Chapter 3 Specific Justice Systems

and Victims' Rights

Section 2, Federal Justice


Since the passage of the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982, there has been considerable emphasis placed on the implementation of victims' rights and provision of quality victim services at the federal level. The 1995 Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, as well as the passage of six major federal laws affecting victims, define the scope of victims' rights and services for victims of federal crimes. Efforts at the federal level to coordinate the delivery of services to victims have produced collaborative initiatives that improve victims' rights and services.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this section, students will understand the following concepts:

Statistical Overview


Federal and nonfederal courts co-exist in separate, yet highly related judicial systems. The United States is a Federal Republic of generally autonomous states. Article X of the Constitution specifies that "[T]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Thus, the powers not expressly given to the United States government are retained by the states and the people. In the criminal justice system, there is federal criminal jurisdiction for all crimes set forth in the U.S. Criminal Code including:

Federal crimes are prosecuted in one of the ninety-four United States Attorneys' Offices throughout the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Each United States Attorney's Office has a victim-witness coordinator who can provide information to victims of federal crime or serve as a resource regarding the federal criminal justice system.

Major Federal Laws Affecting Federal Crime Victims

Six significant laws affecting federal victims of crime have been enacted in the past two decades:


The Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 (VWPA) was enacted "to enhance and protect the necessary role of crime victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process; to ensure that the federal government does all that is possible within the limits of available resources to assist victims and witnesses of crime without infringing on the constitutional rights of the defendants; and to provide a model for legislation for state and local governments" (AG Guidelines 1983).

The VWPA was considered landmark legislation in 1982 because, for the first time, rights for victims of federal crimes were established, including:

Procedures for responding to the needs of crime victims in the federal criminal justice system, including referral services, information and notification services, consultation services, restitution, and victim impact statements were further delineated in Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance issued by the Attorney General in 1984.


Two years following the passage of the VWPA, Congress enacted the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) to provide funding for victim assistance, victim compensation, and training and technical assistance for victim service providers across the nation. VOCA's innovative funding mechanism relies on fines, penalties, and bond forfeitures from convicted federal offenders--not taxpayers--to generate an annual Crime Victims Fund. Congress directed the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to distribute the funding to states and U.S. Territories to assist in expanding compensation and assistance to crime victims nationwide.

While the majority of VOCA funding is distributed to states and territories through formula grants, a small portion of the fund is available for federal crime victims, as well as for training and technical assistance in the federal arena and at the national level.

OVC has utilized this funding for significant federal crime victim assistance including:

One very important provision in VOCA is the requirement that in order for state compensation programs to receive federal Crime Victims Fund awards, victims of federal crimes must be eligible for state compensation benefits. Following the enactment of VOCA, many state legislatures amended their state laws to include federal crime victims as eligible claimants. Today, victims of federal crimes in all states are eligible to file compensation claims to the state compensation program where the crime occurred.


The Crime Control Act of 1990 contained a wealth of new legislation and amendments to the existing federal criminal code affecting the treatment of crime victims, including children.

Provisions of the Crime Control Act created a new framework for comprehensive victim assistance on the federal level by specifying new, or clarifying previous, responsibilities of federal officials with respect to implementing victims' rights. Federal officials covered under the Crime Control Act include officials of the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies engaged in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime.

Federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. The enactment of a Federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights was historic and paralleled legislative activity in the states. Section 502 of the Act mandated that federal officials . . .

shall make their best efforts to see that victims of crime are accorded the rights described in subsection (b) . . .

1. The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.

2. The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.

3. The right to be notified of court proceedings.

4. The right to be present at all court proceedings related to the offense, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony at trial.

5. The right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.

6. The right to restitution.

7. The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender (42 U.S.C. Section 10606(b)).

The Attorney General revised the 1983 Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance and re- issued them to "provide definitive guidance on implementation of the 1990 Act as well as continued guidance on the protection of witnesses under the VWPA" (AG Guidelines 1991). In addition, many of the approximately seventy-five federal law enforcement agencies that operate within federal agencies (e.g. Inspectors General, Postal Inspectors, Bureau of Indian Affairs Law Enforcement, etc.) took steps to issue guidelines for the treatment of victims and witnesses.

