1997-98 Academy Text Supplement
OVC Emphasizes States' Use of Increased 1997 VOCA Funding
to Serve Diverse Victim Populations
With the significant increase in VOCA collections in 1996, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) strongly encouraged states to provide outreach, identification, and services to crime victims beyond the original priority categories. OVC asked states to aggressively and proactively reach out to underserved crime victims through conducting needs assessments, statewide surveys, focus group meetings, targeted meetings with organizations that represent underserved populations, and through other avenues that help identify gaps in services for victim population groups. OVC requested that states should not only fund existing services that reach out to underserved victims, but also fund the development of new services in areas where crime victims have had no access to victim assistance.
In addition, in 1997 revisions to the VOCA Victim Assistance Guidelines, OVC clarified the definition of underserved crime victims. States are now encouraged to identify gaps in available services, not just by the types of crimes committed, but also by victims' demographic characteristics. Previous Guidelines asked administrators only to examine whether services are available and adequate to serve the needs of certain types of victims according to the type of crime they experienced. The 1997 Guidelines state the following:
(Excerpted from the 1997 Final Guidelines for VOCA Victim Assistance Grants, Office for Victims of Crime.)
Numerous states have conducted public hearings, created Task Forces, and conducted needs assessments to identify the underserved.
Improving the Justice System's Response
to Racial and Ethnic Diversity
In March 1994, the American Bar Association, in cooperation with the National Bar Association, the Native American Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and the Hispanic National Bar Association, convened a landmark summit to explore racial and ethic bias in the American justice system. As a result, the State Justice Institute funded the First National Conference on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts in March of 1995. For the first time in the history of state courts, more than 425 justices, judges, court administrators, judicial educators, attorneys, and court users gathered to discuss strategies to eliminate racial and ethnic bias in the courts.
Several themes in addressing diversity issues emerged from the conference that are applicable to the entire justice system, victim service providers and allied professionals. These include:
A significant outcome of the 1995 conference was the support by the U.S. Department of Justice of the report described below.
A Total Approach to Diversity
In 1997, the National Center for State Courts, with support from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance published a comprehensive manual entitled A Total Approach to Diversity: An Assessment and Curriculum for State Courts. The manual is the first of a series of five model guides entitled Access to Justice for Persons of Color: Selected Guides and Programs for Improving Court Performance. The model guides are designed to address cultural diversity issues through the following titles:
The series of guides offers comprehensive training curricula on diversity issues. However, importantly, they go a step further by acknowledging that training alone is not enough to meet the challenge of committing to the "totality" of diversity within the justice system. For example, the justice system is encouraged to go beyond training on diversity issues by:
(Glover, D. & and Richardson, J. (1997). A Total Approach to Diversity: An Assessment and Curriculum Guide for State Courts. Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts.)