Victims of Crime
Enacted: Jan 2012
The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) recognizes that crime victims and survivors are detrimentally affected by crime- physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually and socially- and that crime causes harm to the neighborhoods, homes and communities in which it occurs. APPA strongly advocates for services and programs that identify and meet the needs and interests of crime victims and survivors, and for the criminal and juvenile systems to implement policies, procedures, and practices that assure certain fundamental rights owed to crime victims are upheld.
Probation and parole agencies are in a unique position to make key contributions that identify and address victims’ needs and interests. Community sanctions and supervision should hold those that have committed crimes accountable for the harm inflicted on crime victims and offer every available opportunity to provide reparation to their victims and communities. Victims themselves deserve support, programs and service from both probation and parole agencies. Crime victims and survivors have a significant stake in all aspects of sentencing and adjudication: therefore probation and parole agencies should strive to ensure that crime victims understand how supervision works, and have an important role in contributing to effective probationer and parolee management, victim safety and satisfaction, and community safety.
APPA realizes not all victims’ needs and interests can be addressed solely by probation and parole professionals. When those needs are identified as wholly or in part outside the mandate of community corrections, agency staff should address crime victims’ constitutional and statutory rights, needs and concerns by coordinating services with appropriate community and system-based victim assistance programs, government, or allied criminal and juvenile justice agencies. APPA commits its energies and resources to being an integral stakeholder on a multidisciplinary approach to providing comprehensive services that help heal the wounds of crime and assist crime victims in restoring their lives to the degree possible, in the aftermath of crime.
The American Probation and Parole Association advocates the following principles and strategies for assisting victims of crime whose offenders are being supervised by community corrections officers:
Probation, parole and other community based professionals should be knowledgeable about crime victims’ rights across the federal, state, local and tribal criminal and juvenile justice systems, the respective roles of allied justice professionals in implementing victims’ rights, and how those roles relate to the community. Victim awareness and victim sensitivity must be reflected in each agency’s mission and/or vision statement.
Probation and parole agencies should provide pre-service training regarding crime victims’ rights, issues, needs, programs and services to all new employees, followed by regularly revised in-service training that conforms to changes in victims’ rights laws and policies. This training should be provided as a component of on-going professional development programs for all existing staff including support/clerical staff. Of particular importance is the need for mandatory training for probation and parole staff about the dynamics of cases involving violence against women, to further the understanding of the importance of ongoing communication with the victims to identify their safety concerns, the power and control issues involved in these crimes, and to recognize and avoid supervisee manipulation of supervision staff.
Probation and parole agencies should develop and maintain collaborative relationships with crime victim assistance and allied justice professionals that support cross training and ensure the promotion of improved services for victims of crime.
The establishment of a Victim Services Unit or designation of a “Victim Liaison” officer or staff person can enhance the scope and ability of victim services in community corrections. Trained staff in these roles can ensure information and assistance are provided to victims, and crime victim referrals are provided to other agencies when warranted.
Pre-sentence investigations (PSI) for adult or pre-dispositional reports (PDR) for juvenile offenders should include the Victim Impact Statement (VIS), both when the victim chooses not to speak in court and /or in addition to his/her court appearance. PSI/PDR records should contain information regarding the physical, financial, psychological, social and spiritual losses suffered by the victim. With the victim’s consent, after discussion of confidentiality issues, the VIS should be forwarded to institutional correctional authorities to help them make appropriate classification, programming and release decisions (particularly those regarding restitution and “no contact” orders).
Victims have a statutory right to financial restitution and compensation. Therefore, except for court ordered child support, the payment of restitution should always be the first priority among fees, fines and other financial obligations required of convicted/adjudicated individuals. Victim restitution should be portrayed as a key tenant of probationer and parolee accountability, in addition to its important role in compensating victims for their financial losses. A viable restitution payment plan, which can be effectively monitored and enforced, should be agreed upon with the probationer or parolee. Failure to pay restitution should be regarded as a violation of conditions and be met with timely and significant sanctions.
Community service is an excellent probationer and parolee accountability model that can benefit individual victims and the community at large. Without violating victim confidentiality and safety, restorative programs should be encouraged to provide victims with the opportunity to make appropriate recommendations regarding community service placements; and/or to request appropriate personal service from their offender. Community corrections agencies should partner with victim assistance organizations to identify community service projects that directly benefit crime victims and survivors, and those who serve them.
Crime victims have the right to notification, and are entitled to be present at sentencing proceedings. They should be notified at the time of their offender’s placement in community supervision and prior to probation/parole hearings concerning pardon, release, early termination and revocation decisions. They should have the option to submit a written statement to probation/parole authorities prior to those post-sentence considerations and have the right to be present as an observer and to provide testimony. If present at the hearing and in consideration of the victims’ safety concerns, victims and their families should be seated in a space separate form their offender and his/her family. Policies and procedures should be implemented that entitle victims to receive, upon request, information concerning their offender’s institutional release plans or status in the community, including their offender’s conditions of supervision. Victims should be notified when their offender absconds from supervision.
Victims have a legitimate right to information and need to know how the federal, state, local and tribal criminal and/or juvenile justice systems work. Public information packages that explain the policies and procedures of probation/parole agencies should be made available to victims and should identify any services that are available to assist them. These information packages should also include a definition of the terminology used in criminal, juvenile, tribal and Federal justice and corrections systems.
Domestic violence victims, sexual assault victims, children, elders and individuals with disabilities who are victims of crime require special considerations due to serious safety, trauma and vulnerability factors. The safety of domestic violence victims should be a priority of domestic violence offender supervision. If the probationer or parolee has been court mandated to “no contact” with the crime victim, it is critical that probation/parole officers ensure strict adherence to the enforcement of the supervision conditions. As a result of the severe and long-term trauma experienced by sexual assault victims, APPA advocates for the victim’s right to make an informed request for any relevant testing of their offender for HIV or other blood transmitted diseases and that the request be honored, and the result made available to the victim.
APPA recommends the implementation of victim awareness programming as a measure to help probationers and parolees understand the impact of their criminal or delinquent behavior on their victims, their own families, their community, and themselves. These include victim impact panels and victim awareness classes. Victim/offender dialogue or mediation, when appropriate and carefully implemented under the guidance of mediators specifically trained in the skill, can help probationers or parolees and victims explore the issues of accountability, and arrive at mutually acceptable settlements. The request for dialogue should be victim initiated and the offender must voluntarily agree to participate in the process. Mediation/reconciliation approaches should never be used in cases involving victims of domestic violence.
Probation, parole and juvenile justice services are in a unique position to facilitate the reparation of harm that crime has engendered on a very fundamental level. If the field of community corrections is to truly enhance the notion of “community justice and safety for all”, crime victims must be viewed as primary constituents. From that perspective, agencies should develop and implement programs and partnerships that consistently seek to identify and address the needs of crime victims in their respective neighborhoods and communities, while holding probationers and parolees accountable for their crimes. Services to probationers, parolees and crime victims should never be viewed as mutually exclusive, given community correction’s mission of protecting people in their communities and providing rehabilitative opportunities to probationers and parolees. APPA strives to help repair the harmful and lasting effects of crime that directly and detrimentally affect individual victims and survivors, and also leave scars on family members, friends, the entire community and the nation as a whole.