Critical changes. While many outstanding Victim-Witness Programs had been created in United States Attorneys' Offices across the country by 1990, and some federal agencies had responded to implement the Victim and Witness Protection Act (e.g., the Federal Bureau of Prisons' victim notification and restitution programs), the fact that Congress created strong new language "demonstrates the continuing national concern for the innocent victims of all crimes and reflects the view that the needs and interests of victims and witnesses had not received appropriate consideration in the federal criminal justice system under the Victim and Witness Protection Act" (AG Guidelines 1991).

The 1983 AG Guidelines, stemming from the passage of the VWPA, required that services to victims and witnesses be provided "whenever possible" and "within limits of available resources." With the passage of the Crime Control Act in 1990, victims' rights and services on the federal level gained new status and it was clearly stated in law, and in the revised 1991 AG Guidelines, that victims' rights and services "shall be provided."


Four years later, Congress enacted comprehensive crime legislation entitled the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Crime Act). In addition to the establishment of new victims' rights, and the passage of the historic Violence Against Women Act contained within, the Crime Act encouraged the federal government to form partnerships with state and local communities. The specific rights and services contained in the 1994 Crime Act include:

- Domestic violence.

- Sexual assault.

- Sexually-exploited and other abused children.

- Telemarketing fraud victims.


The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 amends the federal criminal code to require judges to order mandatory restitution for victims of violent crime, certain property offenses, fraud, and consumer product tampering.

Restitution may now be granted to victims that are not victims of the specific offense resulting in conviction provided that the parties agree to that in the plea agreement. In addition, procedures for issuing and enforcing restitution orders were significantly expanded under the Act. Full implementation of these new provisions will bring new importance to restitution in federal criminal proceedings.


This Act expands the rights of victims to attend and observe trial, stating that victims shall not be excluded from the trial of the defendant because the victim may, during the sentencing hearing, make a statement or present any information in relation to the sentence. This right is further expanded in Capital cases to deny exclusion in cases where the victim may, during the sentencing hearing, testify as to the effect of the offense on the victim and the victim's family.

The 1995 Attorney General Guidelines for

Victim and Witness Assistance

As a result of the passage of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the Attorney General revised and re-issued new comprehensive guidelines to establish procedures for the federal criminal justice system for implementing victim rights and assistance as enacted under federal law. In issuing the 1995 Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, Attorney General Janet Reno stated:

Crime is a shattering experience that affects the lives of millions of Americans. It can destroy a person's sense of safety and security. Of paramount importance to crime victims and witnesses is their treatment by criminal justice personnel, who should care about their suffering, enforce their rights and protections, offer support to help them heal, and hold the criminal accountable for the harm caused . . .

The Guidelines reflect my strong belief that victims should play a central role in the criminal justice system and my commitment that all components of the United States Department of Justice shall respond to them with compassion, fairness, and respect, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law (AG Guidelines 1995, Foreword).

In combining the requirements of the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982, the Crime Control Act of 1990, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the AG Guidelines provide "definitive guidance on implementation of the 1990 and 1994 Acts as well as continued guidance on the protection of witnesses under the VWPA; and shall serve as a primary resource for Department of Justice (investigative, prosecutorial, and correctional) agencies in the treatment and protection of victims and witnesses of federal crimes under these Acts."



As in the 1991 AG Guidelines, the 1995 AG Guidelines state that under 42 U.S.C. Section 10606(a), officers and employees of the Department of Justice and other departments and agencies of the United States engaged in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime shall make their best efforts to see that victims of crime are accorded the rights described under federal law. However, the new AG Guidelines increased the accountability of federal criminal justice officials. In the 1991 AG Guidelines, the Attorney General recommended that the annual performance appraisals of federal law enforcement officers, investigators, prosecutors, and corrections officers include compliance with the AG Guidelines. The 1995 AG Guidelines direct that performance appraisals and reports of best efforts include information on compliance with the AG Guidelines.

