable new technologies can substantially streamline court processes and, as such, the efficient delivery of justice in civil and criminal cases. The following applications of technology offer many benefits to victims and witnesses, who are most often affected by the slow pace of court proceedings.

Computer-integrated Courtrooms

The computer-integrated courtroom in the United States District Court in Phoenix, Arizona, provides judges, attorneys and court personnel with many opportunities to perform their duties in a more efficient and productive manner. As described by the Honorable Roger G. Strand, U.S. District Judge from Phoenix (1989):

"A computer-integrated courtroom (CBC) is a combination of hardware and software designated to accomplish specific tasks in the courthouse setting. The Phoenix CBC utilizes a . . ."local area network" linking ten DOS work stations. A local area network, or LAN, is a system that electronically links a number of otherwise separate personal computer work stations together so they can communicate with each other, and so they can share one central data base that is created and maintained on a specific item of computer hardware called a "file server." The work stations are located on the judge's bench, at each counsel's table, and at the courtroom deputy clerk's station, the court reporter's position, the secretary's desk, and each law clerk's desk. In addition, the judge has a work station in chambers, and the court reporter, as LAN manager, has a work station in his or her office, along with a 70-megabyte, 386 file server. The local area network permits sharing of the data base by all users, thereby greatly enhancing the efficiency of the court in the disposition of its business."

Real Time Translation

With real-time translation, the testimony of a witness appears on the computer monitor in plan English text within a matter of seconds from the time the words were spoken. This "computer magic" is accomplished by matching the reporter's stenographic keystrokes with the same stroking already stored in the reporter's "computer dictionary" and associated with a specific English word. If a match occurs, the English word appears on the screen. If a match does not occur, an "untranslate" appears on the screen in the form of the stenographic keystrokes. Although the stenographic keystroke occurs sometimes, almost always the words that were just spoken appear typed on the screen in front of you. Untranslates, of course, are unreadable to the untrained eye but can later be corrected by the court reporter or by an assistant. Ordinarily, untranslates occur when new words are not already in the court reporter's computer dictionary (Beatty, 1995, p.1).

There are many obvious benefits to real-time translation. Perhaps most significant is that it brings courts into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act by providing hearing-impaired victims, witnesses and jurors with a computer monitor that allows full participation in criminal justice proceedings. By continuous referral to the real-time monitor, the need for read-backs of testimony is eliminated. In addition, real-time allows second parties in civil cases -- including victims -- to "be present" at bench conferences by reading the content of discussions on their monitor.

Virtual Writing

An important new technology, which plays an important role in the "courtroom of the future," is virtual writing. Similar to current technology utilized by some Departments of Motor Vehicles to transfer a person's signature electronically to his or her driver's license, virtual writing can, when combined with other technologies, hasten the delivery of justice and, in particular, the protection of crime victims. With a few exceptions (such as cases that require witnesses), electronic signatures are legally accepted and binding in the criminal justice process. Virtual writing technology was described by Dora S.M. Lee of G2 Research, Inc. in Government Technology:

"Virtual writing is an exciting new technology which allows an individual to sign an original document located hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away. To begin the process, the original document is placed face up inside the scanner/writer device and a security door is locked until completion of the transaction. The document is scanned into the host system. When the individual is ready to sign the document, he or she calls the host system via a modem through regular telephone lines and the imaged document is transmitted to the remote system for the individual's review. The document can be scrolled and magnified as needed. With a stylus, the individual signs the image of the document and may also add any handwritten notes he or she may wish to affix to the original.

The signature and any handwritten notes are transmitted by modem and reproduced in ink on the original document by an ink plotter. The signed original is then removed from the scanner/writer device, and the transaction is complete.

Within state and local government, the criminal justice sector -- namely departments of corrections and courts -- has been the first to employ virtual writing technology. Currently the technology is utilized the most by duty judges who are on-call in the evenings and on weekends.

