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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 rights–therefore 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 the NCSL Web site.

Database of Federal, State, and Tribal Victims' Rights Laws

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 Web site.

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 202–448–1710.


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.

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