The AG Guidelines provide explicit designations of the individuals responsible for "identifying the victims and performing the services due victims and witnesses under federal law" and require that in each of the investigating field offices, correctional facilities, U.S. Attorney's office, and the Justice Department Litigation Division, "there must be one individual who shall be designated to specifically carry out victim-witness services." The sharing of information and cooperation among the various federal agencies, as well as interacting with tribal, state, and local agencies providing victim services, are also required by the AG Guidelines.


The AG Guidelines delineate a range of services that should be provided to victims and witnesses at each stage of the federal criminal justice process. Moreover, to further insure implementation, specific responsibility is assigned to federal agencies and officials to carry out these services. The services listed in the AG Guidelines include the following:

In addition, the AG Guidelines address other forms of assistance that shall be extended to all victims and witnesses to the fullest extent feasible, including victim privacy for child victims and victims of sexual assault, employer creditor intervention, parking, translator services, and related services.


Currently, a revision to the 1995 Attorney General Guidelines is under consideration by the Deputy Attorney General's Victims' Rights Working Group. The revised guidelines (discussed more fully later in this chapter) are expected to be released in the near future.

Coordination and Direct Services at the Federal Level

One significant result of the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 was the creation of the position of Victim-Witness Coordinator in United States Attorneys' Offices to ensure compliance with the VWPA as well as with federal crime victim-related laws enacted since 1982. Today, every office of the United States Attorney across the country is authorized to employ a Victim-Witness Coordinator. Over the past ten years numerous federal law enforcement agencies have established their own programs to assist federal crime victims. Among the new initiatives, the FBI created a unit for victim-witness assistance, staffed the unit with a Unit Chief and six supporting positions, and assigned Victim-Witness Coordinators in each of the fifty-six FBI field offices nationwide. The Department of Treasury has recently set about to further develop programs for each of its enforcement bureaus including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Secret Service, Customs Service, and Internal Revenue Service. The Federal Bureau of Prison has developed a program designed to notify victims and witnesses of the release of convicted federal offenders. Victim-witness programs are also being developed at the Department of State and Drug Enforcement Administration.


Over seventy federal law enforcement agencies have first line responsibilities to victims of crime. Federal officers and agents are often the first to contact victims following a crime. Many enforcement agencies now require that their officers and agents provide victims with an information brochure highlighting their rights and outlining available services. Information about programs such as crime compensation and what to do if threatened or harassed is included. In addition, victim-witness coordinators assigned to each local office are responsible for follow-up assistance and referral.

Officers, Case Agents and Victim-Witness Coordinators provide victims with important case status information, advise of case closings, arrests and referral to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The following is a partial listing of federal law enforcement agencies that investigate crimes that are prosecuted in the federal court system:


One of the important roles of the Victim-Witness Coordinator with each US Attorney's Office is to implement federal laws regarding crime victims rights' and services. The position can be structured in many different ways, depending on the size and configuration of the federal district and the needs of the United States Attorney. As the title implies, Victim-Witness Coordinators generally oversee and coordinate the victim assistance program and services in the United States Attorneys' Offices and work to establish procedures for victim and witness assistance across the entire office. Coordinators work with federal prosecutors and administrative staff to implement a wide range of victims' rights and services, including:

An important aspect of the Victim-Witness Coordinator's job is to coordinate victim and witness service efforts with other federal as well as state and local law enforcement officials. Many cases cross jurisdictional lines and require out-of-state resources to assist victims and to effectively prosecute the case. In addition, the networking activities of the Coordinators are helpful in providing services and support to victims who reside in rural-remote locations. In most jurisdictions, Coordinators work closely with state-level and local victim service providers and criminal justice officials, which serves to "fill gaps" in the delivery of services. Activities include cross-jurisdictional training, participating in statewide victim assistance coalitions, making victims service referrals, and participating in commemorative observances such as National Crime Victims' Rights Week and National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week.

