Section 3: Victims' Rights

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SEVEN CORE VICTIMS' RIGHTS
  1. The Right to Notification and Information
  2. The Right to Reasonable Protection/Safety
  3. The Right to Confidentiality/Privacy
  4. The Right to Attend/Be Present
  5. The Right to Be Heard/Provide Input
  6. The Right to Compensation
  7. The Right to Restitution

Forty years ago, victims had few legal rights within the criminal justice system. Victims did not have to be notified of court proceedings or of the arrest or release of the person who committed the crime. They had no right to attend the trial or other proceedings. They had no right to make a statement to the court at sentencing or at other hearings. Few victim assistance programs existed.

Today, every state, the District of Columbia, and several territories have at a minimum basic rights and protections for victims of crime within their statutory codes, and nearly two-thirds of the states have adopted victims’ rights amendments to their state constitutions. Victims’ rights statutes have significantly influenced how victims are treated within the federal, state, and local criminal justice systems. [3]

History of the Victims’ Rights Movement

To better understand the laws in your jurisdiction, access the VictimLaw website. This resource includes an up-to-date, searchable database of victims’ rights laws across the country.

This guide focuses on seven core victims’ rights that are common across various sources and jurisdictions and specific to the role of probation and parole.

  1. The Right to Notification and Information
  2. The Right to Reasonable Protection/Safety
  3. The Right to Confidentiality/Privacy
  4. The Right to Attend/Be Present
  5. The Right to Be Heard/Provide Input
  6. The Right to Compensation
  7. The Right to Restitution
Resource

To better understand the laws in your jurisdiction, access the VictimLaw website. This resource includes an up-to-date, searchable database of victims’ rights laws across the country.

https://www.victimlaw.org/

In the following sections, we will take an in-depth look at each right in order to provide information and resources that can assist you in your work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

1. The Right to Notification and Information

What do you need to know?

Resource

Additional resources regarding
victims’ rights:

National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI)

The National Center for Victims of Crime

One of the foundational rights of crime victims in the United States is the right to information and notification. In fact, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories, and the Federal Justice System have enacted notification laws.[4] These laws vary by jurisdiction, but in many states, victims or their families have the right to notification of scheduled court proceedings, including all types of probation and parole hearings. Victims have the right to information about any changes in the schedule and the outcome of any of those proceedings, even if they were not present.

In addition, victims have the right to information about the crime that was committed as well as the status and location of the individual who committed the crime.

Voice from the field

“Victims have lots of rights that people don’t pay attention to. No recourse or enforcement. [In my state a victim] has the right to be notified if the offender comes back to court for violation, but who notifies them?”

In order to meet the requirement of victim notification, many states have adopted “opt in” systems. With this model, victims are notified early on, often by systems-based victim advocates, that they need to register for notification in order to receive notice of any hearings or status changes. If they do not officially “opt in” either because they do not know of the option or they chose not to enroll at the time they were told about it, they will not necessarily be notified of these proceedings. For jurisdictions that require victims to “opt in” for notification services, it is critical that they are offered this option at multiple times. It is not uncommon for a victim to have chosen not to participate at an earlier time or missed the opportunity to do so.

Corrections-based Victim Notification Services:

It is important to know how victims are notified in your jurisdiction. Most jurisdictions now use some type of automated notification system. The most common is called State Automated Victim Notification System (SAVIN), which is also known as VINELink (see below). Victims register to get notifications via phone, text, email, and/or letters. These systems also offer customer service representatives who can provide information and referrals to victim services, information about victims’ rights, and other resources.

puzzle piece

In cases of intimate partner violence, victim notification has to be handled with extra care so victims can make well-informed decisions about their safety. For more information on this, see Section 5, Intimate Partner Violence.

There are some jurisdictions that do not use this automated approach and some that offer both an automated notification as well as an in-house advance notification system. For these areas, victims are notified, often by prosecution-based victim/witness staff or corrections-based advocates, via phone, email, or text about any changes in status including escape, release, supervision status, and parole review.

