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Key Findings
During the last two decades, victims and their advocates have relentlessly championed
for increased victim participation in the criminal justice system. Slowly, the nation has
begun to respond. Although tremendous strides have been and will continue to be
made in the victims' rights arena, not all states and lawmakers agree with the
importance of victim rights legislation. Those who support and have worked tirelessly
for this cause must continue their efforts to ensure that all crime victims are granted
rights that justly belong to them -- rights that are no less than those afforded offenders.
Despite the victim movement's monumental strides, in many state and local
jurisdictions, victims still retain no rights to be present, informed and heard, to have a
voice in the sentencing process, or be informed, present and heard during the paroling
process. As crime rates continue to escalate, and growing numbers of victims enter the
criminal justice system, it becomes increasingly important that this nation's
policymakers critically review all current victim rights legislation, policies and
procedures. By doing so, we can ensure strong and comprehensive program services
are in place to effectively meet the needs of crime victims.
The writers and Advisory Board members for this report offer the following key
findings on the state of victim rights, in particular, the right to submit victim impact
statements, for the nation's review. Key findings are:
* A national educational initiative must be launched to train all criminal justice
agency professionals, i.e., law enforcement, prosecution, judicial, probation and
parole, on the traumatic, devastating effects of crime on the lives of its victims and the
community at large. Only with an increased understanding of victims' emotional
needs, can criminal justice professionals offer services that address victims' needs and
promote victim satisfaction within the justice process. Increased compassion for the
rights of victims often leads to a higher reporting of crime and victim participation at
trials and an increase in the system's ability to secure more convictions and seek
longer sentences;
* National policies must be enacted at the Federal, state and local levels to elevate
victims to their rightful standing as integral, viable participants in all stages of the
criminal justice process. This can be accomplished through the passage of
constitutional amendments. A constitutional amendment eliminates any threat to the
victim of losing the right to be heard based upon infringements of the convicted
offender's constitutional rights. (At the present time, 14 states have enacted
constitutional amendments that guarantee crime victims the right to be informed,
present and heard, and three additional states have similar constitutional amendments
currently pending on their ballots.);
* National policies must be drafted to ensure crime victims a strong and active voice
in the disposition of criminal cases through the use of victim impact statements. If the
justice process is to dispense sentences that are fair and just for each crime committed,
criminal justice professionals must learn of crime's impact not only for the victim, but
to a greater degree, society in general. When we fail to listen to crime victims, we are
in direct conflict with the very premise that our justice system was founded upon--fair,
swift and equal justice, with punishments that are consistent with the crime;
* National policies must be drafted at the Federal, state and local levels that permit the
submission of community impact statements as the effects of crime are far-reaching.
Not only do victims suffer the detrimental consequences of crime, but the impact of
crime often carries over into victims' extended families and respective communities.
The impact on these secondary victims is just as real and measurable as the impact on
primary victims. Before this nation can accurately assess the financial costs of crime,
all those who suffer emotional or financial losses must be given an opportunity to
make these losses known to the sentencing courts and paroling authorities; and
* Continual study and research must be conducted if we are to remain alert to the
short and long-term effects of crime, to learn of victims' needs, and to direct and aid in
the development and enhancement of current victim service programs. The results of
continual study and research efforts are critical if the criminal justice system is to
Focus on the Future needs of crime victims and to identify emerging issues or trends
in the area of crime victimization. Numerous research projects and studies were
commissioned during the 1980s to determine the need for victim assistance programs
and services. However, little research has been conducted during the early 1990s to
assess the efficiency and effectiveness, weaknesses and strengths, and changes
necessary in programs and services to reflect victims' needs today. Additionally, it is
vital that exhaustive program evaluations be conducted to critique and review
programs and services. These evaluations will help determine the need for service
enhancements and policy changes that will ultimately lead to increased victim
satisfaction and participation. Most important, adjustments to current programs and
services will provide victims an opportunity to begin to heal from the emotional
consequences of crime.
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Recommendations
The evolution of victims' rights and services has
generated a revolution in the American public's views of victims as citizens who
deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The results of the National Victim
Center's national public opinion poll, America Speaks Out: Citizens' Attitudes About
Victims' Rights and Violence, indicate that concerns about crime and victims' rights
have led a majority of Americans to support varied activities which reduce the risks
and consequences of criminal victimization. Of those interviewed, 62% said they
probably or definitely would pay higher taxes to improve the criminal justice system.
An even larger 70% said they would probably or definitely pay higher taxes to
improve services to crime victims. Perhaps most important, 81% of those interviewed
said they would probably or definitely pressure the government to pass laws to
improve victims' rights. Crime victims themselves have strongly influenced the
change in national attitudes about violence and victimization. Victims and their
supporters have become ardent, vocal advocates for change; not only within our
criminal justice system, but also within society itself.
In addition, results of the National Victim Center's public opinion poll also revealed
that 55% of Americans feel that sentences handed down to criminals by the court are
too lenient. Perhaps this is why seven out of 10 Americans believe that it is very
important for the judicial system to provide victims and their families with "...an
opportunity to make a statement prior to the sentencing of the offender about how the
crime has affected them." In essence, for the court to impose fair and just sentences, it
is critical that information be provided to the sentencing and paroling authorities on
the emotional, financial and physical impact of crime - information that only victims
can accurately define and provide through the use of victim impact statements.
Clearly the criminal justice system is ready, as is the American public, for the
permanent infusion of victim impact statements into the justice process. We must now
make the use of victim impact statements functional and consistent within the criminal
justice system. Comprehensive guidelines, protocol and model victim impact
statement instruments must be drafted that address the needs of both the justice
system and the victim. Victims must be systematically and consistently made aware of
their right to submit victim impact statements and the statement's application within
the system. To accomplish this goal, each criminal justice agency that has contact
with crime victims must have comprehensive agency guidelines and protocol that
outline the roles and responsibilities of each staff member in the notification,
distribution, collection and application of the victim impact statements.
Being a victim in our legal system is not an easy task. No one expects to be
victimized, and certainly no one would choose to voluntarily enter our complex
criminal justice system. However, more and more American citizens realize that they
or someone they know will be touched by crime. Our citizens demand that they be
afforded basic rights in our criminal justice system and demand accountability from
the justice system and policy makers across the land. This accountability includes the
right to be informed, present, and most important, to be heard. To be effectively
heard; however, the criminal justice system must provide victims with a forum in
which participants will listen. This can be easily achieved through the effective and
consistent use of victim impact statements. Listen to the words of one victim who
speaks on behalf of all victims, "...in some cases there is no loss of limb, no loss of
income...only a heartrendering loss that no court report can measure...and because no
two victims are alike in their emotional responses, it is important that the victim be
allowed to convey these emotional losses to all parties within the criminal justice
system."
The National Victim Center, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and American
Prosecutors Research Institute believe the successful implementation of victim impact
statements requires sound system-wide policies and procedures which clearly detail
and designate the roles and responsibilities of all key players in the criminal justice
system for soliciting, processing and applying victim impact information.
National Recommendation 1
The criminal justice system must adopt policies which allow crime victims to play an
integral role in the American criminal justice process. Such policies must reflect an
attitude that our justice system does not exist despite its victims, but rather, it exists
because of its victims.
Victims' overwhelming desire to have an active role in the prosecution and disposition
of a criminal case does not stem from a need to retaliate, but rather to promote fair and
sensitive treatment of victims, to have their role in the justice process acknowledged,
and to alert the justice process to the emotional, physical and financial impact of
crime on its victims and our nation as a whole.
National Recommendation 2
Legislation shall be enacted or amended at the Federal, state and local levels to
provide crime victims with the right to submit victim impact statements by written,
oral, video, audio or other electronic means at the time of sentencing and parole
authorities.
