Crime victims have rights, too
Only 30 years ago, crime victims had no rights, access to crime victim compensation, or services to help rebuild their lives.
They were often excluded from courtrooms, treated as an afterthought by the criminal justice system, and denied an opportunity to speak at sentencing. Yet through decades of advocacy and hard work, we have come a long way.
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) is observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 21-27.
This year’s theme – New Challenges, New Solutions – celebrates the spirit of the many crime victims and their families who work for justice and understanding.
Today, all states have enacted crime victims’ rights laws and established crime victim compensation funds. More than 10,000 victim service agencies help victims throughout the nation.
Every year, states and localities receive millions of federal dollars to support these services. But National Crime Victims’ Rights Week reminds us that many challenges remain. Crime victims’ rights are not universal and are often not enforced. Only a small percentage of victims receive crime victim compensation, which is usually limited to victims of violent crime. According to last year’s National Crime Victimization Survey, more than 50 percent of violent crimes were not reported to police in 2006-2010. In addition, a 2011 report called the Use of Victim Services Agencies by Victims of Serious Violent Crime showed that only 9 percent of violent crime victims received needed services in the 1993-2009 timeframe.
According to DPSC, many corrections, probation and parole employees work as facilitators for victim-offender dialogue sessions and provide information and assistance to victims who are registered through the Department’s Crime Victims Services Bureau (CVSB).
The CVSB registers victims or survivors of crime, or even family members, for notification about the offender once he or she is sentenced to Department of Corrections (DOC) custody, such as housing assignment and projected release dates, release from incarceration by any means, and sentence change due to court action. Staff also works with the Pardon Board and Committee on Parole to provide registered victims notice of parole and pardon hearings. More information and the registration form can be found on LPSC website at http://www.doc.la.gov (under Victim Services on the left menu) or by calling 1-888-342-6110.
Victims registered through a local District Attorney’s office or through the Louisiana Automated Victim Notification System (LAVNS) should also register with DOC to receive post-conviction information about the offender.
“Our public safety mission and goals specifically address the Department’s commitment to assisting individuals and communities harmed by crime, as well as providing opportunities to offenders to make amends for the harm they have caused,” said DPSC Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. “If you know someone who is a crime victim, make sure they know about us.”
For more ideas on how to volunteer to help crime victims, visit the U.S. Office for Victims of Crime website at http://www.ovc.gov.
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