To find out if your jurisdiction has automated victim notification visit the VINELink.

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TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Texas Crime Victim Clearing House:

  • Serves as a central source of information about services and issues involving crime victims in Texas
  • Staffs a toll-free number to connect victims with community and state resources
  • Produces a Victim Assistance Resource Directory including agencies throughout the state that provide services to victims
  • Maintains statistics on Victim Impact Statements and produces The Victim Impact Statement Activity Report

For more information, visit https://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/divisions/vs/victim_txcvc.html

What might the victim need?

Victims of crimes have a variety of needs. These needs change as the person who committed the crime moves from arrest to trial to sentencing and beyond. Victims frequently do not understand how the criminal justice system works and can have many questions. Although the needs of each victim will be different, common information and notification relevant to community supervision include information on:

  • Their rights as victims of crime
  • The community corrections process and your role in supervision
  • Conditions of community supervision, including level of supervision and what happens in cases of violation
  • Contact information of probation/parole including who to call if the person under supervision is violating no-contact orders or other victim-related conditions of supervision
  • The process of “opting in” to notification services, if applicable in your jurisdiction
  • Crime victims compensation programs
  • The parameters of victim confidentiality
  • Restitution requirements and how restitution orders are enforced
  • Upcoming court proceedings
  • Safety planning resources
  • Requests for interstate transfer, when an interstate transfer is granted and to where
  • The location of the perpetrator
  • Absconding
  • Revocation of release
  • Parole violations
  • Resources and services available to them including community and corrections-based advocacy programs
  • Information on the differences between probation and parole
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MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

The Sharing of Confidential Inmate-Related Information:

Minnesota DOC has implemented a process that utilizes a signed release form for situations where victims request information that is not public. If the victim asks about information related to the health, discipline, programming or education, victim service staff work with prison staff to ask the individual who is incarcerated if he or she is willing to sign a release so that the victim can be provided with the requested information.

 

Interstate Compact Agreement

notification

Victims may request information that they feel will help them address their safety concerns, including:

  • Location of the individual under supervision
  • Information on the level of supervision (electronic monitoring, frequency of reporting, etc.)
  • Information on the special conditions of release (no contact order, no weapons, etc.)
  • Information on violations of supervision
  • Assurance of victim confidentiality

One of the concerns that a victim may have is a need to know where the person under supervision is currently living. If they move out of state, the victim has a right to know about this change in status as well as any violations of release that are committed in the other state.
Under the Interstate Compact Agreement, victims’ rights cross state lines and victims need to be notified about status changes including:

  • When an Interstate Compact request is made, and when it is granted
  • Any significant violations
  • Change in address
  • Return to sending state where the victim resides
  • Move to another state
  • Issued a temporary travel permit[5]

Most jurisdictions use the Interstate Compact Offender Tracking System (ICOTS) to enable the transfer of supervision between states, and as part of ICOTS, jurisdictions can implement ICOTS VINEWatch, an automated notification system. Victims must “opt-in” and register for notification on activities related to interstate transfers.

Interstate notification is different in every jurisdiction due to regulations and data privacy laws, so know your laws.

What can you do?

  • Research your state laws regarding victim notification
  • Review your agency policies and advocate that your agency policies provide ample opportunities for victims to be given information about requesting notification
  • Explain the criminal justice proceedings to the victim, if they have questions
  • If it exists in your jurisdiction, invite them to “opt in” for notification services. Don’t assume they are choosing to opt out. Offer the resource.
  • Coordinate with the victims’ services program within your corrections agency if one exists.
  • Check with the victim services agency in your area to get brochures for your office
  • Identify any websites that provide information on notification rights and services
Voice from the field

"The best thing that we can do is to make sure that they get notice, before the guy gets released and contacts (the victim). But at the same time, they need to know to call the police in cases of emergency, not probation and parole, because we can’t respond immediately (sometimes even to voice mail). To keep the victim safe, they need to be reminded to call the police at the time, and to ask for a report after the incident (to force them to take it seriously). Encourage the victims to demand protection."