Empirical data has been collected which documents the fact that many victims face an
overwhelming fear of retaliation from the defendant after presenting victim impact
statements. This fear is often heightened when victims find they must confront the
defendant in an open arena such as a courtroom or parole board setting. The use of
alternative victim impact statements will, for many victims, lessen this fear and may
result in increased victim participation. Additionally they may serve to assure to
victims that impact information will be seriously considered and addressed by the
court, particularly in the determination of fair restitution orders.
State legislators may also wish to consider whether limiting victim impact evidence to
oral or written statements would have the effect of discriminating against victims with
disabilities, such as those who fall under the provisions of the Americans With
Disabilities Act of 1990. The potential for discrimination may be alleviated by
permitting victims to submit victim impact statements, in addition to written or oral
statements, via video tape, audio tape or other electronic means. The use of these
alternative victim impact statements will provide victims who are geographically,
financially or physically unable to attend sentencing or parole hearings to submit
information for consideration at the time of sentencing and parole. Physical
limitations may include travel restrictions due to age (elderly and children); physical
or mental disabilities; and sight, hearing or speech impairments.
Additionally, legislation should include provisions for the submission of victim
impact statements by designated victim representatives of non-English- speaking and
illiterate victims.
National Recommendation 3
Legislation shall be drafted and enacted at the Federal, state and local levels that
provides victims of juvenile crime with the right to submit victim impact information
at the time of adjudication.
Just as victims of adult offenders should have the right to submit victim impact
evidence to the sentencing court, victims of juvenile offenders should be justly
afforded the same right to submit impact statements for the juvenile court's review.
Crimes of juveniles cause no less the emotional, financial and physical impact as
those committed by adult offenders; and as in adult court, juvenile court judges must
have access to the financial and emotional impact of crime if they are to determine
appropriate and just punishments for juvenile offenders.
America cannot lose sight that victims of juvenile offenders have the same need for
information on the apprehension and adjudication of the juvenile offender as do those
victimized by adult offenders.
National Recommendation 4
Legislation shall be enacted that delegates specific authority, roles and responsibilities
at the Federal, state and local levels for the distribution, collection and dissemination
of victim impact statements. This legislation shall also provide specific mandates for
accountability and outline specific penalties for noncompliance with the legislation.
Additionally, all state and local criminal justice agencies shall provide, to each state
legislative body, in the form of an annual report, detailed information on services and
programs provided to crime victims. Federal criminal justice agencies shall also
provide, to the Attorney General and Congress, detailed information in the form of an
annual report on services and programs provided to crime victims.
Although Federal, state and local authorities have acted in good faith to pass
legislation that allows for the submission of victim impact statements, all too often
this legislation does not delegate authority to any one criminal justice agency on the
distribution, collection and dissemination of victim impact statements. In cases where
these duties have not been clearly defined, some states are finding that the
implementation of victim impact statements has been haphazard at best. (Texas is
currently the only state that requires criminal justice agencies to file an annual report
with the state legislature outlining the number of victims served by the programs in
each agency.)
National Recommendation 5
All criminal justice professionals who influence the victim impact statement
procedure in any way must have a thorough understanding of their state's statutes and
case law regarding the submission and use of victim impact statements.
This includes the types of crimes for which they are allowed; the definition of victim;
whether the submission of victim impact information or statements is mandatory or
discretionary at the time of sentencing; whether the submission of victim impact
information or statements is mandatory or discretionary at the time of parole
consideration; confidentiality limits; rights of enforcement (probably limited to states
with State Constitutional Amendments for victims' rights); submission deadlines;
perjury penalties; collectability of restitution; liability issues; and other elements or
limitations.
National Recommendation 6
All agencies that interact with crime victims should have victim impact statement
instruments and supplementary guides which explain to victims the importance of
victim impact statements; their right to submit one; and the criminal justice system's
use of victim impact statements.
All agency staff should be trained on the materials available to victims and should
work together to develop creative methods to generate public awareness to alert
victims of their right to submit victim impact statements.
National Recommendation 7
Statewide victim networks, coalitions and criminal justice agencies shall join together
to evaluate the effectiveness of their victim impact statement statute and, if it is
inadequate, work together to amend it.
While the impact of crime is uniquely personal, the need for services to victims is
universal, and often the need for services can be extracted from the victim impact
statement. It is critical that criminal justice professionals with access to the
information therein, bring to the attention of state networks and coalitions any voids in
service programs that have been identified in the victim impact statement. In doing so,
criminal justice professionals can join with state and local networks and coalitions in
determining the best method to address these newly identified needs.
National Recommendation 8
Training and continuing education on the traumatic effects of crime victimization
must be made available to all criminal justice professionals who interact with crime
victims.
It is imperative that criminal justice professionals working with crime victims have a
complete and thorough understanding of the devastating effects of crime on its
victims. Only when there is a clear perception of the impact of crime can criminal
justice professionals effectively and compassionately address the needs and rights of,
and provide services to, crime victims.
Adoption of National Recommendations
The national recommendations offered in this report will be rendered moot if
corresponding guidelines for the comprehensive, systematic implementation,
distribution, collection and application of victim impact statements are not adopted.
Therefore, if the American judicial system is to recognize and accept the permanent
infusion of victim impact statements into the justice process, it is vital that these
national recommendations be coupled with critically needed guidelines, policies and
procedures for implementation along the entire criminal justice continuum.
Key linkages in the criminal justice arena are crucial for creating a systems approach
to improve the treatment and rights of crime victims. Although the national
recommendations and agency protocols outlined in this report are not a panacea to
absolutely guarantee victims the right to submit victim impact statements, the
adoption of these recommendations will help to establish standards for the field.
Cooperative Inter-Agency Protocol: Critical for Ensuring Victims' Right to
Submit Victim Impact Statements
No one criminal justice agency operates as the hub of the justice process, but rather
each agency operates as a spoke in the wheel of justice. Central to the criminal justice
process are law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, and probation, parole and
correctional officials. Although each of these agencies operates within their own
framework and agenda, each agency provides victims with services which are
irrevocably intertwined. Without systematic guidelines for inter-agency cooperation
and communication, our criminal justice system cannot successfully or efficiently
protect the rights of victims.
1 National Victim Center. "America Speaks Out: Citizen's Attitudes About Victims'
Rig
hts
and
Viol
ence
,
Executive Summary." (1991)
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Victim Impact and Law
Enforcement
"I beg you to remember that wherever our life touches yours we help or
hinder...wherever your life touches ours, you make us stronger or weaker. There is no
escape--man drags man down, or man lifts man up."
Booker T. Washington
"With the gift of listening comes the gift of healing, because listening to your brothers
and your sisters until they have said the last words in their hearts is healing and
consoling..."
Catherine de Hueck Doherty
"My victim impact statement was the last opportunity I had to let anyone know about
my daughter."
a victim, NVC's focus group with victims
Victim impact statements are only one way in which the impact of crime can be
measured. Personal contact with criminal justice representatives serves as an
additional method to assess the effect of crime. From the very moment a crime is
committed, victims experience a real and measurable impact of crime, especially if the
crime is one of violence or there has been direct confrontation with an offender. Law
enforcement officers are often the first criminal justice representatives to arrive on the
scene, the first to provide support and assistance, the first to observe victims'
emotional and physical state, and as such, they have the first opportunity to assess
immediate victim impact.
Although the long-term impact of crime is not readily assessable immediately
following a crime and the dispensing of an actual victim impact statement instrument
at the crime scene may be premature, law enforcement officers are in a position to
assess the victim's need for crisis intervention, referrals, financial assistance, and more
importantly, to feel safe from the offender. In addition to assisting with safety issues,
an officer's assessment of the victim's initial fear of defendant retaliation and
intimidation provides necessary information to the proper authorities to strengthen
arguments for the increase or denial of bail bonds and the issuance of restraining
orders.
Historically, law enforcement officers have been legislatively excluded in the
collection and distribution of victim impact information. This is unfortunate because
as first responders, law enforcement officers provide victims with their first glimpse
into the criminal justice process. As such, they play a critical role in setting the stage
for victims' satisfaction and participation in the criminal justice system.
