The journey of the Office for Victims of Crime over the past 2 fiscal years1997 and 1998really began in June 1996. President Clinton issued a memorandum to the U.S. Attorney General asking for a renewed commitment
to crime victims, affirming his support for a
constitutional amendment for crime victims, and outlining four steps for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to improve the treatment of victims in the Federal, State, military, and juvenile criminal justice systems (see sidebar).
THE WHITE HOUSE
June 27, 1996
MEMORANDUM FOR THE ATTORNEY
SUBJECT: Renewing our Commitment to Crime Victims
"I am directing you to take a number of important steps that will improve the treatment of victims in the Federal, State, military, and juvenile criminal justice systems. First, I am directing you to undertake a systemwide review and to take all necessary steps to provide for full victim participation in Federal criminal hearings.
"Second, I would like you to work with other Federal agencies whose missions involve them with crime victims in order to ensure that a common and comprehensive baseline of participation for victims can be achieved.
"Third, I want you to review existing Federal statutes to see what further changes should be made. For example, I would like you to consider legislation that would prohibit employers from dismissing or disciplining employees who are victims of crime and whose participation as victims in criminal proceedings requires them to take time away from their employment.
"Finally, I want you to work with State officialsgovernors, attorneys general, legislators, district attorneys, and judgesand victims' rights advocates to identify the needs, challenges, best practices, and resources necessary to help achieve a
uniform national baseline of protections for victims.
"The U.S. Department of Justice should provide technical assistance to State and local law enforcement, as well as other Federal agencies, and serve as a national clearinghouse for information about the most effective approaches to realizing fully the rights of victims of violent crime."
Responding to the President's Directives
During FYs 19971998, OVC has done much to implement the President's directive to encourage and facilitate victims' participation in the criminal justice process. With support of the President and U.S. Attorney General, OVC provided the impetus to make victims' rights and services a priority for Federal criminal justice professionals. OVC held Federal agencies accountable for their victim/witness responsibilities and created partnerships and shared management responsibility for the Federal victim/witness program. OVC remains vigilant in its effort to institutionalize programs for victims in the Federal system by requiring the continuation of program efforts as a condition of funding.
As a Federal agency, OVC is unique in that it
has direct service responsibilities for victims of Federal crimes. OVC's three divisions fund a variety of formula and discretionary grant programs throughout the country, many of which address the President's third and fourth directives. OVC's State Compensation and Assistance Division (SCAD) awards formula grants to States and territories and ensures that the funds are spent for legislated purposes. The Federal Crime Victims Division (FCVD) trains Federal personnel and develops programs to assist victims whose cases are handled within the Federal and Tribal criminal justice systems. The Special Projects Division (SPD), like FCVD, designs discretionary grant programs to provide comprehensive, high-quality training for victim assistance providers throughout the country. In addition, OVC provides a national clearinghouse of crime victim resources and operates a Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) for dissemination of training and grantee products. Through its formula grants to States for victim assistance and compensation, OVC accomplished the following in FYs 19971998:
Integrated victim services within the criminal justice system, in correlation with the passage of victims' rights legislation at the State level.
Stabilized victim services at the State level through increased funding.
Provided greater access to victim services for access-challenged populations.
Coordinated efforts among State, local advocates, Federal officials, and Indian Tribes.
Provided training, raised public awareness, and conducted outreach to victims to determine new rights and service priorities.
Assisted victims of nonviolent crime by creating and instituting innovative policy that addresses their needs.
Effected sharing of information among different victim service programs and groups through facilitating an effective peer support structure, focus groups, and regional conferences and meetings.
Supported use of technology to process victim claims for financial compensation.
Heightened sensitivity among victim service providers, allied professionals, and the public regarding the mental health needs of crime
OVC's formula and discretionary dollars have helped to improve the quality of crime victim programs, policies, and procedures while victim assistance and compensation grants to States and territories provide services to more than 21 million crime victims during the biennium.
OVC's formula and discretionary dollars have helped to improve the quality of crime victim programs, policies, and procedures while victim assistance and compensation grants to States and territories provide services to more than 21 million crime victims during the biennium. Over the last 2 fiscal years, when the large influx of funds became available to States for victim services as a result of the Daiwa Bank fine deposit into the Crime Victims Fund, the VOCA victim assistance program flourishedand the result for crime victims is better treatment, wider range of services, and more effective assistance programs. A permanent change, though, is needed to support a
fundamental funding base that will sustain the stability and growth of existing programs and promote opportunities for funding new programs.
Along with grant-driven efforts, OVC also has undertaken numerous activities designed to advance crime victims' rights and to focus public attention on crime victims' needs. (This important leadership component is described in chapters 3, 4, 5, and 7.) During the last biennium, OVC continued to work in close partnership with victim services providers and others in the field to help ensure justice and healing for victims and promoted fulfillment of both the "letter" and the "spirit" of the law with respect to victims' rights and needs.
Highlights from FYs 19971998
This Report to Congress, as prescribed by statute, describes many of OVC's accomplishments made possible by funding authorized in the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, as amended. Activities begun in FYs 19971998 are covered in this Report as well as some important initiatives that extend into FY 1999. Some significant achievements from this biennium include the following:
OVC facilitated and funded unmet needs for Federal crime victims. OVC provided resources where none existed and funded innovative projects such as the following:
Supported the development of telemedicine and other technologies to meet the needs of crime victims in remote areas.
Helped to create a national automated victim information system, which will provide timely notice to victims about their offenders' status within the Federal criminal justice systemthis in direct response to the President's directive.
Addressed fraud victims' needs through a new series of grant programs and publications designed to inform, protect, and otherwise
recognize the unique needs of this previously neglected group of crime victims.