The U.S. Attorney Victim-Witness Coordinator will play an even greater role in coordination in the future. As more agency law enforcement victim-witness coordinators are assigned, an increase in the development and expansion of the Victim-Witness Subcommittees of District's Law Enforcement Coordinating Committees (LECC) can be expected. The LECC brings together representatives from the federal, state, and local criminal justice system for planning, improving communication and coordination, and improving the overall response to crime.


In a landmark report sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime entitled Victim Impact Statements: A Victim's Right to Speak, A Nation's Responsibility to Listen, the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) in 1994 addressed victim impact in the federal system. The report stated the following:

Selection of an appropriate sentence is one of the most important decisions made in the criminal justice system. The primary vehicle used to assist the sentencing court in fulfilling this responsibility is the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI). In November 1987, the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 became effective and radically changed the philosophical model for sentencing offenders in federal courts. Congress relinquished an indeterminate model of sentencing and adopted a determinate model based upon national guidelines. Changes in the content and format of the presentence report were necessary to accommodate the new sentencing process.

As part of the Crime Control Act of 1984, Congress created the U.S. Sentencing Commission to serve as an independent body of the judicial branch. The Commission was assigned responsibility for establishing sentencing policies and practices for the Federal criminal justice system in compliance with the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. The Commission was further directed to produce guidelines that would avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities while retaining enough flexibility to permit individualized sentencing when called for by mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Sentencing Guidelines provide for upward departure of sentence based on intimidation or harassment against a victim or witness, vulnerability of the victim, physical restraint of a victim and extreme psychological injury. Most recently additional upward departures have been provided for hate crime motivation and terrorism. If the court is to accurately determine mitigating or aggravating circumstances of each individual case, it must have access to all information pertinent to the case, and this information must include a careful review of victim impact.

The federal criminal justice system took the lead in setting a legal precedent for the inclusion of victim impact information in sentencing with the passage of the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982. The Act allows for the submission of victim impact information at the time of sentencing, amending the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (Rule 32(c)(1)) to require U.S. Probation officials to include the following victim impact information in their pre-sentence investigative reports to the court:

This created the right for federal victims to provide information on the impact of the crime in the sentencing phase of the federal justice system--commonly referred to as victim impact statements. The 1995 Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance address this right further by requiring the following:

Finally, consistent with available resources and their other responsibilities, federal prosecutors shall advocate the interests of victims, including child victims, at the time of sentencing.

Today, victim impact statements are widely used in criminal cases, including capital cases. Repeated challenges to the constitutionality of the use of victim impact statements in capital cases was resolved when the U.S. Supreme Court in Payne v. Tennessee (U.S. 1991) upheld the constitutionality of victim impact statement evidence submitted during the sentencing phase in capital cases.


The Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (part of the Crime Control Act) provides that victims of federal crime have a "right to restitution." It also requires that if a court does not order restitution, or orders only partial restitution, the court must state on the record the reasons why restitution was either not or only partially ordered. The 1990 Act also extended the court's ability to order restitution to victims of an offense involving a scheme, conspiracy, or pattern of criminal activity, i.e., all victims harmed by crimes of fraud. This extends not only to the victims of charged crimes, but to all the victims named in the indictment, even when the defendant was not charged on all counts.

In addition, the 1990 Act extended the right to restitution to all victims in plea agreements:

The court may also order restitution in any criminal case to the extent agreed to by the parties in a plea agreement.

The AG Guidelines underscore this right by stating that when plea negotiations occur, prosecutors should attempt to obtain the defendant's consent to an order of restitution for all victims of the offense, not just for the victims involved in the courts to which he or she pleaded guilty.