The victim's perception of the justice process and willingness to participate is often
influenced by this contact. If law enforcement officers fail to provide victims with
sensitive and compassionate treatment at the time of the crime and during the
investigation, victims may refuse to cooperate and thus, hinder the law enforcement
agencies' ability to make arrests.
Law Enforcement Officer's Role in the Distribution and Collection of Victim
Impact Information
It is universally recognized by the justice process that law enforcement officers play
an important role in the assessment of victims' initial service needs and the immediate
impact of the crime. The role of law enforcement officers in the distribution of victim
impact statement information has been one of much debate. There are solid arguments
for both sides of the issue. Supporters in favor of law enforcement officers distributing
victim impact statements have argued this process:
* Provides victims with information on their right to submit victim impact statements
as soon as the crime has been reported and allows them to participate in the justice
process early on.
* Permits victims to begin documenting financial losses, as well as to begin recording
any initial thoughts, fears, concerns and needs for the future drafting of victim impact
statements.
Although informing victims early of their need to document expenses attributable to
the crime is prudent, opponents of the distribution of victim impact statement
instruments by law enforcement officers argue this may:
* Lead victims to interpret that the offender will be identified, arrested and convicted,
when in fact, a high percentage of crimes never result in arrest or prosecution.
* Result in legal concerns surrounding the discovery of the written materials.
* Result in an assumption that victims are familiar and knowledgeable about the
criminal justice system and the role they are to play. The average citizen rarely has
any prior knowledge of criminal justice system; therefore, they may not have the
necessary understanding of the significance of the victim impact statement.
Subsequently, immediately following a crime, especially one of violence, many
victims will naturally focus on physical, emotional, or financial concerns. Coping with
the aftermath of crime requires victims' full attention and many victims will not have
the emotional or physical strength to begin to education themselves about the
complicated legal system they are about to enter. Victims may be better served if they
receive information about the criminal justice process after they have first attended to
their personal needs.
Providing Victim Services Through Police-Based Victim Assistance Programs
Society alone has not been responsible for excluding
law enforcement from a more active participation in the assessment of victim impact.
Attitudes have long prevailed among law enforcement officers that their role is one to
serve and protect, and not that of a social worker. However, these attitudes are
increasingly changing as more and more law enforcement agencies recognize the need
to expand their roles and the services they offer victims. In providing victim services,
they may improve their ability to investigate cases more efficiently; substantially
increase their efficiency in making arrests and bring more offenders into the justice
process.
In recent years, many law enforcement agencies have enhanced victim assistance
services by establishing police-based victim assistance programs. The emergence of
the police-based program is of significance for several reasons. Police-based programs
have the ability to provide services to millions of crime victims that would
traditionally be excluded from receiving services. Many established victim assistance
programs primarily focus on those victims whose cases have formally entered the
criminal justice process.
However, in approximately 80% of all reported crimes, no offender will be identified,
arrested or prosecuted. Based on a recent report released by the Bureau of Justice
Statistics, this percentage translates into approximately 24 million victims who have
no access to critically needed services and programs.1 Therefore, police-based
programs are essential in meeting the service, referrals and assistance needs of these
often forgotten victims:
* In jurisdictions where no formal prosecutor-based victim assistance program exists
and cases are entering the criminal justice process for prosecution, police-based
programs are assuming the primary role of providing victim assistance throughout the
entire justice process i.e., referrals, case status updates, notification of court date,
assistance with crime victim compensation applications, etc. It is within this
framework that police-based programs would be subject to the same agency protocol
and directives as prosecutor-based programs.
* The police/victim partnership has improved over the last few years. Victim
assistance efforts are widely recognized and appreciated by victims and society.
Perhaps law enforcement agencies have heeded the public's cry for more involvement
and increased victim issue training.2
No matter the reasons, law enforcement officers and police-based victim assistance
programs can and do play a significant role in the collection and dissemination of
impact evidence. As police-based victim assistance programs continue to expand,
their role will increase proportionally. In order to ensure that agency personnel are
working to accomplish the department's goals for victim assistance, it is critical that
individual agencies examine their current policies and procedures to ensure they
address victims' needs, responsibility and accountability for program services within
the department.
National Protocol Recommendations for Law Enforcement Agencies
* Law enforcement agencies should establish program services for victims of crime
with sound policies and procedures that clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for
the administration of program services such as those set forth in Chapter 55 of
Guidelines for Accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law
Enforcement Agencies, Inc.;
* Law enforcement agencies should establish policies and procedures that ensure
accountability in implementing program services, and specific penalties shall be
drafted for noncompliance of established policies and procedures;
* Law enforcement agencies should establish policies and procedures for the inter-
agency coordination of victim services with all key criminal justice agencies to ensure
the delivery of services are not duplicated;
* Law enforcement agencies should establish policies and procedures that require all
employees, who have direct contact with crime victims, to participate in state and
local victim assistance training programs that address the needs, rights and legal
interests of crime victims;
* Law enforcement agencies should establish policies and procedures which guarantee
that all pertinent victim impact evidence, i.e., acts of intimidation or threats towards
the victim, is immediately relayed to the prosecutor's office prior to any bail/bond
proceedings, so that any fears or concerns for victim safety can be addressed by the
hearing authority; and
* Law enforcement agencies should establish policies and procedures which require
law enforcement personnel to serve as a liaison between the victim and all criminal
justice agencies.
Law enforcement agencies with established victim assistance programs, and where no
formal prosecutor-based programs exist, should include the following additional
services relating to victim impact statements which should be incorporated into
agency policies and procedures:
* Law enforcement agencies should establish program services to aid in the
completion and submission of victim impact evidence; and law enforcement agencies
should establish policies and procedures to notify and inform crime victims of their
right to submit victim impact statements. At a minimum, victims should be informed
of any policies pertinent to the implementation of victim impact statements including:
* The purpose and use of victim impact statements in the criminal justice system; the
victim's option to exercise or decline his or her right to submit a victim impact
statement; and specific guidelines concerning the confidentiality of victim impact
statements;
* Eligibility requirements for submission of victim impact statements, i.e., victim
only, family members or designated victim representative;
* How the victim impact statement should be submitted and options for submission,
i.e., written, oral, audio, video, or other electronic means;
* How the victim impact statement will be reviewed by the court, i.e., inclusion in the
presentence report, or as an attachment to the presentence investigation;
* The date and time of the sentencing hearing, as well as the right to attend the
proceedings;
* A specified time frame for returning the completed victim impact statement;
* Information on the victim's right to request no contact orders; to receive notification
of probation revocation hearings, parole or other early release provisions, i.e., released
to community supervision, furloughs, and instructions for requesting these rights;
* How to request assistance in completing the victim impact statement, i.e., name and
phone number for agency contact;
* The importance of notifying probation, correctional and paroling authorities of
changes in address, and providing instructions how to do so;
Additionally, in law enforcement agencies with sufficient program services and
budget allocations, the following victim services should be incorporated into agency
policies and procedures:
* Provide home/hospital/nursing home visits to aid in the completion and collection of
victim impact statements from disabled, ill, child or elderly victims who may be
otherwise excluded from presenting victim impact evidence;
* Provide assistance to victims in the collection and verification of financial losses for
the court's consideration in determining fair restitution orders;
* Provide court escort services for victims that wish to attend the sentencing hearing,
especially those who wish to address the court through allocution;
* Provide non-English speaking crime victims with victim impact statement
instruments written in their native languages;
* Provide interpreters, signers or allow a victim representative to present victim
impact statements to the court on behalf of non-English speaking and hearing
impaired victims at the time of sentencing; and
* Provide assistance in the completion of victim impact statements for illiterate
victims or those who do not read or write well.