 

2. The Right to Reasonable Protection/Safety

What do you need to know?

Many jurisdictions provide for the right to reasonable protection during the criminal justice process, including during community supervision. Protections may include providing information to the victim on the status and location of the perpetrator, conditions of the release, and access to resources to address safety concerns. Additionally, many jurisdictions have established laws that require revocation of release if the perpetrator harasses or intimidates a victim[6].

Safety concerns during community supervision may include:

  • being contacted by or running into the person who harmed them
  • being harassed, intimidated or stalked
  • being re-victimized
  • safety of family members, friends, and the community

Safety concerns are common for victims and other community members particularly during reentry. Victims may have been directly or indirectly threatened with retribution upon release. Or the victims’ concerns may be more general, related to the release plan and the supervision restrictions or conditions back in the community.




Resource

Resources for Safety Planning:

  • National Network to End Domestic Violence
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline and Online
  • National Stalking Resource Center
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Not every victim is fearful of their perpetrator. In fact, some victims may be seeking contact or family reunification. At times, these contacts are in direct violation of a court order and leave you with difficult dynamics to navigate.

Key points to remember:
  • If a victim requests no contact restrictions be rescinded, this may or may not be granted by the courts or paroling authority.
  • You will need to use your best judgment, adhere to organizational policy, and uphold the court’s order.
  • There is always a role for safety planning when the victim is seeking contact or reunification. Be prepared to offer information and resources regarding safety planning.
  • Victim advocates can be an essential resource to you and the victim around safety planning and structuring the parameters of contact.

For more information and resources on this topic, see Section 4: Working with Victims — Intimate Partner Violence.


What might the victim need?

Voice from the field

"Although the victim may be an eyewitness to events constituting the offender’s violation of his community supervision conditions, s/he may be at great risk if s/he reports it or is called upon to testify. The more officers can independently verify evidence of violations, not disclosing information received from the victim, the more likely s/he is to remain safe. If the victim feels comfortable/safe with the officer, s/he can disclose information as to violations of release or probation. The victim and the PPO can be resources for one another."

Addressing victims’ needs involves providing victims with information about their case and the status and location of the individual under supervision. Supervisees and victims often reside in the same neighborhoods or towns. They may share family members or parenting roles. Victims often request that the individual under supervision not contact them, or not enter the communities where they live. They often have questions about the types of conditions placed on a probationer’s release including the level and method of monitoring. They need to be assured that their information will remain confidential. This is all part of safety planning for victims. Safety planning for victims means considering what the victims need and asking what is safest for them.

 

Voice from the field

Always keep victim safety in mind! To reduce possible risks to a victim, find out the best way to contact them and get their permission to do so. For example, in the case of intimate partner abuse, the abuser may use caller ID or other technology to monitor phone lines. If the abuser finds out that you have contacted the victim, this knowledge could be used to harm the victim.

Victims may need support from you to:

  • access resources to support safety planning
  • understand how to initiate a no contact order if one doesn’t exist
  • understand how to report threats to their safety

You may not be expected to develop a safety plan with a victim, but you can play a critical role in informing the victim about safety planning and connecting them with organizations that can help.

As a PPO, you may be part of the victim’s support and safety system and be included in the plan. This may mean that they know when and how to contact you if they feel they are being harassed or threatened by the perpetrator, and know that you will protect their confidentiality.

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Victims may not always express concerns for their safety for many reasons, such as:

  • Fear of retaliation by the person who committed the crime or his/her acquaintances
  • Shame/fear of looking bad to the PPO or others
  • Trauma from the crime
  • Not wanting to get the person who has committed a crime in trouble or sent back to jail or prison
  • Not wanting to interfere with the relationship of other family members (i.e., children), with the individual who committed a crime
  • May not realize that they are at risk for re-victimization

 

 

What can you do?