Departing from the previous trend to permit the court to have discretion in ordering restitution, the 1994 Crime Act states very clearly that convictions for four types of crimes must include mandatory restitution as part of an offender's punishment:

The Act also lists expenses for which victim restitution is required:

In addition, the 1994 Crime Act extended and strengthened the right to restitution for other federal crime victims by adding requirements for reimbursement of victims as well for the enforcement of restitution orders against delinquent defendants.

In 1996, the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act further expanded the scope of mandatory restitution to victims of violent crime, victims of certain property offenses, and victims of consumer product tampering.

Enforcement of restitution. To ensure enforcement of restitution orders, the Crime Act and 1995 AG Guidelines specify that U.S. Attorneys must enforce the restitution order "by all available means."

The Crime Act provided several mechanisms to enforce restitution payments including the following:

Finally, the Crime Act reinforced restitution payments by amending the federal Bankruptcy Code to prevent defendants who owe restitution from discharging their liability for payments by filing bankruptcy. The Act states that a debt for restitution included as a sentence, on the debtor's conviction of a crime, would not be discharged in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. The Act also added a new provision in the Bankruptcy Code that addresses drunk driving debts, stating that such debts are not dischargeable under Chapter 7, 11, and 12 proceedings.


In 1998, the Bureau of Prisons listed as one of their national goals and objectives to include victim-witness policies. Their objective was to develop and implement policies and programs designed to support and protect all rights and interests of crime victims-witnesses in the community and among correctional staff and their families and to provide information to victims and witnesses regarding the Bureau's programs and policies (Federal Bureau of Prisons 1998).

The mission of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is to "protect society by confining offenders in the controlled environment of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, and appropriately secure, and that provide work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens" (Bureau of Prisons n.d.). Since 1984, the Bureau of Prisons has conducted the Victim/Witness Notification Program which provides procedures for responding to a request from a victim or witness who wishes to be notified regarding a specific inmate's release or release-related activities. Release-related activities about which a victim or witness can request and receive notification include the following:

Release. This would include the date of release, city and state of destination, and if applicable, the supervising U.S. Probation Office.

Escape. The victim or witness would be notified by telephone as soon as possible after the escape. Once the offender is apprehended, the victim or witness will be informed of the apprehension and the location of the offender.

Furlough. This notification includes any approval for an offender's unescorted trip to the community, including beginning and end dates, and destination.

Transfer to community corrections center. This information will include the name and location of the facility, the date of transfer, and the tentative date the inmate is scheduled for release from the center.

Parole hearings. Victims and witnesses are notified of hearings and may appear in person or provide a written statement to the U.S. Parole Commission.

Death. The victim or witness will be notified of the date of death, should such occur during the period of incarceration.

Currently, the Bureau of Prisons monitors 4,289 inmates in the Victim/Witness Notification Program, with more than 13,500 identified victims and witnesses. BOP has also developed a program of victim impact classes for offenders as well as the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program.

Office for Victims of Crime Response to Federal Crime Victims

The Federal Crime Victims Division was established by the Office for Victims of Crime to assist federal personnel in establishing and maintaining their programs for federal crime victims. This Division has responsibility for the following:


In 1993, OVC established the Federal Crime Victim Assistance Fund (FCVA) to assist federal victims in need of immediate assistance that is unavailable through any other source. Since that time, OVC has set aside funds each year to aid victims of federal crime. These funds, administered by the Federal Crime Victims Division, are made available to U.S. Attorneys' Offices, FBI, Department of State, and DEA through Interagency Agreements. These funds have been used to provide crisis counseling, pay temporary shelter costs, cover travel for victims' participation in criminal justice proceedings, defray emergency medical treatment expenses, and hire interpreters for nonsubpoenaed victims.


The Federal Crime Victims Division provides federal criminal justice personnel with numerous training opportunities on effective intervention with federal crime victims. The training includes programs on handling cases and the development of victim-witness policies and procedures for federal criminal prosecutors, investigators, and Victim-Witness Coordinators. The Federal Crime Victims Division, in cooperation with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, FBI, Department of Defense, DEA, and other federal agencies, provides victim-witness training to over seventy different federal law enforcement agencies nationwide.