* When notified by paroling and correctional authorities that the offender is eligible
for parole or early release, law enforcement agencies shall establish policies and
procedures that:
* Provide notification to victims of the offender's eligibility for parole or alternative
early release programs;
* Provide victims with information on their right to provide updated victim impact
statement information to paroling or correctional authorities including requirements
and/or options for submission of updated victim impact statements, i.e, written, oral,
audio, video or other electronic means;
* Provide victims with specific information on their rights to attend parole or
correctional proceedings, i.e., must attend and speak in the presence of the offender,
the option to meet separately with paroling or correctional authorities;
* Provide, where possible, a victim advocate to accompany victims to parole or
correctional hearings, especially in cases of violent crime and where the victim will be
confronted by the offender or his family;
* Provide, where statutorily permitted, victims with paroling and correctional
authorities decisions for the offender's release, and if released, any conditions for
release, i.e., no contact orders, restitution requirements; and
* Provide the prosecutor, parole and correctional authorities with any changes in
pertinent victim information, i.e., changes in address, threats or intimidation tactics
made by the defendant or on behalf of the defendant.
1 "Criminal Victimization in the United States: A National Crime Victimization
Survey Report, 1992." U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Justice Programs,
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1993)
2 Regina Sobieski, "MADD Study Finds Most Victims Satisfied with Law
Enforcement", MADDVOCATE, Winter Edition, 1993.
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Enhancing Prosecutor and Victim Communication
"Years ago when my husband was murdered, I had to sit outside of the courtroom
during the trial. My husband's murderer sat inside with a lawyer paid for my tax
dollars, in a new suit with his wife, children and minister. His wife sobbed at the drop
of a hat, but when I began to cry the prosecutor asked me to leave so I wouldn't
influence the jury. No one seemed concerned about his family influencing the jury.
You call that justice?
Victim - MADD Focus Group
"I have a hard time getting people, even my own assistant attorneys, to really
empathize with victims. Its's almost a daily battle for me to sit down and say `look,
either you do this or you can find somewhere else to work."
a prosecutor, NVC's focus group with prosecutors
According to Dr. Mark Umbright, Director of Research and Training at the Center for
Victim Offender Mediation at the Minnesota Citizens Council on Crime and Justice,
University of Minnesota "... the criminal justice system places victims in a passive
position. They feel powerless and vulnerable; some even feel twice victimized, first
by the offender, and then by the police and the courts who often overlook their needs.
As for offenders, they rarely understand or are confronted with the human dimension
of their criminal behavior - that victims are real people, not just faceless objects
without feelings..."
Little did Dr. Umbright realize, when he addressed the lack of understanding among
offenders as to the pain and suffering their actions caused their victims, that he was
also referring to a lack of understanding by the criminal justice system on the impact
crime has on its victims. Just as offenders have regarded the victim as a nameless,
faceless entity in the administration of justice, it has only been in the last two decades
that our justice system has assigned faces, names and emotions to millions of its
victims.
For every crime committed, there are at least two victims: society suffers a violation
of its laws and subsequently, the peace of its citizens, and the actual victim suffers an
injury to person or property. Yet the American criminal justice system currently
allows only the state to play a meaningful role in the prosecution of a criminal case.
While the public prosecutor takes center stage and represents the interests of the state
in delivering justice, the actual victim of the crime is relegated to the role of witness
for the prosecution.1
Our criminal justice system has gradually recognized that its failure to grant victims a
prominent role in the dispensing of justice is particularly shortsighted because the
continued functioning of the criminal justice system depends on victim cooperation
both in reporting offenses and in assisting the prosecution of crimes.2
Recommended Prosecutor Services
Recognizing this basic premise, the criminal justice system has begun to remove the
cloak of secrecy surrounding judicial proceedings. In 1982, the President's Task Force
on Victims of Crime Final Report recommended the legislative and executive
branches, at both the Federal and state level, to "...pass and enforce laws that protect
all citizens and that recognize society's interest in assisting the innocent to recover
from victimization."3 Acting upon this recommendation, Federal, state and local
legislative bodies are enacting more and more statutes that mandate the development
of programs and services that provide victims with the information and participation
they rightfully deserve.
The President's Task Force further concluded that "better treatment of victims should
be a high priority for prosecutors, that the prosecutor is "in the best position to see that
the victim is accorded a proper role in the criminal justice system" and that
prosecutors "must serve victims by ensuring that they will not be victimized again,
either by the criminal or the system that was designed to protect the innocent."4
Prosecutors' offices, more than any other criminal justice agency, have been assigned
the responsibility for creating and implementing a vast majority of assistance
programs and services which provide victims with information and the opportunity for
participation in the justice process. The justification for the assignment is simple --
prosecutors have a vested interest in facilitating victim participation in, and
satisfaction with, the criminal justice process. If victims of crime feel helpless,
frustrated or angry due to insensitive treatment, they are unlikely to work
cooperatively with the system. The prosecutorial link in the justice process will
quickly be rendered ineffective if victims and witnesses are unwilling to report
criminal activity, testify as witnesses, serve as jurors or work cooperatively within the
system.
Victim Satisfaction Leads to Prosecutor and System Benefits
Research has clearly shown that victim satisfaction with the criminal justice process is
far more closely linked to the opportunity to participate than to the outcome of the
case. These findings are enormously important because, while the prosecutor cannot
control the outcome of the case, he or she can always share information with and seek
input from the offender's victim(s). Next to law enforcement officials, prosecutors
have more day-to-day contact with crime victims and witnesses than any other
personnel in the criminal justice system.
Placing victim assistance programs in prosecutors offices can improve
communications between the victim and the prosecutor. Additional benefits for
prosecutors may include:
* Access to information about physical, financial and emotional impact leading to
more accurate charging decisions, more persuasive closing arguments, and sentences
more reflective of harm done;
* Learning of additional facts surrounding the crime which may enhance effective
prosecutions;
* Lessening the likelihood for an adversarial relationship to develop between the
victim and the prosecutor, one which is time-consuming and frustrating to both
parties;
* Favorably influencing citizens' perceptions of prosecutors' accountability and
commitment to making the system work for the people rather than making people
work for the system: and
* Favorably influencing victims' overall satisfaction with plea negotiations because
victims have been provided with information to help them understand the basis for
plea acceptance due from evidence weaknesses or legal constraints.
Many prosecutors' offices are incorporating victim assistance services as part of
regular operations rather than delegating them to a separate program or agency.
Creating victim advocate positions within the prosecuting attorney's office benefits
the prosecutor as it gives the victim someone to contact other than the prosecutor.
Advocates act as liaisons for the victim and prosecutor, relaying important
information to and from both parties which frees the prosecutor to focus on the task of
bringing offenders to justice. Advocates offer the victim a prosecutorial contact to
communicate the degree of injury inflicted and subsequent consequences of the crime
as well as to receive information about the process and their rights within the process-
-including the right to submit victim impact information.
"Permitting victim input" was one of the key recommendations of prosecutors in the
1992 President's Task Force on Victims of Crime Final Report(5) and the 1992
Attorney General's Combating Violent Crime: 24 Recommendations to Strengthen
Criminal Justice. As was noted in the 1982 President's Task Force(6), "prosecutors
have a responsibility to ensure that victims of violent crime are informed of the
presentence report process, so that victims have the opportunity to have their views
reflected in these reports. Additionally, the President's Task Force(7) also noted "that
victims should have an opportunity to appear and be heard at the time at the time of
sentencing to inform the court of the nature of the crime and the full effect that it has
had on them and their families."
Victims Witness programs offer the victim the opportunity to communicate clearly to
the prosecutor, the degree of injury inflicted and any derived consequences of the
crime suffered by the victim. Prosecutors' offices are becoming more responsive to
victims' need to communicate victim harm to the court. As such, prosecutors' offices
are incorporating victim impact statement services as part of their normal daily
operating procedures rather than delegating them to a separate program or agency.