Voice from the field

"Every case is individual. PPOs need to be open to specific needs and dynamics within the family. For example, a mother contacted me because the prison contacted her about her son. She supports her son, but cannot have him around her. We did a Wrap Around (team meeting) and developed a plan that kept him out of the county. The mother can have contact with the supervisor to check in on his welfare, but the offender can’t check in on the family."

You can:

  • Research the law and policies in your jurisdiction regarding safety and reasonable protection.
  • Review case files for victim information.
  • Read the Victim Impact Statement, if it exists.
  • Give information to the victim that could enhance their safety such as the location of the person under supervision, travel restrictions, no contact orders, special conditions and violations.
  • Actively listen to the concerns of a victim who contacts you.
  • Ask open-ended questions regarding safety concerns (i.e. Do you have any safety concerns for yourself? What about for your children or other family members? Have you ever been threatened?)
  • Be prepared to follow-up on this conversation with information about safety planning and referrals to community- or system-based advocates who can offer safety planning assistance.
  • Know your resources: most victim advocacy programs have advocates trained in safety planning.
promising practice

WASHINGTON STATE

Victim Wrap Around for Reentry of High Risk Offenders:

This Wrap Around process is initiated by the Community Victim Liaison at the request of the victim. A group of stakeholders (prison case managers, community corrections officer, advocates, victims, and community members) meet prior to release. This is a confidential meeting to create an individualized safety plan for the victim that incorporates release planning and conditions of supervision to mitigate risk. The goal of the process is to develop a safety plan that is tailored to address known risks, and that involves collaboration and commitment among victims, Department of Corrections, and community resources.

For more information visit: Washington State Department of Corrections Victim Services


 

3. The Right to Confidentiality/Privacy

What do you need to know?

Voice from the field

"Our PPOs are very victim-sensitive and don’t share information about victims even though it isn’t specifically protected by statute in our state. We also have a confidential section of our computer system for notes and we ask that notes from victim services not go in at all. We also have a highly confidential Victim Notification system that only victim services has access to for notification of release requests."

Supporting victims’ safety means taking their need for privacy and confidentiality seriously. Many jurisdictions have laws in place that protect a victim’s privacy. More specifically, the laws often focus on three areas:

  • Prohibitions against requiring testimony in open court that would reveal personal information
  • Limiting the inclusion of the victim’s identifying information in criminal justice records (law enforcement reports and court and prosecution documents)
  • Protections regarding the release of contact information (address and/or phone numbers) that were provided for notice purposes [7]

Part of your role is to ensure that the victim understands what communications will remain confidential and what may not, so that they can make informed decisions about what they choose to share. This includes information in any case notes, victim impact statements, pre-sentence investigation reports, release protest materials, compensation files, and any communications between the victim advocate and the victim.Confidentiality laws vary across the country, so know and follow the laws and policies in your jurisdiction.

What might the victim need?

victim privacy
  • Name/identity
  • Contact information
  • Address
  • Place of employment
  • Phone number
  • Case notes
  • Victim impact statement
  • Pre-sentencing investigation reports
  • Release protest materials
  • Confidential communications

The cornerstone of victim confidentiality is making sure that a victim’s address and other contact information cannot be accessed. They may also need assurances from you that communications with you are confidential and will not be shared with the individual who committed the crime. They may fear retaliation or harassment, and feel as though they have no protection if the person who harmed them might have access to where they live or work or know how to contact them.

Having strong written policies and protocols in place to assure victim confidentiality is key. And it is important that you as a PPO know and follow the guidelines. Policies may include:

  • Guidance on documenting victim information in a separate case file, either paper or electronic
  • Information on which staff will have access to the victim information/case files
  • Provisions for written release of victim information that is time-limited, specifies the purpose for disclosure, and identifies the person to receive the information.
  • Sample release forms
  • Sample confidentiality policy

Having policies such as these in place can give the victim a measure of control over how his or her information and input are used. When you think about victim confidentiality, think beyond not providing a victim’s address or contact information to the individual under supervision. Strive to ensure that no information is given out even incidentally or in passing. Even the most obscure information has the potential to compromise victim safety if shared.