For example, in order for a sheriff to respond to a domestic violence dispute, he or she must sometimes obtain a restraining order signed by a judge. With virtual writing, the sheriff simply scans the restraining order into the system. Meanwhile, through the remote system, the judge receives the image of the restraining order at home, reviews the order, signs it and transmits it back to the sheriff. Virtual writing therefore eliminates the need for the sheriff to bring the restraining order to the judge's home for a signature, thus saving time and money, and dramatically reducing the time required to respond to the complaint."

Applications of virtual writing technology, as described in the above example, have important implications for crime victims. In addition to speeding up the process of justice, it can also decrease the amount of time it takes for victims and witnesses to receive official protection orders from the courts.

Electronic Filing and Data Interfaces

The cutting-edge technology afforded by electronic filing allows attorneys and other entities who interact with the court -- including paralegals, insurance companies, investigators, mortgage companies, newspapers, and workers compensation agencies -- to electronically link with the court (and with each other) 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Delays in court proceedings that are a consistent source of frustration for victims can be considerably decreased by electronic data interfaces. Information that is accessible through electronic filing systems include:

For victims and service providers, electronic filing and data interfaces simply mean that they will have greater and more expedient access to vital case information. Individuals who are "on-line" via a modem can tap into public court documents from their personal computers, saving time and money that is currently spent trying to track down case information. For victims specifically, electronic data interfaces will speed the delivery of justice, and ensure that motions, evidence and other documents related to their cases are filed in a timely manner before court-authorized deadlines.


One of the most significant technologies to create a "paperless court" environment is imaging, which allows court personnel to scan documents and store them on optical disks. Court personnel -- including judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys -- as well as the public (including victims) then have "instant access" to imaged information because documents (that include pleadings and citations) are scanned onto the optical disk upon receipt. While the legality of accepting imaged documents is a continual concern for courts, the Association of Information and Image Management's publication entitled Performance Guidelines for the Legal Acceptance of Records Produced by Information Technology Systems outlines three keys to increasing the likelihood that imaged records will be accepted as reliable and accurate, and therefore trustworthy by courts:

  1. The records are produced as part of regular activity.
  2. Methods used to produce the records ensure or enhance accuracy.
  3. The timeliness of the records (with acceptance as evidence likely decreasing the further from the event that they are produced).

Public and Victim Access to Court Records

Many victim service providers can attest to the vast amount of time one can spend trying to access copies of information related to a victim's civil or criminal case. Today, more and more courts are establishing public "kiosks" that allow computerized access to, and copying of, docket entries for cases. This technology eases the burden of court clerks' offices, and makes access to justice a more realistic component of courthouses.

The "Information Superhighway"

What is the Internet?

The Internet is a catch-all word used to describe a massive world-wide network of computers. The word "internet" literally means "network of networks." In itself, the Internet is comprised of thousands of smaller regional networks scattered throughout the globe. On any given day, it connects roughly 40 million users in over 50 countries.

The World Wide Web is unquestionably the most popular facility on the Internet. Usage is growing at the rate of 15% per month. The newest versions of desktop operating systems, including IBM's OS/2, Microsoft's Windows 95, and the Macintosh have incorporated the necessary software to connect to the Internet. All UNIX operating systems already incorporate the necessary software. Because of these developments and plans on the part of Microsoft to include Internet access services within Windows 95 (anticipated first year sales in 1995 of 35 million), use of the Internet is expected to accelerate during the next few years. The Internet is quickly becoming the ubiquitous link in justice, business, and government.

Besides the World Wide Web, there are many utilities used on the Internet such as: Telnet, Ichat, E-mail, FTP (File Transfer Protocol), News Groups, Finger, Ping, and World Wide Web browsers. The World-Wide Web is mostly used on the Internet; however, it does not mean the same thing as the Internet.

The Web refers to a body of information distributed on over 30,000 computers throughout the world, while the Internet refers to the physical aspect of the global network, i.e. a giant mass of cables and computers.

What is the World Wide Web?