National Recommendations for Prosecutors and Their Professional Staffs:
* Prosecutors should establish program services for victims of crime with sound
policies and procedures that clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for the
administration of such program services. Policies and procedures shall also be
established to ensure accountability in implementing program services, and specific
penalties drafted for noncompliance of established policies and procedures;
* Prosecutors should establish policies and procedures that require all employees
having direct contact with crime victims to participate in state and local victim
assistance training programs that address the needs, rights and legal interest of crime
victims;
* Prosecutors should establish policies and procedures that delineate agency
responsibility for the distribution and collection of victim impact statements (if the
prosecutor's office does not serve as the primary distribution and collection point for
victim impact statements, policies and procedures shall be established for inter-agency
coordination in the distribution and collection of victim impact statements.
Specifically, these guidelines should address the coordination of victim impact
services to ensure that responsibilities do not overlap, and to lessen the likelihood
victims will be "overlooked" in the duplication of services);
* Prosecutors should postpone any recommendation for sentence in cases settled by
plea negotiations until such time that the victim is provided with an opportunity to
submit a victim impact statement, especially those cases in which a violent act was
committed;
* Prosecutors should establish policies and procedures for the collection of victim
impact evidence in violent crimes prior to any bail/bond proceedings so that any fears
or concerns for victim safety can be addressed by the hearing authority;
* Prosecutors should establish policies and procedures which guarantee that all victim
impact statements are forwarded to the probation department for inclusion in the
presentence report and the defendant's permanent court file;
* Prosecutors should establish policies and procedures which guarantee that all
pertinent victim contact information is forwarded to the probation department, aiding
them in obtaining any additional impact information that may be needed for the
completion of the presentence investigative report;
* Prosecutors should establish policies and procedures requiring victim/witness
assistance personnel to serve as a liaison between the victim and other criminal justice
agencies, i.e, representing victims' best interest and relaying special victim needs such
as emotional or physical considerations to other criminal justice agencies; and
* Prosecutors should establish program services to aid in the completion and
submission of victim impact evidence; and the prosecutor shall draft policies and
procedures to notify and inform crime victims of their right to submit victim impact
statements. At a minimum, victims should be informed of any policies pertinent to the
implementation of victim impact statements including:
* The purpose and use of victim impact statement in the criminal justice system; the
victim's option for exercising or declining his or her right to submit a victim impact
statement; and specific guidelines concerning the confidentiality of victim impact
statement;
* Eligibility requirements for submission of victim impact statements, i.e., victim
only, family members, or designated victim representative;
* How the victim impact statement should be submitted and/or options for
submission, i.e., written, oral, audio, video form, or by electronic means;
* How the victim impact statement will be reviewed by the court, i.e., inclusion in the
presentence investigative report, or as an attachment to the presentence investigative
report;
* The date and time of the sentencing hearing, as well as the victim's right to attend
the proceedings;
* Instructions for submitting the victim impact statement to the court, i.e., through the
prosecutor victim/witness assistance staff, probation department or directly to the
court;
* A specified time frame for returning the completed victim impact statement;
* Information on the victim's right to request no contact orders; to receive notification
of probation revocation hearings, parole or other early release provisions, i.e. released
to community supervision, furloughs, and instructions for requesting these rights;
* How to request assistance in completing the victim impact statement, i.e., name and
phone number for agency contact; and
* The importance of notifying probation, correctional and paroling authorities of
changes in address and provide instructions for doing so.
Additionally in prosecutor offices with sufficient personnel and budget allowances,
the following victim services relating to victim impact statements should be
incorporated into agency policies and procedures:
* The creation of a paid or volunteer victim advocate position within the prosecutor's
office to provide crime victims additional services at the time of sentencing and upon
notification that the offender is eligible for parole or early release considerations:
* Provide home/hospital/nursing home visits to complete and collect victim impact
statements from disabled, ill, child or elderly victims that may be otherwise excluded
from presenting victim impact evidence;
* Provide assistance to victims in the collection and verification of financial losses for
the court's consideration in determining fair restitution orders;
* Provide court escort services for victims that wish to attend the sentencing hearing,
especially those that wish to address the court through allocution;
* Provide transportation to victims that would be otherwise excluded from attending
sentencing hearings due to transportation restrictions, i.e. elderly, disabled or indigent
victims;
* Provide non-English-speaking crime victims with victim impact statements written
in their native languages;
* Provide interpreters/signers or allow a victim representative to present victim impact
statements to the court on behalf of non-English-speaking and hearing impaired
victims at the time of sentencing; and
* Provide assistance in the completion of victim impact statements for victims who do
not read well.
* When notified by paroling or correctional authorities that the offender is eligible for
parole or early release, prosecutors shall establish policies and procedures that:
* Provide notification to victims of the offender's eligibility for parole or alternative
early release program;
* Provide victims with information on their right to provide updated victim impact
information to paroling or correction authorities including requirements and/or
options for submission of updated victim impact statements, i.e., written, oral, audio,
video or other electronic means;
* Provide victims with specific information on their right to attend parole or
correctional proceedings, i.e., must attend and speak in the presence of the offender,
the option to meet separately with paroling or correctional authorities;
* Provide, where possible, a victim advocate to accompany victims to parole or
correctional hearings, especially in cases of violent crime and where the victim will be
confronted by the offender or his family;
* Provide, where statutorily permitted, victims with paroling and correctional
authorities' decisions for the offender's release; and if released, any conditions for
release, i.e, no contact orders, restitution requirements, etc; and
* Provide the paroling and correctional authorities with any changes in pertinent
victim information, i.e., changes in address, threats or intimidation tactics made by the
defendant or on behalf of the defendant, etc.
1 Karen L. Kennard, "The Victim's Veto: A Way to Increase Victim Impact on
Criminal Case Dispositions", California Law Review. (1989) 77(2):417
2 Ibid. pg.
3 United States. President's Task Force on Victims of Crime. Final Report. December
1982. pg. 66,76
4 Ibid. pg.64,65
5 Ibid. pg.66,76
6 U.S. Justice Department. 1992 Attorney General's Combating Violent Crime: 24
Recommendations to Strengthen Criminal Justice. pg. 49,56
7 United States. President's Task Force on Victims of Crime. Final Report. December
198
2,
pg.
66
.

The Judiciary: An Integral Link
in Assessing Victim Impact
"I want you to go over each victim
impact statement...You have to live
with the stupidity of your behavior for the rest of your life, but you also have to
understand what these families have to live with as well..."
Judge to a defendant at the time of sentencing (MADD Focus Group)
"I personally feel that it is a miscarriage of justice to sentence a defendant who has
been convicted of committing a crime against another person without first hearing
from the victim and taking into account the effects the crime had on the victim's life."
Judge Reggie Wilson The President's Task Force on Crime Victims
If all crimes were exactly alike, the circumstances surrounding each crime would be
identical. Prosecutors would never need to take a case to trial; no witness would be
called upon to testify; no judge or jury would be needed to hear and weigh evidence;
and all punishments would be equal. But reality tells us that this is not true. For each
crime committed, a different set of circumstances exists that deserve individual and
impartial review. As an American standard, this is only fair and just. But somewhere
along the way, the rights of the accused and the rights of the innocent became
unbalanced. The criminal justice system became so focused on protecting the rights of
the accused that it lost sight of the needs and rights of the victim.
For many victims, the criminal justice system has imposed a different standard, a
standard that has effectively silenced them by falsely and unfairly attributing the same
fears, emotions and needs to all victims. Crime is uniquely personal and, as such, no
two victims will experience the same emotional, physical or financial impact of crime.
It is imperative that judges have access to all pertinent information relative to a
criminal case if they are to accurately determine a just and fair penalty, so that the
defendant's needs and societies needs are properly balanced. One method of balancing
the information provided to judges prior to sentencing is through the use of victim
impact statements.
The use of victim impact statements by our judiciary has not been without critics.
