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Apology letter bank
A form of restorative justice that allows individuals who are incarcerated to write letters of apology to the victim of their crime. Letters accepted into the Letter Bank remain there until the victims choose to receive them. There is no guarantee that the victim will ever request to receive the letter and it should not be factored into a parole review.
Causes of action
The legal basis for a civil lawsuit.
Civil actions
Lawsuits filed by victims to get reimbursed for injuries sustained and damages incurred as a result of a crime.
A general term meaning the extent to which defendants have the financial means to pay judgments from assets on hand, assets reasonably to be expected in the future, or financial assistance from sources such as insurance coverage.
Compensatory damages
Damages paid to compensate victims. Such losses include out-of-pocket expenses; loss of income; expenses such as medical bills, therapy, and funeral costs; loss of present and future earning capacity; conscious pain and suffering; financial support; and "consortium," the loss of the affection and society of loved ones.
The formal written pleading filed in a civil court alleging that the defendant(s) injured the plaintiff(s), and that the defendant(s) should be liable for damages caused.
Crime victim compensation
A government program available in every state to reimburse victims of violent crimes such as assault, homicide, rape, and in some states, burglary, as well as their families, for many of their out-of-pocket expenses.
Criminal Action
Cases in which the state prosecutes perpetrators of criminal acts, committed in violation of state laws.
Criminal justice support/advocacy
Support, assistance, and advocacy provided to victims at any stage of the criminal justice process, including post-sentencing services and support.
Crisis/hotline support
Operation of a 24-hour telephone or web-based service, which provides crisis intervention, support, counseling, guidance, and/or information and referral.
Crisis Intervention
Emotional support, guidance, counseling, and/or information and referral provided by advocates, counselors, mental health professionals, or peers. Such counseling may occur at the scene of a crime, immediately after a crime, or be provided on an ongoing basis.
Amounts of money awarded to winning parties in civil suits expressed in a judgment.
Pretrial proceedings in which attorneys for parties in a civil case have the opportunity to examine, under oath, the opposing parties and potential witnesses in the case. Depositions are sworn and reduced to writing. The transcripts may be admissible in evidence at trials if the witnesses are no longer available, or for purposes of impeachment.
Emergency legal advocacy
Filing of temporary restraining orders, injunctions, and other protective orders, elder abuse petitions, and child abuse petitions. This does not include criminal prosecution or the employment of attorneys for such non-emergency purposes as custody disputes and civil suits.
First Party Action
Lawsuits brought by victims directly against individuals who have committed crimes.
Interstate Compact Offender Tracking System (ICOTS)
A web-based system that assists in the transfer of supervision for probationers and parolees from one state to another.
The formal recitations of the outcomes of civil cases. They are almost always reduced to writing, and recorded as a part of the file. They often include compensatory damages owed to the victim.
Medical Advocacy
Accompanying a victim to the hospital after a sexual assault. This includes connecting the victim with resources and offering information, choices, and support. If the victim chooses to get a forensic exam, the advocate is often able to stay with the victim during the exam to provide support.
No Contact Orders
An order from a court forbidding a party in a legal action (criminal or civil) from having direct or indirect contact with another party. Violations are usually enforced as contempt of court, and could result in revocation of probation or parole. May be referred to as stay away orders.
The victim has the right to be informed about changes in the status of the person who committed a crime. The victim’s right to notification is supported by each state, through some form of Victim Notification System (VNS). The system by which victim notification is performed in each jurisdiction may vary.
Pretrial release hearing
Any hearing to determine whether the defendant will be released from custody prior to the trial (i.e., bail or bond hearing).
Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)
Public Law 108-79, 108th Congress. The Act supports the elimination, reduction and prevention of sexual assault and rape within corrections systems; mandates national data collection efforts; provides funding for program development and research; creates a national commission to develop standards and accountability measures; applies to all federal, state and local prisons, jails, police lock-ups, private facilities and community settings such as residential facilities.
Punitive damages
Damages awarded to victims, over and above compensatory damages.
Release hearing
A hearing to determine whether to grant, and on what basis to grant, an incarcerated or accused defendant limited, temporary, or permanent release (e.g., work release, temporary release for a family emergency, medical treatment, vocational training, to attend legal proceedings, etc.).
A court order requiring a person who committed a crime, as a condition of a sentence, to repay the victim money or services to compensate for the monetary losses that resulted from the commission of the crime. This may be a condition of probation or leniency in sentencing.
Restorative justice
A theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. The foundational principles of restorative justice are: 1) Crime causes harm and justice should focus on repairing that harm; (2) The people most affected by the crime should be able to participate in its resolution (i.e. victims, community, and the person who committed the crime); and (3) The responsibility of the government is to maintain order and of the community to build peace.
Restraining Order
An order from a court forbidding a person from being in physical or verbal contact with another person. Violations are usually enforced with a fine or jail time with a felony or misdemeanor charge. Restraining orders are known by different names across the country but in general there are two types of restraining orders:
Protection orders (PO)
often sought through the family court system, it is intended to be used for protection of someone from abuse by a family or household member.
Harassment orders
similar to a PO, but available for protection against non-family members.