The World Wide Web is the most powerful and popular facility on the Internet. It looks like a color magazine that contains text, pictures, and even sound recordings and video clips. All of this is linked together on the Web by something called hypertext.

Imagine if you were able to link the pages (called "documents" on the Internet) of most magazines, newspapers, books, brochures and research papers together worldwide. You might read one document, find a keyword in that document that really interests you, touch that keyword, and automatically be taken to a new document somewhere else in the world -- and this new document could even have links to other documents around the world, and so on.

Thanks to hypertext, this can be done. The World Wide Web is based on hypertext. It is possible to roam around the Web, bouncing from document to document, using nothing but the links in those documents. The World Wide Web is officially described as a "wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents."

Once one is on the Web, it is possible to do keyword searches using one of the Web's many search engines. One of the best Web search engines is the Webcrawler, which searches for documents whose title and content match a keyword. In this fashion, a world-wide literature search can be conducted in a matter of minutes from a desktop.

The Web is accessed through something called a "browser," which can read and fetch documents, download computer files, read newsgroups, and remotely log into other computers. In short, almost everything that can be done on the Internet can be done using nothing but the World Wide Web. The Web is able to accomplish all of this thanks to something called URLs ("earls") -- Universal Resource Locators. URLs list the exact location of any Internet resource.

What is really special about the Web is that it does all of this "behind the scenes." It is possible to bounce from one linked document to another without ever knowing the exact address of where you are, or even how you got there.

Graphical browsers allow access to not only text, but also pictures and sound (a.k.a. "hypermedia"). In fact, these pictures can be put in Web documents (a.k.a. Web pages), making that Web page look more like a page from a color magazine. Most graphical browsers use a mouse that points-and-clicks on a highlighted link to access it.

Recent technological advances in the Web will allow users to access all types of database information. For example, a person might access a case history or a payment history from a home computer, shopping mall kiosk, or public library workstation.

A list of World Wide Web sites relevant to crime and victimization is attached to this chapter. In addition, a sample of a Web page on "men and domestic violence" is included.

What Does the Web Look Like?

The World Wide Web exists virtually; there is no standard way of viewing it or navigating around it. However, many software interfaces to the Web have similar functions and generally work the same way no matter what computer or type of display is used. In fact, many users navigate around the Web using text-only interfaces and are able to see all of the textual information a user with a graphic display would.

The Web may be in black or white or in color. The interface -- called a Web browser -- works in a window and may be a software program on any computer with a graphic interface, such as a UNIX, X Windows interface, a Macintosh, or an IBM-compatible computer with Microsoft Windows.

The Web offers a very simple-to-use interface to the traditionally hard-to-master resources on the Internet. It is probably this ease of use, as well as the popularity of many graphical interfaces to the Web, that caused the explosion of Web traffic in 1993. The potential of using networked hypertext and multimedia has promoted many users to create and explore countless innovative applications on the Internet. It is no surprise that more educational users are on the Web than would be expected.

What is a Secure News Server?

A secure news server is computer software that lets users create secure, public and private discussion groups for access over the Internet and other TCP/IP-based networks.

A secure news server improves collaboration and communication within workgroups, across agencies, and between remote sites around the country and the world, eliminating all geographic barriers.

These electronic discussion groups enable people to participate in a remote dialogue by posting and reading messages about topics of interest. Discussion groups support multiple conversations or "threads"on a given subject, displaying postings in the context of the prior discussion. This allows a reader to follow an entire conversation from its inception, though they may join well after the conversation has started.

Because discussion groups provide a unique vehicle for interactive group collaboration -- including "virtual victim support groups" -- they have become popular for internal workgroup tasks as well as for ad-hoc public forums. There are now over 10,000 public newsgroups on the Internet, accounting for more than 10% of its total communications traffic. A secure news server also incorporates advanced security features that guarantee the confidentiality of private discussion groups. Used in conjunction with any SSL-compatible newsreader, a secure news server can encrypt and decrypt its communications to ensure that only authorized users can access each discussion group, and that communications among groups are safe from eavesdropping.