promising practice

Address Confidentiality Programs: thirty-six states have developed address confidentiality programs that allow victims of intimate partner violence, stalking, sexual offenses, and trafficking to provide a different address than their actual address in order to support victims’ safety. This ensures that public records will only show this alternative address and it can often be used as their legal address for things such as work, school, or home. FN-1

URL for each state’s ACP: http://nnedv.org/downloads/SafetyNet/NNEDV_ACPChart_2013.pdf

What can you do?

puzzle piece

Whenever possible, victims should have advance notice if their information will be released to an individual or agency. They should also be notified of the person or agency to whom the information will be disclosed and the date and time of the disclosure. If possible, they should be allowed input into what is and is not disclosed.

You can:

  • Understand the rights in your jurisdiction related to victim privacy.
  • Understand the policies and practices in place within your agency about communicating with victims and protecting their confidentiality.
  • Discuss the confidentiality policies and procedures with your supervisor, colleagues, and advocates so that you know you are all on the same page, and advocate for training on these polices. When in doubt, err on the side of victim confidentiality to mitigate risk and increase safety. Sample policies can be found here.
  • When working with a victim, discuss their privacy concerns and the protections that your agency has put in place to protect their privacy.
  • Ask victims for a release of information to talk with an advocate that they have been working with or to access some information from their file. If a victim authorizes the release of information, the release should be written, time-limited, specific to the purpose for disclosure, and should identify the person to receive the information.
  • Take special precautions to protect victim information from being seen. Separate any documentation containing communications with the victim in a different location than your supervision documentation. Only allow designated staff to access victim information/case files. If computerized, use password protections.
  • Consider how victim-related restrictions placed on the person under supervision might impact victim confidentiality. For example, if you restrict someone from going to a particular street or store, this may be letting them know where the victim is living or working. When possible, broaden the restricted area enough so that confidentiality is supported.

 

4. The Right to Attend/Be Present

What do you need to know?

Most jurisdictions allow for victims to attend any public court hearing, unless the presiding officer decrees otherwise. Some jurisdictions have laws that allow for victims to attend any proceeding “at which a defendant has a right to be present.”[8]

What might the victim need?

Victims may want to attend proceedings so that they can witness them firsthand and in some cases may request that they be heard. If a victim would like to attend proceedings related to probation and parole, it is important that you collaborate with victim advocates to offer support, safety planning, and information to the victim during this process.

They may also need you to provide information on:

  • Day/Date
  • Time
  • Location of the proceeding

It is important to note, that if schedule changes occur, it is essential to provide timely updates to victims as well.

What can you do?

You can:

  • Answer victims’ questions about attending any of the hearings related to probation and parole.
  • Ask them if they are aware of the notification programs in your jurisdiction and if they have registered to be notified.
  • Provide them with the information on how to sign up for notification if they chose.
  • Connect them with a victim advocate who could offer support before, during, or after the hearing, including courtroom or hearing orientation that helps victims understand what to expect. If you work in a system that has victim advocates as part of corrections, you should make a connection to that program.
  • If you do not have internal victims’ advocates, there may be programs in your community that can offer support. Make connections (see section 5: Building Partnerships) so that you are able to refer victims to support and services.

 

5. The Right to Be Heard/Provide Input

helpful hint

If you are requesting victim impact information to inform your presentence investigation report or decisions around conditions of supervision or release, ensure that you provide detailed information that clearly explains the purpose of the victim impact statement and who will have access to the information. In addition, include contact information for systems or community-based advocates that could provide support and assistance in preparing the statement.

What do you need to know?

All jurisdictions give victims the right to provide input at the time of sentencing on the impact the crime has had on their lives. Most also include the right to be heard at parole hearings and to have their input included in pre-sentence reports.[9] Some states allow victim impact information to be heard at bail, pre-trail release, or plea bargain hearings.[10] In general, victim input may be provided by the victim, family members of homicide victims, or the parent or guardian of a minor victim, [11] although some jurisdictions also allow the victim or family member to appoint a representative who can submit a statement on their behalf.[12]

Victim Impact Statements

Victim input is most often provided through victim impact statements (VIS).