The act of rejoining family members, such as children with incarcerated parents or a victim with their abusive spouse. Reunification is often tailored to a specific plan for the wellbeing of all parties. For example, a social worker could be present during visits of a domestic violence perpetrator and his child with the goal that concerns about the child’s safety will eventually be satisfied and the state will allow the offender to have more leeway in caring for his child.

Safety plan
A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that can help an individual avoid and stay physically and emotionally safe in dangerous situations. Safety planning addresses the individual’s fears and needs and can include all sorts of strategies like having a friend’s house prepared for an emergency stay, creating a signal to the neighbors that they should call the police, or keeping essential items in an accessible hiding place for a quick exit.
Shelter/safe house
Short- and long-term housing and related support services for victims and families following victimization.
Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE), Sexual Assault Nurse Exam (SANE)

A forensic exam completed at a medical facility to preserve evidence of a sexual assault. Victims can do kits anonymously and do not need to report the assault to the police to have a kit done.

Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs)

Interdisciplinary teams consisting of law enforcement, sexual assault forensic examiners (SAFEs), advocates, prosecutors and other allied professionals including community corrections that work together to support a positive criminal justice response to sexual violence.

Supervised visitation
Contact between a noncustodial party and one or more children in the presence of a third person, either paid or unpaid, who is responsible for observing and, to the greatest extent possible, providing a safe environment for those involved.
Intensive professional, psychological, psychiatric, or other counseling-related treatment for individuals, couples, and family members to provide emotional support in crisis arising from the occurrence of crime. Includes the evaluation of mental health needs and the delivery of psychotherapy.
Approaches to justice work and support services for victims that recognizes the impact and symptoms of trauma. Trauma-informed approaches to justice integrates understanding of trauma into policies, practices and procedures to avoid re-traumatization.
The Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013, targets sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence. VAWA funds services across the U.S. such as court, civil, and medical advocacy programs, rape crisis centers, hotlines, and safe haven housing. Administered by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Victim wrap around services
A coordinated process in which a team of individuals (e.g., law enforcement, probation and parole agents, service providers, and agency representatives) collaboratively develop an individualized safety plan and implement this plan for the benefit of a high-risk victim.
The Crime Victims Fund was established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) and serves as a major funding source for victim services throughout the country. Administered by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
An approach that seeks to minimize re-traumatization associated with the criminal justice process by providing the support of victim advocates and service providers, and empowering survivors as engaged participants. In a victim-centered approach, the victim's wishes, safety, and well being take priority in all matters and procedures.
Victim impact statement (VIS)
A written or verbal statement of a victim’s views concerning the physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual impact the crime has had on them, their lives, and the lives of their families/loved ones. The statement is offered to the court or other decision-making body most often during sentencing or release consideration hearings. Victim impact statements may include the victim’s opinion as to the risk the accused or convicted defendant may pose to them if released, and/or the victim’s recommendation of an appropriate sentence.
Victim-offender dialogue (VOD)
A voluntary process that provides interested victims an opportunity to meet the person who committed the crime, in a safe and structured setting and engage in a facilitated discussion of the crime. With the assistance of a trained facilitator, the victim can talk about the crime's physical, emotional, and financial impact and ask questions of the offender. The offender has a chance to express regret and explain their actions. VOD is typically facilitated while the offender is still incarcerated.
Victims’ rights
Legal rights afforded to victims of crime including, but not limited to, the right to notification, privacy, safety, to att end, be heard, compensation and restitution.
Victim advocate, community-based
Victim service providers whose base of operation and services occur within the context of a private, non-governmental organization (e.g., a nonprofit domestic violence program or rape crisis center, a nonprofit court accompaniment program, a psychologist specializing in child abuse, etc.).
Victim advocate, system-based
Victim advocates whose base of operation and services occur within the context of a criminal or juvenile justice agency (e.g., a law enforcement-based crisis responder, prosecutor-based victim services, a victim assistance specialist working within a community, or institutional corrections agency.)
Victim Services
Services offered to victims by systems and community-based advocacy organizations which include, but are not limited to, crisis intervention, advocacy, compensation assistance, advocacy, notifications, court accompaniment, safety planning, referrals, and information.