E-mail on the Internet makes ubiquitous electronic messaging possible. The popularity of Internet E-mail is second in popularity and functionality only to World Wide Web services. Anyone who has a mail account on the Internet can correspond and transfer computer files to anyone else on the Internet. Connection to the Internet requires nothing more than a telephone, a modem and a computer.


The Listserv is a computer program that automates the broadcast of E-mail across the Internet. Typically, it is used by a discussion group whose members wish to share E-mail with everyone else in the group. A Listserv is generally an informal ad hoc type of discussion. As participation increases, it is often replaced by a News Group.

Anonymous E-Mail Servers

Sometimes it is important for E-mail users to restrict knowledge about their identity. Anonymous E-mail Servers permit users to forward E-mail through their special server, which then removes any indication of the originator's identity. Such a server can benefit crime victims who need information or support, but wish to remain anonymous.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a popular facility on the Internet that allows users to download computer files from other sites. It is often used to transfer software or recent updates to software. It can be used to make documents as a computer file for downloading and printing by participants. It has the potential of providing the most current and up-to-date information immediately.


The Telnet utility allows Internet users to log on to remote computers and utilize them as though they were located locally. Although usually restricted by security considerations, Telnet allows remote users to utilize the information from large databases as though it were located on their desktop.


Ichat is an Internet facility that allows individuals to participate in on-line real-time computer conversations. As one user types messages, they can be viewed and responded to by others on the channel. Users can go off-line publicly and restrict their conversations to only two participants.

(The preceding section is excerpted from Insco, M. (1995, June). Promising Strategies and Practices in Using Technology to Benefit Crime grant proposal to the Office for Victims of Crime. Arlington, VA: National Victim Center.)

U. S. Department of Justice Information Resources:

The Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center

1982 marked the beginning of a momentous change in the crime victims movement. On April 23rd of that year, President Ronald Reagan established the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, and ". . . led the nation into a new era . . ." in improving the treatment of crime victims. Meeting to address the ". . . plight of those forgotten by the criminal justice system - the innocent victims of crime," the Task Force developed a series of unanimous recommendations designed to improve overall responsiveness toward victims by government, the criminal justice system, and other entities in both the public and private sector. In response to one of the recommendations made in the Task Force report, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) was created within the United States Department of Justice to advocate for the fair treatment of victims at a national level. In the twelve years since its creation, OVC has truly become the "federal focal point" for issues that affect victims of crime throughout the United States.

Another proposal made in the Task Force report, Federal Executive and Legislative Recommendation 3, called for the federal government to ". . . establish a federally based resource center for victim and witness assistance." It was envisioned that the proposed resource center

". . . would serve as a national clearinghouse of information concerning victim and witness assistance programs, victim compensation programs, and organi-zations from the private sector that seek to assist victims and witnesses. It should establish liaison with national, state, local and private sector organizations whose activities are directed toward improved services for victims and witnesses. It should monitor the status of compensation programs and victim/witness legislation. In addition, the center should maintain a directory of state, local, and private sector programs and experts in the field to facilitate communication and transfer of expertise . . . This center is essential because the sources of information in this area are many, and they are found at all levels in the public and private sector. In addition, these sources are located throughout the country. With increased attention in this area, many different groups need information to augment or implement programs to help victims. Because resources are precious, it is essential that these new and existing groups benefit from the work that has preceded them as well as from new insights acquired from the successful provision of services."

In accordance with this recommendation, a National Victims Resource Center (NVRC) was established in 1984, to ". . . encourage continued progress in the victims rights movement and to create an inventory of programs, research, and dissemination of information on victims of crime." Originally housed within OVC, NVRC soon expanded beyond its available facilities. It was moved to Rockville, Maryland in 1986, where it was joined with the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). In 1994, in an effort to more closely associate it with the work of its parent agency, NVRC was officially renamed the Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center.

The Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center and

the National Criminal Justice Reference Service

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research and development agency of the United States Department of Justice, was established to prevent and reduce crime and to improve the criminal justice system. Recognizing the need for a centralized location for criminal justice information, the United States Congress mandated that NIJ "serve as a national and international clearinghouse for the exchange of information" in the area of criminal justice. The National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) was therefore established by NIJ in 1972 to serve as an international criminal justice information network supporting policymakers and criminal justice professionals. NCJRS operates as a consortium of specialized information centers, sharing information resources with, and drawing from, all Office of Justice of Programs (OJP) agencies. OJP agencies represented include:

A new NCJRS affiliate, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), joined in 1994.

Working together, NCJRS and OVCRC serve a broad constituency of persons and organizations with professional, academic and advocacy-related interests. Requests for information come from sources as diverse as elementary schools and the White House. Many requests come from foreign countries. NCJRS and OVCRC use an array of resources to respond to those requests, including free publications; fact sheets; information directories; topical information packages; reading and referral lists: topical data base searches; audio and video tapes, and CD-ROM.

A premier feature of the NCJRS clearinghouse programs is the NCJRS library collection, housed in the NCJRS Research and Information Center. This premier information resource contains more than 130,000 criminal justice documents and audiovisual pieces, of which more than 9,000 pertain to victims' issues. Each piece in the collection, which grows at a rate of approximately 500 new additions per month, is abstracted for the NCJRS Data Base, which can be "searched" electronically for literature that is specific to the user's interests.

Prepared topical searches and topical bibliographies drawn from these abstracts are also available. Subjects covered by these prepared searches include battered women; bias-related violence; child sexual abuse; child witnesses; homicide victims; sexual abuse and assault; crime and the elderly; victim compensation and family violence.

Recent developments in information technology -- most notably the development of the Internet -- have dramatically altered the manner in which criminal justice information is now available to researchers, advocates, and practitioners. Now, victim serving agencies and individuals, no matter how remotely located, can obtain instant access to an enormous variety of resources specific to their professional concerns. The National Criminal Justice Reference Service and the Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center are in the forefront of this new medium, and are aggressively using its resources to enhance the delivery of timely and relevant criminal justice information. The following sections provide a description of these services, and instructions for obtaining access to them.

Victim Assistance in the Information Age

The year 1994 marked a new and exciting turning point for NCJRS and OVCRC in gathering and distributing criminal justice information. On October 5th of that year, NCJRS and OVCRC went "online" on the Internet, moving rapidly into the mainstream of electronic information management. Since that time, NCJRS has developed an array of online services that benefit criminal justice and victim service professionals, including:

Together with other present and future electronic access features -- including telephone (IVR) and online document ordering, CD-ROM, and fax-on-demand -- NCJRS and OVCRC have made a "quantum leap" forward in their mandate to provide timely and relevant criminal justice information. No longer constrained by office hours, mail delivery, and the use of paper documents, NCJRS and OVCRC now offer immediate, 24-hour-a-day access to material that can be used for research, advocacy, policy, program and legislative support. This information includes statistics; model programs; model protocols; grant funding sources; and local, state and national referrals to professional organizations in the victim-serving community.

NCJRS On-line Services: The Internet

In its current configuration, NCJRS Online provides the following access and services:

NCJRS Gopher

The NCJRS Gopher menus contain text providing information from each Office of Justice Programs (OJP) agency, NCJRS, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Information on each of the OJP agencies includes a general agency overview; press releases and public announcements, and conference information. Information is also provided about selected NCJRS services; downloading capabilities for selected information; previews of new products and publications; direct links to other criminal and juvenile justice resources on Internet, direct connections to the NCJRS Bulletin Board System and the Partnerships Against Violence NETwork (PAVNET).

Access Requirements: The NCJRS Gopher requires that (1) the user must have access to the Internet, and (2) the user must have access to Gopher (Most universities and commercial services provide access to Gopher). The Gopher address is <>.