Some legal scholars question whether victim participation in sentencing blurs the lines
between civil and criminal courts. Others have expressed fears that allowing victim
impact information may reduce judges' ability to withstand unreasonable and public
pressure.1 Some are concerned about the possibility of increased sentencing disparity
and bias based on victim attributes. Some have been concerned about the potential for
adding additional costs to the justice system or contributing to delays. The most
significant concern about victim impact statements and victim participation generally
- is that gains for victims will result in costs for defendants.2
In 1982, the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime responded to such objections,
in particular the concern about judges' ability to withstand unreasonable and public
pressure and that participation by victims at sentencing will place improper pressure
on judges as follows:
"The duty of a judge is to dispense justice, and the passing of judgement is a difficult
task. The difficulty of the task should not be relieved, however, by discharging it
unfairly. Hearing from the defendant and his family and looking into the faces of his
children while passing sentence is not easy, but no one could responsibly suggest that
the defendant be denied his right to be heard or suffer a sentence imposed in secret in
order to spare the judge. The victim, no less than the defendant, has a real and
personal interest in seeing the imposition of a just penalty...the judge cannot take a
balanced view if his information is acquired from only one side. The prosecutor can
begin to present the other side, but he was not personally affected by the crime or its
aftermath, and may not be fully aware of the price the victim has paid. It is as unfair to
require that the victim depend solely on the intercession of the prosecutor as it would
be to require that the defendant rely solely on his counsel."3
To counter the concern about the potential for adding additional costs to the justice
system or contributing to delays, it is thought that victim participation increases
accuracy in the judicial process by providing judges with facts that would otherwise
be lost in the bureaucracy of criminal courts. Currently, no empirical data exists which
supports the premise that victim participation adds additional costs to the criminal
justice system either financially or in loss of time. It is widely supported by numerous
research studies that not all victims want to or will participate in the sentencing
process. Some factors for not doing so may include: overall victim satisfaction with
the justice process; the fear that reliving their victimization may, in part, cause a
psychological setback; and most importantly, a general belief that judges will do what
is "right" on behalf of victims, and to a higher degree, society. Therefore, we cannot
justly infer that because the opportunity to present impact evidence exists, that all
victims will want to do so.
Nor can we misinterpret the lack of victim participation interest to mean that all
victims are satisfied with the justice process and no changes are necessary. On the
flip-side of victim satisfaction is the unwillingness of victims to participate in the
justice process due to: the fear of re-victimization by a system originally designed to
protect them; fear of retaliation by the defendant; a general lack of knowledge or
notification of their right to present impact evidence; and finally, a belief that their
participation will not alter the sentencing process because judges do not seriously
consider victim impact when determining appropriate sentences.
Are Judges Really Listening?
Victims' perception that judges do not consider impact evidence differs significantly
from that of judges. As early as 1987, Susan Hillenbrand, with the American Bar
Association, conducted a study of 77 state trial judges to determine if judges found
information contained in victim impact statements was useful in determining
appropriate sentences and fair restitution orders. Her findings revealed that 70% of the
judges said information contained in the victim impact statement about the financial
impact of the crime was "very useful" in determining an appropriate sentence, while
another 20% found the information to be "useful." A considerable majority reported
that impact information had considerable weight in both the number and size of
restitution orders. Moreover, all said they order restitution whenever the victim
suffered financial loss and the defendant seemed able to pay.4 During the last 10
years, victim impact statements have steadily gained significant judicial support and
the National Judicial College now endorses the submission and consideration of
impact evidence.
Supporters of victim impact statements have argued that both victims and the justice
process benefit from the submission and consideration of victim impact evidence.
Victims' benefits include viewing the justice process as more democratic and fair;
validation of their importance and role in the justice process; and more importantly,
for many victims, the opportunity to present impact evidence may promote
psychological healing. Benefits for the criminal justice system may include increased
reporting of crime and increased participation at trial; information that allows judges
and juries to more accurately determine the appropriate imposition of sentences and
restitution orders; and, a sense that the justice system is working in greater balance.
Findings from the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime clearly indicate that
Americans feel the ultimate responsibility for how the system operates rests with
judges who must reconfirm their dedication to be fair to both sides of a criminal
prosecution. If they fail to do this, they do not serve the public from whom their
authority is derived.5 Additionally, with the exception of parole decisions, the
sentencing stage often represents the final opportunity victims have to influence
decisions regarding the offender's fate.6 Victims have traditionally looked to judges as
the ultimate dispensers of justice, to do what is right and fair.
National Protocol Recommendations for the Judiciary:
* Judges should participate in a state victim advocacy training program, or a similar
program endorsed by the National Judicial College which addresses the needs, rights
and legal interests of crime victims;
* Judges should allow for, and give appropriate weight to, input at sentencing from
crime victims, especially those victims of violent crime as previously recommended
by the 1982 President's Task Force;
* Judges should inform crime victims of their right to submit victim impact
statements, if the victim is present in the courtroom, when a finding of guilt has been
entered into the court record;
* Judges should require the probation department to offer proof of due diligence in
their attempts to contact the victim, if no victim impact statement has been submitted
for review. If not properly satisfied that due diligence has been exercised, judges
should postpone sentencing while further attempts are made to contact the victim;
* Judges should allow for the submission of victim impact evidence both orally and in
writing. Additionally, judges should allow for all victims to submit victim impact
evidence through alternative means, i.e., audio tape, video tape or other electronic
means, especially when the victim is a child or is disabled mentally, physically or
emotionally;
* Judges should require the probation department to attach original victim impact
statements or letters to the presentence investigative report for further judicial review;
* Judges should allow for the use of interpreters/signers or a designated victim
representative for hearing or sight impaired victims and should also allow non-english
speaking and illiterate victims to appoint a victim representative to act on their behalf;
* Judges should postpone sentencing in cases settled by plea negotiations until such
time that the victim is provided the opportunity to submit a victim impact statement,
especially those cases in which a violent act was committed; and
* Judges should acknowledge, in open court, if he or she has read the victim impact
statement.6
1 Keisel, "Crime and Punishment -- Victims' Rights Movement Presses Court,
Legislatures, " 70 American Bar Association Journal 25, 26 (January, 1984).
2 J. Hernon and Brian Forst, The Criminal Justice Response to Victim Harm (1984)
National Institute of Justice, Research Report at 45, 50.
3 Susan Hillenbrand, "Victim Rights Legislation: An Assessment of Its Impact on the
Criminal Justice System, " A Study of the American Bar Association's Victim
Witness Project, funded under National Institute of Justice Grant No. 86-IJ-CX-0049
(S-1)
4 United States. President's Task Force on Victims of Crime. Final Report. December
1982. p 72.
5 Hall, "The Role of the Victim in the Prosecution Disposition of a Criminal Case, In
Criminal Justice and the Victim." (1981) p. 318, 323.
5 This recommendation is based upon numerous interviews and surveys conducted
with crime victims, in which victims stated that this simple acknowledgment by the
judge, further validated their role in the justice process and confirm that their input
has been heard.
.

Do Gains for Victims Harm Defendants?
There is no empirical evidence to back up the assertion that victim impact statements
harm defendants or erode their constitutional rights. A 1983 study of jurisdictions
with victim impact laws found that, with the exception of Ohio, sentences did not
increase when victim impact statements were introduced.
1
In the Ohio study, Edna
Erez and Pamela Tontodonato observed 500 felony cases, some of which had solicited
victim impact statements when it appeared the case would go to trial, and some that
did not.
The researchers found that cases in which a victim impact statement was submitted
were more likely to result in a prison sentence than probation. However, a second
analysis showed no association between the submission of an impact statement and
length of sentence. Unfortunately, the researchers discovered that cases with and
without impact statements varied widely in terms of charges, defendants' criminal
histories, etc. Therefore, they were unable to control for potentially confounding
variables.
Use of Victim Impact Statements in Capital Cases: Supreme Court Rulings
The argument of defendant harm was raised at the Federal level when Maryland's
Victim Impact Statement law was successfully challenged with Booth v. Marylandin
the U.S. Supreme Court.