Victim impact statements vary, but most often are either provided in writing or verbally and contain information about the financial, spiritual, psychological, or emotional impact of the crime.[13] They can also contain information about safety concerns and provide an opportunity for victims to provide their input into what they would like to see happen, related to sentencing, conditions of release, and/or accountability.

Resource

Click here for a sample VIS

Victims may have opportunities to provide a statement of impact at various times during the criminal justice process. These include during:

  • Pre-sentence investigations.
  • Sentencing.
  • Reentry planning.
  • Parole hearings.

What a victim includes in each statement may change over time. For instance, what he or she includes in the pre-sentence VIS about the impacts of the crime may be very different than the long-term impacts or safety concerns expressed during reentry planning or a parole hearing. You may not always know about or have immediate access to these victims impact statements, but understanding that they MAY exist can inform your work with victims.

 

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MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

Victim Reentry Statement:

Minnesota utilizes a “Victim Input at Reentry Statement” which provides victims the opportunity to provide input about concerns regarding community reentry. Victims who have registered for notification are sent the “Victim Input at Reentry Statement” at 180 days prior to release, which is the time reentry planning begins in Minnesota. The forms are reviewed and assessed for potential threats to the victims, and used to begin the victim safety wraparound process if appropriate.

For more information visit:http://www.doc.state.mn.us/PAGES/index.php/victims/reentry/

Take the time to familiarize yourself with local laws and agency policies related to who can submit a VIS in your jurisdiction and at what point in the criminal justice process these statements can be submitted by victims and/or referenced by PPOs.

voice from the field
"It’s very easy for PPOs to tell the offender what to do, but PPOs need to understand when working with victims that they need to ask the victims: ‘What do you need? How can we help you?"

What might the victim need?

The victim may need information about what to expect during a proceeding and whether they can submit a written or verbal statement.

They may need you to hear their concerns regarding the conditions of release and supervision planning. If they have not submitted a VIS statement, you can provide them with a sample form.

What can you do?

You can:

  • Research your state laws regarding victim input and participation.
  • Review your agency policies and resources on obtaining victim input.
  • Read the Victim Impact Statement/s and/or interview victims to inform conditions of release/supervision and to better understand victim safety concerns.
  • Include the victim’s position and impact statement in presentence investigation reports and reports submitted to the parole board.
  • If contacting a victim about an impact statement, provide detailed information that clearly explains the purpose of the victim impact statement and who will have access to the information. Include contact information for systems or community-based advocates that could provide support and assistance in preparing the statement.
  • Provide resources, like a handout on what topics should be included in a victim impact statement. Offer a sample victim impact statement [TW6] as a resource if they don’t have one.

 

6. The Right to Compensation

What do you need to know?

Promising Practice

Use of Technology for Victims Compensation:

Some states are utilizing technology to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of victim compensation programs. The office for Victims of Crime highlights a few here.

Every jurisdiction has a crime victim compensation program to help victims of violent crime recover from the financial impact of a crime. The specifics of what can be covered differ by jurisdiction so make sure you know about the laws and policies of your jurisdiction. Most states have informational and educational material for crime victims about how to apply, but in general, crime victims and sometimes surviving or affected family members apply directly to the compensation program of the jurisdiction where they live or where the crime occurred. Covered expenses often include medical, dental, counseling expenses, lost income, crime scene clean up, and funeral and burial costs.

All states by Federal law require that violent crime victims report the crimes, and cooperate with the investigation and prosecution in order to be compensation eligible. Not all losses are compensated and recovery amounts vary by jurisdiction.

What might the victim need?

Victims may not know about victim compensation programs. You can be very helpful in linking them to a program in your jurisdiction and connecting them with a victim assistance program to help them complete the application.