NCJRS World Wide Web

The NCJRS/Justice Information Center site on the World Wide Web provides a graphical interface (a connection that displays graphics or illustrations) to NCJRS and Office of Justice Programs (OJP) information, as well as access to information from other criminal justice resources around the world. This ability to successively connect to other resources from within a World Wide Web "page" is accomplished through hypertext links . Currently, the NCJRS/JIC homepage provides general information about NCJRS, all OJP agencies, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); a "keyword" search capability for locating full-text documents from the NCJRS inventory; the NCJRS conference calendar; federal grant-funding information, and announcements of new publications, research, and other justice-related matters of interest. In addition, the site provides links to selected documents and online resources related to courts; corrections; crime prevention (including PAVNet Online); criminal justice statistics; drugs; international justice issues; juvenile justice; law enforcement; justice research and evaluation, and victims.

Access Requirements: The NCJRS World Wide Web (WWW) requires that (1) the user must have access to the Internet, and (2) the user must have access to a WWW application such as Mosaic, Lynx, or Netscape. The World Wide Web address is <>.

NCJRS Anonymous File Transfer Protocol

The NCJRS Anonymous FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site allows users to quickly access and download large, complex NCJRS publications and software, whether they are ASCII text or a binary document. These documents may include annual OJP agency program plans, which provide grant funding information.

Access Requirements: The NCJRS Anonymous FTP site requires that (1) the user must have access to the Internet, and (2) the user must have access to FTP (Most commercial services provide access to FTP). The NCJRS Anonymous FTP address is <ftp>. Further directions are provided once the user reaches the site.

Justice Information (JUST INFO) Electronic Newsletter

The Justice Information (JUST INFO) Electronic Newsletter is a free, on-line newsletter that is distributed on the 1st and 15th of every month. JUST INFO contains information concerning a wide variety of subjects, including news from all Office of Justice Programs (OJP) agencies; criminal justice in the news; news of international criminal justice; criminal justice resources on the Internet; federal legislation updates; criminal justice funding and program information, and announcements about new NCJRS products and services.

Access Requirements The Justice Information (JUST INFO) Electronic Newsletter requires that the user have access to Internet e-mail. To subscribe, send an e-mail to <>. Further instructions will be automatically forwarded to the user.

E-MAIL: Information and Help


First-time users can send an e-mail message to this address: <>. The user will automatically receive a reply outlining the services of NCJRS.


Users requiring technical assistance or having specific questions on criminal and juvenile justice topics can send an e-mail to <>.

Access Requirements and Ask NCJRS require that the user have access to Internet e-mail.

NCJRS On-line Services:

NCJRS Bulletin Board System (NCJRS*BBS)

NCJRS*BBS is a free 24-hour electronic service accessible through a personal computer and a modem (now also accessible through the Internet). NCJRS*BBS serves as the primary online conduit for news and announcements from NCJRS, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Agency "menus" contained on the system provide descriptions of OJP agencies and their missions; product and publications lists; full texts of documents and reports; conference, workshop, and seminar schedules; program summaries; applications for grants and funding opportunities; grant award summaries and training and technical assistance information. In addition to providing up-to-date criminal justice information, NCJRS*BBS serves as an interactive network for information-sharing among criminal justice professionals. NCJRS collects, reports, and evaluates information from numerous sources, and users supply information on their vital findings. Information is also generated online, as users comment on resources, exchange ideas, ask questions, and provide answers.

Access Requirements: To access NCJRS*BBS, the user must have a microcomputer or computer terminal; a 300-, 1200-, 2400-, or 9600-baud modem (faster modems will connect at 9600 baud), and access to a telephone line.(Microcomputer users also must have communication software that supports full-screen operation. TEAMterm for IBM-compatible computers is available from NCJRS either through downloading or by mail, as is technical assistance for its use. A graphical user interface (GUI) for accessing NCJRS*BBS from Microsoft Windows is also available from NCJRS). If the user does not have Internet access, they may direct dial through their modem: (301) 738-8895. Modems should be set at 9600 baud and 8-N-1. If the user has Internet access, they may either Telnet to <> or Gopher to <>. Each user designates a user name and a password of eight (or fewer) lowercase characters. Once a user has registered, access is immediate.