Joined other Justice components to combat terrorism, foreign and domestic, through new partnerships, protocols, policies, and procedures; established model programs with other agencies; and funded training on terrorism issues.
Provided financial support directly to more than 50 federally recognized Tribes to deliver direct services and provided training and technical assistance in Indian Country in accordance with President Clinton's 1994 Directive to deal with Tribes on a government-to-government basis.
OVC developed long-term funding strategies with States. Of major importance during FY 1997 was the unprecedented funding provided for local crime victims' programs, made possible by a record year of deposits into the Crime Victims Fund (CVF)$529 million, up from a previous record of $363 million deposited in FY 1996. OVC took a strong, visionary approach with the States, launching several policy and strategic planning initiatives to encourage and assist development of long-term funding strategies and prepare States to effectively use these moneyswhich they did. The increase in funding, together with OVC leadership, provided the crime victims field with the resources needed to expand services across the country into many unserved and underserved areas such as rural America.
Of major importance during FY 1997 was the unprecedented funding provided for local crime victims' programs, made possible by a record year of deposits into the Crime Victims Fund (CVF)$529 million, up from a previous record of $363 million deposited in
OVC responded to the field. With unprecedented resources, OVC amplified its program development and policymaking responsibilities to the field by
Establishing the Technical Training and Assistance Center to provide the field with a central access point for a range of crime victim resources, including a mentoring program to further the skills, knowledge, and abilities of VOCA administrators and their staff through peer consultation.
Overseeing revision of the Attorney General's Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance (AG Guidelines) to clarify roles and responsibilities for investigators, prosecutors, and corrections officials; providing funding support to other agencies with Federal victim/witness responsibilities; and staffing the Deputy Attorney General's working group on victims of crime.
Helping States develop integrated crisis response plans and enhance their current response protocols to provide long-term services to communities experiencing multiple-victim crimes.
OVC developed more partnerships and technologies. OVC developed many more partnerships in the last biennium to enhance delivery of services. One example includes implementation of an innovative Victim Services 2000 (VS 2000) demonstration program, which creates
victim-centered practices and environments within
communities and helps them to develop comprehensive, accessible services for crime victims. OVC also funded the development of technology both internally and externally to enhance the provision of victim services. On the international front, OVC continued to coordinate with other Justice components, the State Department, the United Nations, and international organizations to improve assistance to victims abroad, responding to such issues as tourist victimization, crime victim compensation, international terrorism, and missing and exploited women and children.
OVC increased public awareness of crime victim issues. OVC's mission is to enhance the Nation's capacity to assist crime victims by working to change attitudes, policies, and practices to secure justice and healing for all victims of crime. In this regard, OVC continued to serve a leadership role in advancing crime victims' rights and empowering communities through support for community-based initiatives, community capacity-building, and local decisionmaking. OVC continued to support Federal and State legislation aimed at promoting fundamental rights for crime victims and to raise public awareness through issuance
of a national blueprint for victims' rights and services for the next millennium in the form of New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century (New Directions). Written by and for the victim assistance field with OVC support, this publication will continue to guide funding priorities for victim assistance
Crime victims, once useful only as "evidence," now have a legitimate role in criminal justice proceedings.
What the Future Holds for Crime Victims
The landscape of America is changing: immigrant and elderly populations continue to grow, while persons with disabilities and others needing access to crime victim services continue to emerge. In response, OVC is strengthening its efforts to reach these unserved and underserved victim populations. Traditional victim services in areas such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse, broke ground for a victims' movement now even more far-reaching. The field now encompasses victims of hate and bias, terrorism, political torture, financial fraud, and victims within vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with disabilities. Crime victims, once useful only as "evidence," now have a legitimate role in criminal justice proceedings. OVC's formula grants to States and discretionary programs have greatly reinforced this legitimacy and improved partnering throughout the system. People are beginning to see that crime victims have needs and the system is responding to them.
With New Directions as OVC's compass, OVC will partner with other government and private nonprofit agencies and allied professionals in the
victim services field to develop crime victim initiatives and further improve the response to crime victims. OVC will continue to identify new victim service areas, develop programs to address needs and deficiencies, encourage communities to reach out to unserved and underserved populations, find new entry points to provide access to victim services, and replicate promising practices. OVC will do this through support of applicable training and the development of protocols that incorporate crime victim issues at all levels of
justice and social service systems. OVC will also emphasize the New Directions agenda in the curricula of its national victim assistance academies and its soon-to-be-established State victim assistance academies.
In sum, OVC will continue to bring about systemic change to effect better treatment of crime victims and improved victim services. Toward this end, the anticipated collection of more than $800 million for the Crime Victims Fund by the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division1 will greatly assist in providing the means to carry out the broader vision of OVC as advocated in New Directions. These funds will also allow OVC to
address more emerging issues, do more for victims of terrorism and mass violence at home and abroad, play an even greater role in providing direct services to victims of violent and white collar crime, create a fellowship within OVC, and pursue other goals that continue to serve all victims of crime.
Much work is left to do to ensure full inclusion and participation of all crime victims both within and outside of the criminal justice system. Although most State laws call for victims to be treated with dignity and compassion, to be informed of case status and notified of hearings and trial dates, to be able to deliver victim impact statements, and to receive restitution from convicted offenders, rights of victims still vary significantly nationwide. While 31 States (as of close of FY 1998) have enacted a State victims' rights amendment, many still lack adequate resources to implement programs to address rights afforded to victims and hence still cannot enforce compliance with their provisions.
Please note that data for formula grants during FY 1998 are incomplete because the grant cycle for that year does not end until September 30, 2000.
Kathryn M. Turman
Office for Victims of Crime