Master List of
New Directions Recommendations
Directions from the Field:
Rights and Services for the 21st Century
for Victims' Rights
The recommendations below, which
appear in the May 1998 New Directions Report, have been reformatted
for replication and distribution.
|The enactment of
the Nation's first State Bill of Rights for crime victims in
1980 ushered in an era of dramatic progress for victims' rights.
Since that time, State actions in legislating rights for crime
victims within the criminal and juvenile justice systems have
been remarkable. Laws extending rights to victims of Federal
crimes have also been passed by Congress. Despite this record
of success, too many crime victims are still being denied fundamental
rights in the Federal, State, Tribal, and military justice systems.
Many victims' rights laws are not being implemented, and few
jurisdictions require proof of compliance from justice agencies
mandated to carry out these important rights. To enhance victims'
rights implementation efforts and improve legislative compliance
across all justice systems, the following recommendations are
set forth by the field:
- The U.S. Constitution should
be amended to guarantee fundamental rights for victims of crime. Constitutionally
protected rights should include the right to notice of public court
proceedings and to attend them; to make a statement to the court about
bail, sentencing, and accepting a plea; to be told about, to attend,
and to speak at parole hearings; to notice when the defendant or convict
escapes, is released, or dies; to an order of restitution from the convicted
offender; to a disposition free from unrea sonable delay; to consideration
for the safety of the victim in determining any release from custody;
to notice of these rights; and to standing to enforce them.
- Crime victims should have the
right to notice of public court proceedings, including pretrial release
hearings, plea agreements, sentencing, appeals, and appropriate postconviction
release proceedings such as probation and parole hearings. Victims should
also have the right to notice of any significant change in the status
of defendants and to receive timely notice, upon request, of inmates'
temporary or permanent release, or inmates' escape or death.
- Federal and State laws should
be strengthened to ensure that victims have the right to be present
throughout all public court proceedings.
- Prosecutors should provide victims
an opportunity for meaningful consultation prior to major case decisions
such as dismissal, reduction of charges, or acceptance of plea agreements.
Judges should not accept plea agreements without first asking prosecutors
on the record if they have consulted the victim, and judges should take
the views of the victim into account before making a final sentencing
decision. Special procedures should be developed for cases involving
multiple crime victims, such as acts of mass violence, massive antitrust
or telemarketing cases, where consultation may be difficult.
- Crime victims should have the
right to be heard in major court proceedings including pretrial release
hearings, bail hearings, at sentencing, and before the disposition of
plea agreements, probation, parole, and commutation. Input should be
permitted through both oral andsubmission of written, videotaped, or
- Victims and witnesses of crime
should have the right to reasonable protection, including protection
from intimidation. The safety of victims and witnesses should be considered
in determining whether offenders should be released from custody prior
to completing their full sentence.
- Orders of full restitution for
crime victims should be mandatory. Restitution orders should be automatically
entered as civil judgments at the end of the offender's supervisory
period if not paid. Alternatively, legislation could be enacted giving
judges and paroling authorities jurisdiction for enforcing restitution
orders until they are fully paid.
- Victims should have the right
to disposition of proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
- All crime victims should have
the right to a full range of services and support to help them recover
physically, psychologically, and in practical ways from the effects
of crime, whether or not they report the crime or become involved in
related criminal prosecutions or juvenile adjudications.
- Crime victims should have fundamental
rights that are enforced in all juvenile justice proceedings.
- All criminal and juvenile justice
agencies, including courts, as well as victim assistance programs, should
help ensure that victims receive information about their rights in a
form they understand.
- Victims of crime should receive
assistance in exercising their participatory rights. Advocates should
be available to explain rights to victims, help them to exercise those
rights and, when necessary, serve as their representatives in court
and other key justice processes when victims are underage or incapacitated
or if representation is otherwise appropriate.
- States should review their victims'
rights statutes and constitutional amendments to determine if fundamental
rights are extended to all crime victims.
- States that have not already
done so should adopt truth in sentencing reforms to ensure that victims
know how long offenders will actually be incarcerated.
- Federal and State laws should
prohibit employers from taking adverse action against victims who must
miss work to participate in the criminal or juvenile justice process.
- In cases where there is good
cause to believe that bodily fluids were exchanged, victims should have
the right to be tested and to have the accused or convicted offender
tested at appropriate times for the HIV virus and sexually transmitted
diseases. State statutes should require these tests be conducted by
specially trained personnel who can advise victims of the reliability,
limitations, and significance of the test, as well as HIV treatment
options. In addition, laws should specify the agency that will pay for
HIV testing and pre- and posttest counseling, as well as treatment for
any victims who test positive.
- State and Federal laws should
allow and criminal and juvenile justice agencies should facilitate community
impact statements as a means for members of a neighborhood or community
that has been impacted by crime to have input into sentencing.
- Victims should have standing
to enforce their rights, and sanctions should be applied to criminal
and juvenile justice professionals who deny victims their fundamental
- States and the Federal Government
should create compliance enforcement programs, sometimes referred to
as victim ombudsman programs, to help facilitate the implementation
of victims' rights.
- Federal crime victims' rights
should apply in military proceedings.
- Indian tribes should review
their legislation, policies, and court systems to enhance the fundamental
rights of Native American victims.
- Victims of crime should have
rights at administrative proceedings, including the right to have a
person of their choice accompany them to the proceedings, the right
to input regarding the sanction, and the right to notification of the
- Criminal and juvenile justice
agencies should establish a means of monitoring their own compliance
with crime victims' rights laws and require public documentation showing
that victims were provided their rights or indicating an appropriate
reason why they were not. In addition, independent audits should be
conducted of State and Federal agency compliance with victims' rights
- Introductory and continuing
education for all criminal and juvenile justice professionals should
address victims rights, needs, and services, and incorporate involvement
from crime victims themselves.
- New funding mechanisms must
be developed to support the expansion and implementation of victims'
rights and services nationwide.
|New Directions from the
Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century