Additionally, if a victim had a compensation claim opened as a result of the crime, and the individual who harmed them is now releasing, they may be able to reopen the claim to receive mental health counseling services to address the trauma resurfacing as a result of the release.

What can you do?

Resource

For more information on victim compensation and the programs in your area, visit the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards.

You can:

  • Contact your state’s victim compensation program and/or website to become familiar with the requirements and application process so that you can refer victims of violent crimes.
  • Obtain brochures or informational materials on victim compensation to keep in your office.
  • Ask victims of violent crimes if they are aware of the victim compensation program; don’t assume they already know about it.

 

7. The Right to Restitution




voice from the field
"You’ve got to keep encouraging the offender to pay: incentivize them. Make it part of the case plan so you are asking about this. I review restitution needs every month. If they can buy cigarettes, rent a TV etc., they can make payment. If they are employed, they can do it. As a PPO, you are intimately aware of the work that they are doing. So you know that they are making money, you have to be proactive about getting the money. We have to balance all the other things that they are paying."

What do you need to know?

Restitution is a court-ordered requirement for an individual who is convicted of a crime, to compensate his/her victim for out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the victim as a direct result of the crime.[14] Victims in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories, and the Federal Justice System have statutory rights to restitution.[15] In many states, courts are required to order restitution to victims for crimes such as violent felonies and in some jurisdictions a court must state its reasons on record if it does not order restitution or orders only partial restitution.[16]

Often, payment of restitution becomes a condition of probation or parole and when this is the case, the PPO may be responsible for collecting and distributing the funds.

Resource

The National Center for Victims of Crime offers a Making Restitution Real toolkit that includes resources, examples, and an on-line discussion group.

Restitution can cover any financial loss directly related to the crime, including:

  • Replacing what was lost in the crime such as stolen or destroyed property
  • Payment for debt and lost income
  • Medical and mental health expenses
  • Relocation costs
  • Prescription expenses
  • Funeral expenses

In ordering restitution, courts will often look to the presentence investigation report to assess expenses incurred by the victim and may also consider the defendant’s financial resources and other financial obligations.

If a PSI has been ordered which includes recommendations on restitution, it should contain a comprehensive accounting of the losses incurred by the victim.

For a more complete listing of expenses that may be covered through restitution orders, see Documenting Restitution.

In complying with restitution, some people may face biases and challenges in the community due to poverty, racism, barriers to employment, and collateral sanctions. This is the reality you grapple with in your work with people who have committed crimes, and it is tough. However, knowing that community corrections will be transparent and reliable in carrying out obligations around restitution goes a long way to helping victims have renewed hope for safety and justice.

Promising Practice

Restitution should be the first order of distribution of payments (except co-obligation with child support) prior to payment of other fines and fees.

Promising Practice

New Jersey’s Adult Probation Department requires that all people under intensive supervision meet all of their financial obligations. Probation staff then consolidate these funds and prioritize the payment of child support and restitution before other financial obligations.FN-2

The financial component of restitution is very important as the cost of being a victim of crime can be substantial, but restitution goes beyond receiving funds or replacing lost property. The goal of restitution payments is to hold individuals accountable for the crimes they have committed that resulted in often devastating pecuniary losses for their victims. Some crime victims see restitution as an acknowledgement of the harms caused by criminal conduct.

If collecting restitution is part of you assigned duties, be diligent and proactive in collecting restitution and finding and attaching assets. It is important to have systems in place to regularly disperse restitution to crime victims when it is collected/received.




Promising Practice

Maine’s DOC seizes state tax returns for those that owe restitution. This is the practice for everyone who is under supervision, even if they are current on their payment plan.

In complying with restitution, some people may face biases and challenges in the community due to poverty, racism, barriers to employment, and collateral sanctions. This is the reality you grapple with in your work with people who have committed crimes, and it is tough. However, knowing that community corrections will be transparent and reliable in carrying out obligations around restitution goes a long way to helping victims have renewed hope for safety and justice.

What might the victim need?