Victim Assistance in Indian Country Discretionary Grant Program. In 1996, OVC modified the Victim Assistance in Indian Country (VAIC) discretionary grant program to recognize tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes. This change allows for directly funding tribes, instead of the past practice of funding states, which then made awards to tribes for establishing "on-reservation" victim assistance programs. During the transition to this new process, OVC provided direct funding in FY 1997 to all tribal programs at the FY 1996 levels. In FY 1998, six new programs were awarded grants through the competitive program. In FY 1999, OVC announced that all VAIC grants will be competitively awarded.

Activities that may be funded under the VAIC discretionary grant programs include:

Overall, since 1988, OVC has provided over $8.4 million in grants to establish thirty-two victim assistance programs in Indian county. Examples of some recently-funded programs include the first Native American Children's Advocacy Center and four Court-Appointed Special Advocate programs (CASA).

In 1996, the Attorney General launched the Indian Country Justice Initiative at the Pueblo of Laguna and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. This initiative is a comprehensive approach to tribal criminal justice issues and a laboratory for promising practices that can be adapted in other areas of Indian Country (OVC 1997).

Children's Justice Act Partnerships for Indian Communities (CJA) Program. OVC's Children's Justice Act Partnerships for Indian Communities (CJA) Program supports Indian communities in developing, establishing, and operating programs to improve the investigation, prosecution, and overall handling of child abuse cases, particularly cases of child sexual abuse, in a manner that increases support for and reduces trauma to child victims. The partnership projects are to address shortcomings in the tribal criminal justice system and to make systemic improvements in the overall response to serious child abuse and child sexual abuse cases on the reservation. OVC has committed funding support for three years, contingent upon the grantee's satisfactory performance and the availability of funds.

Significant Federal Initiatives


Federal law enforcement has stepped up its efforts to respond to child victims through multi-disciplinary responses. In 1995 the Attorney General established the Federal Agency Task Force for Missing and Exploited Children:


Since the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the victim assistance community on the local, state, and federal levels has provided tremendous support to the hundreds of victims and survivors. With support from OVC, the National Organization for Victim Assistance nine-member crisis response team arrived on the scene the day of the bombing. OVC worked closely with the United States Attorney's Office, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education within the Department of Education, and the state of Oklahoma to provide emergency workers and services for the victims and survivors of the bombing.

An important change to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure was undertaken to allow closed circuit viewing of the trial by the victims and survivors: "Notwithstanding any provision of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to the contrary, in order to permit victims of crime to watch criminal proceedings in cases where the venue of the trial is changed--(1) out of the State in which the case was initially brought; and (2) more than 350 miles from the location in which those proceedings originally would have taken place, the trial court shall order closed circuit televising of the proceedings to that location, for viewing by such persons the court determines have a compelling interest in doing so and are otherwise unable to do so by reason of the inconvenience and expense caused by the change of venue" (42 U.S.C. 10608, Section 235).

As a result of the many cooperative efforts resulting from the aftermath of the Oklahoma City tragedy, the Office for Victims of Crime has undertaken cooperative initiatives with the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys to be prepared to respond to future large scale crises.


In 1996, the Attorney General established the Deputy Attorney General's Victims Rights Working Group to assist in bringing the entire Department into greater compliance with victims' rights legislation and the Attorney General's Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance. The Working Group is composed of high level policy representatives from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and all Department of Justice litigating divisions that handle criminal prosecutions. OVC is providing assistance to the Working Group.

The Victims' Rights Working Group was designed to:

Component heads were asked by the Attorney General to appoint a senior official in their office with the knowledge of the component's mission, specific responsibilities, and operations to participate in the Deputy Attorney General's Victims' Rights Working Group.

The first meeting of the Working Group was held on April 14, 1997. Representatives from every component with responsibilities to crime victims were present. The meeting was chaired by Acting Deputy Attorney General Seth Waxman, who directed each component to prepare a compliance with the AG Guidelines. Each component eventually submitted a plan which went into effect in October of 1997.