2
In holding that victim impact statements were
unconstitutional when applied to capital cases, the Court reasoned that "only the
defendant's personal responsibility and moral guilt" may be considered in capital
sentencing. The effect on victims and family members of murder victims was
irrelevant to the defendant's culpability and served to "inflame" the jurors and divert
attention away from the crime and the defendant.
3

This view was narrowly decided in a 5 to 4 decision written by Justice Powell, joined
by Justices Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun and Stevens. Significant dissenting opinions
were also offered. Justice Antonio Scalia noted:
"Many citizens have found one-sided and hence, unjust the criminal trial in which a
parade of witnesses comes forth to testify to the pressures beyond normal human
experience that drove the defendant to commit his crime, with no one to lay before the
sentencing authority the full reality of human suffering the defendant has produced--
which (and not moral guilt alone) is one of the reasons society deems his act worthy
of the prescribed penalty."
4

In 1989, in South Carolina v Gathers, the court reaffirmed Booth by reiterating that "a
sentence of death must be related to moral culpability of the defendant." During the
penalty phase in the trial court, the prosecutor read from religious tracts that the
victim had been carrying at the time of his murder. The prosecutor also commented on
the victim's religious characteristics.5 Justice Brennan wrote the opinion and was
joined by Justices Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens. Justice White concurred in order
to form a majority because he felt bound by the findings in Booth.
6
However, in 1990,
in Payne v. Tennessee, Booth and Gathers were reversed in a 7 to 2 decision finding
that testimony commenting on the murder victim's good character, as well as how the
victim's death affected his or her survivors did not violate the defendant's
constitutional rights in a capital case.
7

Although many legal scholars believe that victim impact statements have passed the
ultimate test of admissibility (in capital cases) with the U.S. Supreme Court's
favorable reversal of Booth and Gathers, many courts are more reluctant than worried
to follow the U.S. Supreme Court's broad mandate in Payne v. Tennesseeto allow for
the submission of victim impact statements in capital cases. Since the High Court
issued its ruling in Booth and Gathers, defense attorneys throughout the land have
argued that Booth and Gathers relate to all victim impact statements. If the Court's
ruling allows for the submission of victim impact statements in capital cases, one may
infer that in cases where the penalty would be other than death, judicial concerns in
regards to possible defendant harm would be sufficiently lessened. Without exception,
courts must exercise discretion and caution when balancing the rights of the victim
and the defendant relative to the submission of impact evidence. However, their
caution should not go so far as to exclude the victim impact statement or to arbitrarily
dismiss the importance of the information or views that victims can bring to the
sentencing process.

1 New York Crime Victims Board, " A Quick Assessment and Evaluation of Victim
Impact Statement Law," (Unpublished Study, 1983).
2 482 U.S. 496 (1987)
3 Ibid. at 508
4 Booth v Maryland at 2542 (Scalia, J. Dissenting)
5 109 S. Ct. 2202 (1989)
6 Ibid. at 2211
7 Reported in NOVA Newsletter, op. cit.
.

Do Victim Impact Statements Increase Victim
Satisfaction?
What the Research Shows
As early as 1981, researchers, mental health practitioners and criminal justice
professionals have recognized that victims who receive information about their
criminal cases and are allowed to have input into the criminal justice process have a
higher degree of satisfaction with the justice process and experience a higher degree
of closure to their victimization.
Findings contained in the survey entitled Why Victims Fail to Report? The Psychology
of Criminal Victimizations (1), reflect that victims who do not report their crimes have
clearly opted not to participate in the criminal justice system. A major deterrent to
reporting the crime is the victims' concerns about their treatment by the criminal
justice system stemming from a belief that the system was 1) powerless to help them,
and 2) might further victimize them.
1

A 1981 research study conducted by Barbara Smith and Susan Hillenbrand of the
American Bar Association, revealed that victims' satisfaction with the justice process
increased if they perceived that they had influenced the process, regardless of whether
they really had.
2
For example, victims who believed they were able to speak with
prosecutors and judges were more satisfied with the criminal justice system than those
who believed they were not able to do so.
Similarly, in a 1984 study of 450 crime victims, 48% stated that they would have been
more satisfied if they were better informed about the status of their case. Twenty-one
percent wanted more opportunity to let prosecutors and judges know their opinions
about the case.
3
In 1982, Deborah Kelly, Assistant Professor with the American
University, published findings from a study she conducted which revealed that a sense
of participation was more critical to victims' satisfaction with the criminal justice
system than how severely the
defendant was punished.
4

In a 1989 publication, Dr. Dean
Kilpatrick, Director of the Crime
Victims Research Treatment
Center, Medical College of South
Carolina, reported his findings that
victim participation not only
affected potential cooperation
within the criminal justice system,
but it also promoted victims'
recovery from the aftermath of
crime by helping them to reassert a
sense of control over their lives. He states, "The perception-of-control variable has
been identified as a key factor in understanding the impact of victimization...A
criminal justice system that provides no opportunity for victims to participate in
proceedings would foster greater feelings of helplessness and lack of control than one
that offers victims such rights."
5
Kilpatrick further states that there is a great danger in
promising victims what will not be delivered. "Providing rights without remedies
would result in the worst of consequences such as feelings of helplessness, lack of
control and further victimization. Ultimately, with the crime victims' best interest in
mind, it is better to confer no rights at all than 'rights without remedies."
'6

Although other research cited in this report focused on victims' satisfaction with the
overall criminal justice process including victim impact statements, Dr. Robert Davis,
Research Director of the Victim Service Agency in New York, conducted studies in
1985 and 1990 specifically to evaluate the correlation of victim satisfaction and the
use of victim impact statements. Davis' study findings were contrasted with the
studies that found victim satisfaction with the criminal justice system increased with
more participatory rights such as the opportunity to offer impact evidence. Davis'
study found that only 50% of victims wanted to participate in the criminal justice
process, while the rest were satisfied to leave criminal justice matters to the court.
One victim in three did not even want to be present when the case was decided. The
study also included a matched, quasi-experimental design, which looked at the effect
of giving a victim impact statement on victim satisfaction. Davis found no evidence
that victims who gave impact statements felt a greater sense of participation or
increased satisfaction than those who did not. Findings from a similar study conducted
five years later led Davis to conclude that victims still did not experience a higher
degree of satisfaction with the criminal justice system merely because they had been
provided the opportunity to submit victim impact statements. This second study did
not find, however, that the use of victim impact statements led to a harsher sentence
for offenders. This may be good news in countering those who argue that impact
statements result in unfair sanctions for offenders. On the other hand, sentencing
decisions were not congruent with victim harm in cases in which statements had been
offered than in cases in which they had not may be bad news. Charge severity did
highly predict the length of sentence.
7

The Victim Impact Statement allowed me to construct what had happened in my mind.
I could read my thoughts...they were on paper...in black and white. I helped me to
know that I could deal with this terrible thing.
----a victim, NVC's focus group with victims.
Although Dr. Davis' research offers contridictory evidence in the support of increased
victim participation through the use of victim impact statements, the reader must keep
in mind that Dr. Davis focused only on measuring an increase in the satisfaction of
those victims allowed to submit victim impact statements. His findings did not
measure any correlation between increased victim satisfaction when victims were
given the opportunity to participate in the overall justice process including submission
of impact evidence. Findings from Dr. Davis' study also revealed that not all victims
want to submit victim impact statements. However, when comparing studies which
focus on increasing victim satisfaction through increased participation, the findings
clearly indicate that victims wishing to participate fully in the justice did, in fact,
experience a higher degree of victim satisfaction when allowed to do so.
1. Kidd and Cajet, "Why Victims Fail to Report? The Psycology of Criminal
Victimization," 40 Journal of Social Issues 35-50 (1984)
2. Barbara Smith, Susan Hillanbrand, "Non-Stranger Violence: The Criminal Court's
Responses." National Institute of Justice, (1981.)