This guide was developed under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections (NIC). The National Institute of Corrections funded the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.


  • Maureen Baker, MA
  • Erica King, MSW
  • Tara Wheeler, MA

Key Contributors

  • Anne Conners, MPH
  • Mara Sanchez

About the Muskie School

The Muskie School of Public Service is Maine’s distinguished public policy school, combining an extensive applied research and technical assistance portfolio with rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The school is nationally recognized for applying innovative knowledge to critical issues in the fields of sustainable development and health and human service policy and management, and is home to the Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy at the University of Southern Maine.

The Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy at the Muskie School of Public Service is dedicated to developing innovative, evidence-informed, and practical approaches to pressing health and social challenges faced by individuals, families, and communities.

To serve this purpose, we engage expert staff in areas of Children, Youth and Families, Disability and Aging, Justice Policy, and Population Health and Health Policy. Partnering with clients throughout the nation, from state and federal agencies to the private sector, more than 200 research staff provide policymakers and practitioners with new knowledge, skills, and solutions to support healthier, stronger communities through:

  • Research and policy analysis
  • Training and technical assistance
  • Program development and implementation


Key informant interviews were conducted with selected victim advocates, probation and parole officers and their supervisors to inform the development of this Guide. Some of their comments are reflected throughout the Guide in the Voices from the Field. Special thanks to those who agreed to be interviewed. In respect of their wishes, they remain anonymous throughout this document. However, we are very grateful for their insight and input into this work.

The authors extend special appreciation for the professionals that have contributed to foundational work that underlies this Guide. Lorie Brisbin at the National Institute of Corrections has been pivotal in partnering with other professional entities and leading the charge to develop more resources tailored to probation and parole. We recognize and honor the work of Anne Seymour for her many contributions to this field. She has been an essential component of a larger working group at NIC working to build knowledge and capacity related to post-conviction victim services. Special thanks go to the other members of the various NIC-led work groups that have contributed to broadcasts, special publications, and other foundational tools that have informed this guide, including Joanne Archambault, End Violence Against Women International, Joye Frost, Office for Victims of Crime, and Darby Stewart, Washington State Department of Corrections.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the Office for Victims of Crime, the Office of Justice Programs, and the U.S. Department of Justice, for allowing us to reproduce, in part or in whole, the National Victim Assistance Academy curriculum. The full text is available online by visiting the OVC TTAC Web site at

Peer review

Finally, the professionals who have partnered with us to review and refine the Guide deserve special recognition. The Guide and the field are stronger because of the collective impact of each of these contributors.

  • Jeralita Costa, Washington State Department of Corrections
  • Lydia Newlin, Minnesota Department of Corrections
  • Mark Odom, Texas Department of Criminal Justice
  • Adam Silberman, Maine Department of Corrections
  • Anne Seymour, National Crime Victim Advocate