Victims' Rights Initiatives
The criminal justice system traditionally has been preoccupied with
prosecuting criminals and, as a result, has often neglected to fully
acknowledge the rights of victims. However, the criminal justice
system has made great progress at incorporating victims' rights and
issues into its process in recent years. To further this progress,
OVC has funded several initiatives to raise awareness of victims'
rights and generate support for victims. Because these initiatives
share the common goal of expanding compliance with victims' rights,
each in some fashion supports the others. The projects also support
OVC's training and education efforts as well as the development of
programs that help victims understand and assert their rightstherefore
improving victims' access to the criminal justice system.
National Crime Victim Law Institute
The National Crime Victim Law Institute is establishing nine legal
clinics (eight state-level clinics and one federal clinic) to enforce
victims' rights from case intake through resolution. This demonstration
effort will encourage the replication of a national model to both
improve state compliance with victims' rights and increase victims'
access to resources that can help them assert their rights. The institute
intends to partner with law schools and other nonprofit organizations.
Because many attorneys lack knowledge about victims' rights, the
institute will train them on victims' rights and effective legal
strategies for victims. The institute also seeks to enhance and formalize
the collaboration among victim lawyers by establishing the National
Alliance of Victim Rights Attorneys. OVC is providing multiyear funding
for this initiative and plans to provide extensive technical assistance
to other U.S. jurisdictions that are interested in replicating the
program after its pilot test and evaluation. For more information,
visit the National
Crime Victim Law Institute Web site.
State Legislature Victim Education Project
OVC recognizes the importance of providing state legislators with
comprehensive information that informs their efforts to address victims'
issues. In 2002, OVC initiated the State Legislature Victim Education
Project, which is being conducted by the National Conference of State
Legislatures (NCSL). This project will educate the Nation's state
and territorial legislators about victims' needs by compiling, publishing,
and distributing a legislator's guide, and providing substantive
descriptions of key areas of law that address victims' rights and
services in the states. NCSL is already tracking major policy trends
in victims' rights legislation and recently published its analysis
in a report entitled Victims' Rights Legislation in the 21st
Century. NCSL has researched, compiled, and cataloged current
state statutes to produce a complete snapshot of each state's victim-related
laws and will publish the results in 2004. For more details, visit
Database of Federal, State, and Tribal Victims'
Before victims' rights can be fully enforced, victims, victim advocates,
victim lawyers, criminal justice practitioners, and allied professionals
must understand the relevant statutes and case law. In Fiscal Year
2003, OVC funded the creation of an online database of federal, state,
and tribal victims' rights statutes, codes, and relevant case law.
This mechanism will ensure that victim advocacy and service organizations,
criminal justice practitioners, researchers, and others have easy
access to continuously updated and vital rights-related information.
Access to this information will help OVC, its grantees, other victim
organizations, and criminal justice practitioners assess victims'
rights laws, identify gaps in statutory protections, and prepare
data-based training sessions. It will also help states identify model
legislation. More importantly, the database will serve as a source
of information for victims and their advocates that can be used to
help victims exercise their rights. For more information, visit the National
Center for Victims of Crime's Web site.
Victims' Rights Education Project
The National Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendment Network (NVCAN),
with support from OVC, has established the Victims' Rights Education
Project. Under this project, NVCAN will examine the core rights that
victims have throughout the United States and develop public education
materials describing them. When completed, these materials can be
adapted by state and community-based programs to inform victims of
their statutory and constitutional rights and how to assert them.
For more information, visit the NVCAN
Victim Education and Community Intervention Program
OVC is supporting work by the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center,
Inc., to document and institutionalize successful advocacy processes,
models, and practices that improve state compliance with victims'
rights and increase victims' access to services. Project findings
and recommendations will be summarized in a report outlining promising
practices and principles that can help advocacy organizations in
other states maximize compliance with victims' rights laws. For more
information, visit the Maryland
Crime Victims' Resource Center, Inc., Web site.
Judicial Training Project
OVC is launching a 4-year judicial training project to develop and
pilot test a curriculum for judges and court personnel on victimization
issues. The curriculum's learning modules will address—
- The impact of crime on victims and their families.
- Appropriate roles for victims in the justice process.
- Sentencing orders and victim restitution.
- The value and use of victim impact statements.
- The use of technology to improve victim services and victims'
access to the criminal justice process.
- Victims' rights laws and their implementation.
- Victim and community safety.
- Special considerations for victims with disabilities, child victims,
older victims, and non-English-speaking victims.
The grantee will also design an implementation plan for nationally
integrating and institutionalizing the training into judicial training
and education programs. Finally, OVC funding will support the development
of a bench book for judges on victims' rights law and recommended
procedures and a compendium of promising practices. For more information,
call Justice Solutions at 2024481710.
OVC recognizes that statutes on paper are merely words until they
are put into practice. As a result, OVC is committed to educating
and supporting victims, victim advocates, victim/witness coordinators,
prosecutors, judges, courts, and victims' rights attorneys in initiatives
that facilitate victim access to the criminal justice system and
build the capacity of victim service organizations to advocate for
and uphold victims' rights.