Victims may need assistance in documenting losses for inclusion in a PSI report or to submit directly to the court. Systems and/or community-based victim advocates can often provide support and information regarding how to document these losses.

Voice from the field

"Officers can forget that part of a [victim’s] recovery is holding the offender accountable, and part of holding them accountable is making them pay restitution."

Victims may not know about the process for collecting and distributing restitution payments. They may need to know who they should contact if they have questions or concerns about restitution and what they can do if payments stop.

When restitution orders have not been fulfilled by the time probation or parole is coming to an end, victims may need information on what will happen next. If supervision is ending, then criminal restitution orders can sometimes be converted to civil orders, however this often requires legal assistance.






What can you do?

You can:

  • Research your state laws regarding restitution.
  • Consult agency policy on restitution management.
  • When conducting a PSI, ensure that losses incurred by the victim are included and addressed.
  • Review the case file for documentation of restitution and other legal financial obligations such as child support.
  • Help with collection by setting up services such as budgeting and employment assistance. Help individuals create a realistic payment plan.
  • Invoice the individual under supervision for payment, garnish wages, summons to court, and check in on the plan at each visit, if applicable.
  • Prioritize restitution over court fees and fines if allowed by law and supported by the court.
Resource

The American Probation and Parole Association offers a one day training on "Improving Restitution Management in Community Corrections." For more information click here.


[3] Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center.(n.d.). Victim Law. About Victim Rights.U.S. Department of Justice. www.victimlaw.org/victimlaw/pages/victimsRight.jsp,accessed July 1, 2016.

[4] “American Probation and Parole Association. (2009). Fact Sheet 6: Promising Victim Related Practices in Probation and Parole: Victim Information and Notification. Council of State Government. Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. https://www.appa-net.org/eWeb/docs/APPA/pubs/PVRPPP-FACTSHEET-6.pdf , accessed July 1, 2016.

[5] Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision. ICAOS Rules. Chapter 3: Transfer of Supervision. Rule 3.108, Victim Notification. http://www.interstatecompact.org/Legal/RulesStepbyStep/Chapter3/Rule3108.aspx , accessed July 28, 2016.

[6] Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center. (2011). Module 3: Victims’ Rights Laws in the United States. Track 1, Foundation Level Training. National Victim Assistance Academy. www.ovcttac.gov/views/TrainingMaterials/NVAA/dspNVAACurriculum.cfm , accessed on July 1, 2016.

[7] Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center.(n.d.). Victim Law. About Victim Rights.U.S. Department of Justice. www.victimlaw.org/victimlaw/pages/victimsRight.jsp, accessed July 1, 2016.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The National Center for Victims of Crime. (2012). Victim Impact Statements. https://victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victim-impact-statements , accessed July 1, 2016.

[11] Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center.(n.d.). Victim Law. About Victim Rights.U.S. Department of Justice. www.victimlaw.org/victimlaw/pages/victimsRight.jsp, accessed July 1, 2016.

[12] Seymour, Anne K. A Community Response Manual. The Victim’s Role in Offender Reentry.Washington DC: Office for Victims of Crime, American Probation and Parole Association. www.appa-net.org/eweb/docs/appa/pubs/VROR.pdf, accessed July, 2016.

[13] Ibid.

[14] American Probation and Parole Association. (2013). Fact Sheet 4: Promising Victim Related Practices in Probation and Parole: Restitution and Other Legal Financial Obligations. Council of State Government. Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. https://www.appa-net.org/eWeb/docs/APPA/pubs/PVRPPP-FACTSHEET-4.pdf , accessed July 1, 2016.

[15] Seymour, Anne K. A Community Response Manual. The Victim’s Role in Offender Reentry.Washington DC: Office for Victims of Crime, American Probation and Parole Association. www.appa-net.org/eweb/docs/appa/pubs/VROR.pdf, accessed July, 2016.

[16] Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center.(n.d.). Victim Law. About Victim Rights.U.S. Department of Justice. www.victimlaw.org/victimlaw/pages/victimsRight.jsp, accessed July 1, 2016.