Since that time, the working group has met on a more or less bimonthly schedule. Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., chaired a meeting in November of 1997. The working group is overseeing the AG Guidelines revision and working on finding solutions for other victims issues with the Department.


In 1997, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) sponsored the first National Symposium on Victims of Federal Crime. The symposium brought together for the first time over 800 professionals that serve crime victims from a number of federal agencies for a four-day training program that assisted federal criminal justice professionals in achieving the President's goal of holding the federal system "to a higher standard of victims' rights than ever before." The second symposium, held in February 1999, with nearly 1,000 in attendance, focused on the federal response to acts of terrorism and mass casualty.


The expected outcome of this system is to develop an automated victims information database and a means to provide timely notification of mandated events in the federal criminal justice system among the FBI, U.S. Attorneys' Offices, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Mandated events include hearing notices, trial information, sentencing information, and information on incarceration/release from prison. This system will be easily adapted to other investigative agencies at a later date. In June 1998, OVC provided funding to the Executive Office for United States Attorneys to take the lead in this project with the assistance of a working group comprised of representatives from the FBI, OVC, and Bureau of Prisons.


According to BJS, as a result of recent federal legislation, the establishment of an effective national sex offender registry that is capable of providing instant access to data on sex offender location on an interstate basis has become a national priority. The development of the National Registry for Sexual Offenders involves a coordinated effort between:

The permanent National Sex Offender Registry File will be developed as part of the FBI's NCIC-2000 project and will include a fingerprint and photo (mugshot) image of the registered sex offender. The permanent system is expected to be in place by July 1999. Pending the establishment of a permanent system, an interim national pointer system has been established by the FBI that flags criminal history records of persons identified by states as being registered as sex offenders.

As of March 1999, the FBI indicates that thirty-five states are providing data to the interim system and that an estimated 55,000 records are currently being flagged. However, all states operate some type of sex offender registry at this time. In order for the national system to permit law enforcement agencies in each state to have information on offenders initially released in other states, or traveling throughout the nation, individual state registries must be accurate, automated, and interfaced with the national system.

As a result, in March 1998 the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) within the U.S. Department of Justice announced the establishment of the National Sex Offender Registry Assistance Program (NSOR-AP). The program is a component of the BJS National Criminal History Improvement Program. It is designed to help states ensure that state sex offender registries identify, collect, and properly disseminate relevant information that is consistent, accurate, complete, and up-to-date.

Additionally, the program will help states establish appropriate interfaces with the FBI's national system so that state registry information on sex offenders can be tracked from one jurisdiction to another. The program will assist states in meeting the relevant requirements of current federal legislation including: the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act; Megan's Law; and the Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act (42 U.S.C. 14071, 14072), as amended by Section 115 of the general provisions of Title I of the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary and related Appropriations Act of 1998, P.L. 105-119) and applicable state standards. The 1998 appropriation included $25 million to support the national sex offender registry (BJS 1998a).


A significant development in federal law enforcement agencies' response to crime victims was the FBI's efforts in 1996 to review and expand its entire victim-witness program. Among the new initiatives, the FBI implemented a comprehensive victim assistance program at the Headquarters level. As part of this new program, the FBI created a unit for victim-witness assistance, staffed the unit with a unit chief and three supporting positions, and assigned victim-witness coordinators in each of the fifty-six FBI field offices nationwide. Emergency funding is available for federal victims of crime when no other funding resource is available and the request must respond to emergency needs that are a direct result of a crime victimization. Services may include crisis intervention, emergency food and clothing, emergency temporary housing and necessary transportation.

Federal Justice Self-Examination

1. What four major federal laws have been enacted to provided rights, services, and funding for federal crime victims?

2. Describe the role of the federal Victim-Witness Coordinator and give an example of the type of interagency assistance Coordinators can provide.

3. Describe the three types of direct services available to victims of federal crime.

4. List two significant federal initiatives undertaken to assist victims of federal crime.

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