Message From the Director
Over the past two decades, the landscape for victims in this country has changed dramatically for the better, due in large part to the advocacy efforts of crime victims. Every state has passed victims rights laws, service programs have sprung up across the country, and funding for victim services has steadily increased. At the federal level, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) has been a wellspring of funding, information, and leadership for the victims field since its establishment in 1988.
This report covers OVCs major undertakings during fiscal years 1999 and 2000 (October 1, 1998September 30, 2000). It demonstrates the many ways in which OVC works to improve the criminal justice response to victims, make services and resources more accessible, and expand the range and quality of services for victims nationwide and around the world. Funding for OVCs programs and activities does not come from taxpayers, but rather from fines and penalties paid by federal criminal offenders in accordance with the 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). This report discusses how OVC allocated these funds during the past biennium.
The first chapter focuses on OVCs leadership in developing and providing effective responses to crime victims worldwide. OVC is in a unique position to gather victim-related information from a variety of sources, synthesize that information, and provide guidance and direction back to the field. OVC accomplishes this through policy development, program development, and public awareness efforts. For example, OVC recently issued new guidelines for states and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) identifying ways to improve services for victims at the state and federal levels. A major initiative to address the needs of children who witness violence is included in this chapter, as well as Victim Services 2000 (VS2000), OVCs premier demonstration program for providing comprehensive, quality services to victims.
Providing leadership in responding to terrorism, mass violence, and international crimes also has been an important priority at OVC for the past 2 years as the impact of school shootings and incidents of domestic and international terrorism have been felt around the country. Chapter 1 discusses OVCs efforts to build capacity at the local, state, and federal levels to respond to terrorism and mass violence, such as the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and discusses new legislation that expands OVCs authority to respond directly to victims of such crimes.
Chapter 2 focuses on ways in which OVC works to improve access to comprehensive, quality services for crime victims. This is largely accomplished through state compensation and assistance formula grant programs, which receive approximately 90 percent of the moneys available from the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) each year. State compensation programs pay for crime-related expenses such as medical care, mental health counseling, and lost wages. Assistance programs include services such as domestic violence shelters, childrens advocacy centers, and rape treatment programs. During the past biennium, more crime victims were served under VOCA victim compensation and assistance programs than in any previous biennium since the creation of VOCA in 1984. OVC works in partnership with states to make these programs more accessible to victims. Chapter 2 also includes OVCs efforts to address the needs of victims in Indian Country, enhance the federal criminal justice systems response to victims, and improve access to services for underserved victims such as those living in rural areas, immigrants, and victims with disabilities.
OVCs professional development and training activities are the subject of chapter 3. In the aftermath of crime, victims come into contact with a wide range of professionals, including those in the fields of victim assistance, criminal justice, health care, mental health, social services, emergency response, education, and faith. OVC has joined states, universities, and others to identify ways to professionalize the victim assistance field and develop a framework for consistent, quality services for crime victims. Through partnerships and coalitions with various communities, OVC provides cutting-edge, profession-specific education and training on victim issues. This chapter discusses OVCs many multidisciplinary training programs, such as the National Victim Assistance Academy, state victim assistance academies, and a symposium for those working in the federal system. Training for specific professions such as those within the health care, mental health, and corrections communities is also addressed.
OVC increasingly bases funding and priorities on sound research and evaluation. In recent years, OVC has partnered with DOJs research armthe National Institute of Justice (NIJ)to evaluate victim service programs and activities. Chapter 4 focuses on four evaluation efforts recently undertaken by OVC. These include a national evaluation of state VOCA compensation and assistance programs, of which the preliminary report indicates that state programs are generally operating well but could improve in the key areas of planning, training, outreach, and coordination. Other studies include an evaluation of VS2000, an evaluation of OVCs services to families of victims during the Pan Am 103 trial, and a study of victims rights and services among American Indian tribes.
Chapter 5 discusses ways in which OVC facilitates the exchange of up-to-date victim-related information. The three major avenues through which OVC provides information directly to the field are the OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC), the OVC Resource Center (OVCRC), and the OVC Web site. TTAC has greatly improved OVCs capacity to provide training and technical assistance across the country. OVCRC disseminates OVC publications and products that support and enhance the work of victim service providers and allied professionals, including literature on emerging victim issues, promising practices and demonstration programs, research findings, policy guides, and technical assistance and skill-building tools, videos, and customized information packages. Many of these products are available on OVCs Web site, which provides a wealth of information about OVCs programs and activities.
The final chapter in this report recognizes the work of individuals and programs throughout the Nation that have made outstanding contributions to improving crime victims rights and services. The 1999 and 2000 recipients of the prestigious National Crime Victim Service Awards are profiled in this chapter, as well as the recipients of the Crime Victims Fund Awards to federal employees whose work has increased deposits into CVF. All award recipients, many of whom are crime victims, serve as role models and a source of inspiration for others working in the victims field.
I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Kathryn M. Turman, whose vision was the impetus for several of the more recent initiatives outlined in this report and who helped sustain the various programs authorized by VOCA during her tenure as Director and Acting Director of OVC.
On September 14, I was confirmed by the Senate to serve as Director of the Office for Victims of Crime. As a crime victim, a retired law enforcement officer, a former chair of the California Board of Prison Terms, and a citizen who works to uphold justice and advocate for victims rights and services, I am honored by the confidence placed in me by President Bush, Attorney General Ashcroft, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure that victims rights and needs are addressed at the national and state levels. We have important work ahead of us and I look forward to working with you to further the cause of justice for crime victims during this administration. I appreciate your continued support for crime victims and the issues and programs administered by OVC.
John W. Gillis