NCJRS On-line Services:

Partnerships Against Violence Network (PAVNET)

Partnerships Against Violence NETwork (PAVNET) Online is a new approach to give users information about techniques for combating violence in American society. It represents the cooperation of multiple federal agencies to quickly bring information on anti-violence programs to State and local officials. PAVNET was created in response to a report by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Violence to the President and the Domestic Policy Council in January 1994, which recommended that the federal government "develop online computerized information about federal resources, and produce new resource guides and how-to manuals about promising activities to reduce violence. At the present time, PAVNET Online is a searchable data base containing information about hundreds of promising programs and resources, providing the user with key contacts; program types; target populations; location; project startup date; evaluation information; annual budget; sources of funding, and program description.

Access Requirements: PAVNET Online requires that the user (1) must have access to Internet, and (2) must have access to Gopher or the World Wide Web (WWW). Users may access PAVNET directly from Gopher <gopher>, the NCJRS Gopher site at <>, or the NCJRS/JIC World Wide Web homepage at <>, under the "Crime Prevention" section. Methods of accessing and using PAVNET Online are described in the PAVNET Online User's Guide, which may be obtained from the OVC Resource Center at (800) 627-6872. Please specify document number NCJ 152057.

Other Electronic Information Services Available from NCJRS


In addition to online document services, NCJRS provides access to selected OJP publications through the user's own fax machine, using toll-free NCJRS Clearinghouse telephone numbers. To obtain a copy of the current FAX-on-Demand document menu, and instructions on how to operate the system, call (800) 851-3420, and listen for the FAX-on-Demand message prompt.


Users with CD-ROM capability can also obtain the NCJRS Data Base on CD-ROM. This disc features citations and abstracts of more than 130,000 criminal justice books, research reports, journal articles, government documents, program descriptions, and evaluations contained in the NCJRS library collection. The disc also contains search software that supports retrieval using any combination of words to search individual fields or all fields globally. The disc can be searched using "free text" methods, or in combination with the National Criminal Justice Thesaurus. Details are available by calling NCJRS at (800) 851-3420.

Information Access: Implications for Victim Service Providers

The development of new information technologies has profound implications for the victim-serving community. As recently as a dozen years ago, the availability of information was limited by a lack of centralized collection and distribution. Moreover, the form of the information was generally limited to paper documents that required considerable effort to locate and obtain. Today, however, victim service providers can instantly access an enormous store of information specific to the entire range of their professional concerns, including program development and funding. Importantly, this information is available to victim service providers wherever and whenever they desire -- at home or in the office, in the middle of a trial or in the middle of the night. The importance of this change in information access cannot be overstated. For the victim service provider, that access begins with the National Criminal Justice Reference Service and the Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center.

Self Examination Chapter 20

Mastering the Information Age

1) List three of the barriers to use of technology to benefit victims.

2) What are two innovative technologies that are included in "the courtroom of the future?"

3) What is the "World Wide Web?"

4) List two of the resources available on-line from the U.S. Department of Justice.


Andersen Consulting. (1995, June). Change management workshop. International Integrated Justice Symposium, New Brunswick, Canada.

Beatty, D. (1995, June). Promising strategies and practices in using technology to benefit crime victims grant proposal to the Office for Victims of Crime. Arlington, VA: National Victim Center.

Insco, M. (1995, June). Promising strategies and practices in using technology to benefit crime victims grant proposal to the Office for Victims of Crime. Arlington, VA: National Victim Center.

Miller, B. (1994, March). Imaged documents and the courts. Government Technology.

Seymour, A. (1995, June). Promising strategies and practices in using technology to benefit crime victims grant proposal to the Office for Victims of Crime. Arlington, VA: National Victim Center.

Strand, R. G. (1989, Spring). The Courtroom of the Future. The Judge's Journal. Sacramento, CA: McGeorge School of Law.

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