Introduction and Executive Summary

The passage of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) was a pivotal moment for crime victims in America. The law created a unique funding mechanism -- the Crime Victims Fund (Fund) -- which is derived from fines, penalty assessments, and bail forfeitures collected from federal criminal offenders, not taxpayers. During its first decade, the Fund generated more than $1 billion to help support thousands of crime victims' programs across the country.

The Crime Victims Fund was created by Congress in direct response to proposals made by the 1982 President's Task Force on Victims of Crime in its Final Report. Among its 68 recommendations for change to improve the criminal justice system for crime victims, the Task Force proposed that "Congress should enact legislation to provide federal funding to assist state crime victim compensation programs [and] ... victim/witness assistance agencies that make comprehensive assistance available to all victims of crime."

The Fund has grown significantly from a 1987 low of $62 million to more than $230 million in 1996. Today it provides substantial funding for approximately 2,300 victim assistance programs serving more than 2 million crime victims each year; state victim compensation programs that serve an additional 200,000 victims; and training and technical assistance on crime victims issues for thousands of diverse professionals across the country, including 70 federal law enforcement agency personnel.

When VOCA was amended in 1988. the Act designated the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) as a bureau within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP)1 in the Department of Justice (DO J) to administer the Fund. It also provided that the Director of OVC would be appointed by the President with the Senate's consent.

1 In 1983, the Department of Justice set up OVC within the Office of Justice Assistance, Research, and Statistics. the agency that has become the present-day OJP.

Today, OVC is one of five bureaus within OJP and works closely with these other components -- the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) -- to support programs that benefit crime victims. OVC serves as the federal government's chief advocate for crime victims and collaborates with many DOJ components, other federal agencies, as well as public and private organizations, to improve services to crime victims.

This report assesses the impact of the Fund and describes the accomplishments of the Office for Victims of Crime from October 1, 1992 through September 30, 1994 (Fiscal Years (FY) 1993 and 1994)2 in response to the requirements of Section 1407(g) of VOCA, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 10604(g). That section specifies that "the [OVC] Director shall ... every two years ... report to the President and to the Congress" on the effectiveness of operations under VOCA.

2 Some activities and final funding awards that took place in FY 1992 but were not included in the last Report to Congress are also included.

In passing VOCA, Congress recognized the federal government's responsibility to provide leadership in offering needed services to crime victims. It created two ways to offer support: 1) formula grants, which are provided to the states and territories for state crime victim compensation and victim assistance programs; and 2) discretionary grants, which are awarded to states, localities, and non-profit organizations to support services to victims of federal crime, pioneering programs for crime victims, quality training and technical assistance to criminal justice and other allied professionals, and the dissemination of information to the victims' field.

The following are some of the most significant accomplishments that have resulted from the implementation of VOCA in Fiscal Years 1992-94.

3 In FY 1986, 39 states and territories had compensation programs eligible to participate and receive VOCA compensation grants. By FY 94, a total of 50 states and territories received VOCA compensation grants. The State of Maine received its first VOCA victim compensation grant in FY 1995. Although the Nevada operates a victim compensation program, it has chosen not to make compensation available to non-residents. As a result, Nevada is not eligible to participate in the VOCA crime victim compensation program.

In recent years, enormous strides have been made in the victims' field through the efforts of the Office for Victims of Crime and many national and local victims organizations and service providers, such as Mothers Against Drank Driving, the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the National Victim Center, Parents of Murdered Children and Other Survivors of Homicide Victims, the Victims' Assistance Legal Organization, the Victim Service Agency, and many others.

But in no small measure, reforms that benefit crime victims are due to victims themselves, who have provided much of the leadership and vision for needed change. For example, Candy Lightner, whose daughter Cari was killed when she was 13 years old by a repeat offender, was a founder of Mothers Against Drank Driving (MADD), which has helped reduce alcohol-related fatalities by 31% in the last 10 years. John Walsh, whose 6-year-old son Adam was kidnapped and killed, helped to establish the Center for Missing and Exploited Children which has assisted the recovery of close to 30,000 children since 1984. The activism of Connie and Howard Clery, whose daughter Jeanne Ann was murdered in her dorm room at Lehigh University, led to the enactment of the federal Campus Security Act that requires colleges to publish their crime statistics.

While much has been accomplished to address the needs of crime victims during the past decade, a great deal remains to be done to ensure justice and healing for all victims. This report concludes with recommendations for legislative and other reforms that, if enacted, would further improve victims' rights and services. OVC has also established a number of goals for FY 1996 which are set forth in Appendix A, and some of which are included below. These goals were developed in consultation with national, state, and local organizations, victim advocates and practitioners, and crime victims themselves, with whom we work closely.

OVC's National Crime Victims Agenda will update the 1982 Report. It will describe the progress made in victim services during the past 14 years and set forth a plan for the future, including promising practices, legislative reforms, and new national-scope training and technical assistance programs. It is anticipated that this document will serve as a guide for comprehensive victim services well into the next century.

Increased professionalization among victim service providers remains a top priority for OVC. In FY 1996, OVC will expand its National Victim Assistance Academy by providing comprehensive training for 120 advocates at three different sites simultaneously as part of its continuing Intensive Professional Seminar. In addition, the Academy curriculum will be made available to states to assist in their training programs. The Academy also will support a train-the-trainer seminar series to increase the number of qualified trainers to address hate/bias crime, eider abuse, victim assistance in community corrections, responding to staff victimization in correctional agencies, and death notification.

bank robberies and white collar crime, including telemarketing fraud. Cultural sensitivity training also will be supported to improve services to Native American crime victims and others.

Finally, like the nation, OVC focused a great deal of attention on the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. In many ways, this tragedy exemplified all that the victims' field represents -- services at a time of crisis, survivorship at a time of senseless destruction, and lessons learned leading to improved services in the future. A special memorial issue of Oklahoma Today entitled "The Historical Record of the Oklahoma City Bombing" stated:

".... beginning in the very seconds that./followed the explosion, aye, before the black clouds rose above the downtown tree line, Oklahomans exhibited the acts e~f heroism, devotion, and hope that - when brought together - have always moved our nation forward. More hopeful yet, this response was mirrored by that of our fellow countrymen, suggesting that this same heroism, devotion, and hope remain lodged in the hearts of innumerable Americans."

The services offered to victims in the Oklahoma City bombing case in many ways demonstrated the range of services that OVC provides ~ crisis response to communities; technical assistance to federal law enforcement and prosecutors; assistance for victims in obtaining needed services; coordination between victim assistance agencies; and funds to help victims participate in criminal justice proceedings.

The accomplishments described in this report close out the first decade of extraordinary VOCA-funded victim services. As OVC enters its second decade, we are mindful of the many challenges ahead, but hopeful that with strong leadership from the President and the Congress, coupled with the continued support of an Attorney General who has established victims' issues as a top priority, justice and healing will indeed become a reality for all crime victims in America.

Aileen Adams

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