3. J. Hermon and Brian Forst, "The Criminal Justice Response to Victim Harm."
National Institute of Justice, Research Report at 45, 50. (1984)
4. Deborah P. Kelly, "Delivering Legal Services to Victims: An Evaluation and
Prescription, 9 Justice System Journal 62 (1984)
6. Ibid. 15 at 27.
7. Robert Davis, "Impact Statements Not Having Much Effect," NOVA Newsletter, 16,
2 (1992)
.

Victim Impact--How Does It Impact Probation and
Parole?
"When the victim impact statement was read, the entire courtroom was in tears. I
watched the judge and he was really paying attention. On that day, I saw that victim
impact statements are a way to educate judges, juries, prosecutors and probation
officers on what it means to be a victim."
A probation officer - NVC Focus Group
"Balancing competing interest and equities in deciding a sentence can require
Solomon-like wisdom. Even Solomon heard from both sides."
...a victim, President's Task Force on Crime Victims
Opponents of victim impact statements have long argued that the submission of victim
impact evidence at the time of sentencing serves only to inflame judges and juries to
impose stiffer sentences, based upon emotional rather than factual considerations.
Opponents are now voicing the same objection regarding the submission of impact
evidence into the probation, correctional and paroling process.
Is there any validity to this assertion? Certainly, it has merit. Victims want to see that
justice is done and ultimately, a victim's personal agenda for submitting victim impact
evidence to both court and paroling authorities can be construed as self-serving.
Presenting impact evidence is one way the victim can provide information to court
and paroling authorities to aid them in determining an appropriate punishment for the
crime committed - from sentencing to the actual amount of time an offender serves for
the crime. Is this vengeance or merely a demand for accountability on the part of the
offender and our criminal justice system? As early as 1982, the President's Task Force
on Victims of Crime responded to such objections as follows "...the victim, no less
than the defendant, has a real and personal interest in seeing the imposition of a just
penalty. The goal of victim participation is not to pressure justice, but to aid in its
attainment."1
Apart from the victim's personal agenda to present impact evidence, victim impact
statements are important to the probation, correctional and parole process for a
number of reasons. Victim impact statements can help register the financial,
emotional and physical effects of crime both at the time of sentencing and prior to any
hearings relevant to the offender's release from incarceration or community
supervision. This information is beneficial in determining:
* Fair restitution orders;
* The duration of sentence, probation or parole;
* The need for special release conditions such as restraining orders;
* The need for victim/offender programs (when appropriate) such as mediation,
conciliation, participation in treatment programs; and
* Any recommendations or factors that the victim feels would help guarantee his or
her safety.2
In addition, victim impact statements provide an accurate assessment of the actual
crime that occurred, which often differs from the crime to which the offender was
sentenced, i.e., reduced charges as a result of plea negotiations. Submitting a victim
impact statement to paroling authorities also allows the victim to update the
emotional, physical and financial effects of the crime which may not have been
known at the time of sentencing.
Victim impact statements often validate the victim's role in the criminal justice
process and may aid in the victim's ability to recover from the devastating aftermath
of crime. In principle, a victim should be afforded at least the same guarantees as the
defendant. The law provides the defendant with the right to present to the court,
correctional and paroling authorities information as to why a certain sentence be
imposed, or why parole or an early release should be granted. As such, the law should
justly afford victims the same right for full disclosure as to the impact of the crime.
Probation and Parole: Key Players in Ensuring Victim Rights in Submitting
Victim Impact Statements
Probation, correctional and parole officials each play a critical role ensuring that
crime victims are notified of their rights to participate in sentencing and parole
hearings; to complete or update victim impact statements; and, to receive assistance in
doing so. For victim impact to be measured and considered at parole hearings, it must
first be made available to reviewing authorities. One study conducted on the use of
victim impact statements in parole revealed that presentence victim impact statements
were not being forwarded to correctional and paroling authorities by probation
officers. In 106 cases, only six victim impact statements were forwarded to parole
boards for inclusion in the offender's correctional file. The study further concluded
that parole boards were not consistent in providing information outlining victims'
rights to present or to update impact evidence at the time of parole consideration, even
those victims requesting notification. Out of 3200 victim requests for notification,
only 1389 notices were sent.
Additionally, the study uncovered an interesting factor that may explain, in part, the
failure of probation, correctional and paroling authorities to fully utilize victim impact
statements. Ninety-six per- cent of probation, correctional and parole officers
interviewed for the survey felt that they lacked the skills necessary to work with and
support crime victims. Training in victim issues was identified as a high priority if
they were to better assist crime victims.3
Another study conducted in 1987 by Carol Shapiro addressed victim concerns
throughout community correction programs.4 Ms. Shapiro found that roles between
probation officers and victim advocates often overlapped, including assisting victims
to submit victim impact statements. From more than 100 respondents, she found that
68% of the probation officers assisted in the preparation of victim impact statements
and 80% of victim advocates assisted in preparing them. Her study also concluded
that probation and parole officers felt ambivalent about providing victim services
because their training focused primarily on offenders. The study also revealed a lack
of understanding of the differing roles of probation officers and victim advocates. On
the whole, 84% of victim advocates believed they understood the problems probation
officers faced, but only 40% of the probation officers agreed. While correctional
officers could understand the need for their involvement with victims, and many did
desire more interaction, most felt they needed training in order to do so. (In numerous
focus groups conducted by the National Victim Center for this project, correctional
personnel stressed the need for victim service training as a high priority.)
Additionally, Ms. Shapiro noted five areas of concern with the use of victim impact
statements by probation and parole:
1. When a presentence investigation report is not ordered, there is no other avenue for
victim input.
2. Some victims may not want to participate in the criminal justice system, and may
be particularly offended by contact from a correctional officer.
3. Many probation and parole officers are uncomfortable, ambivalent or too busy to
adequately collect victim information.
4. The weight of victim impact statements seems to vary from court to court, and
paroling authority to paroling authority.
5. Parole officers questioned how much weight a victim impact statement at parole
should be given when an offender has an otherwise excellent institutional record.
Probation, correctional and paroling professionals can shape how "victim impact" is
defined in the community. To do so, they need to examine their methods for the
collection of victim impact information; coordinate the collection process with key
criminal justice agencies (in particular, victim assistance programs) and initiate staff
training on issues surrounding criminal victimization. If this is done, victims will
provide the criminal justice process with information which more completely
represents the actual impact of crime on victims - information which can make a
difference.
(It is universally recognized that probation, correctional and paroling authorities
operate under specific and individual agendas, each agency agenda inherently
influences the other in the performance of assigned duties. Therefore, it is critical that
strong interagency cooperative agreements be established and adopted to ensure that
information pertaining to crime victims is made available to each of the post-
conviction agencies. Although the supporting narrative in this report is applicable to
each agency, individually tailored recommendations for probation, corrections and
parole have been drafted.)
National Protocol Recommendations For Probation Agencies:
As the primary collector and distributor of victim impact evidence for courts and
paroling authorities, it is especially critical that the probation agency establish clearly
defined policies and procedures for the implementation, distribution, collection and
application of victim impact statements.
* The probation agency should establish policies and procedures that delineate agency
responsibility and accountability for the implementation, distribution and collection of
victim impact statements. Specific penalties should be drafted and instituted for
noncompliance of established policies and procedures;
* The probation agency should establish policies and procedures that provide for
interagency cooperation in coordinating victim impact services with all key criminal
justice agencies. Specifically, these guidelines should ensure that responsibilities do
not overlap and that special victim needs such as emotional or physical considerations
are adequately addressed;
* The probation agency should establish policies and procedures that require all
employees who have direct contact with crime victims to participate in state and local
victim assistance training programs that address the needs, rights and legal interests of
crime victims;
* The probation agency should establish policies and procedures that require
probation officers to exercise due diligence in securing victim impact evidence from
crime victims, even to the extent that contact is made with outside agencies in an
attempt to locate the whereabouts of crime victims, i.e., postal service, drivers license
bureau, voter registration bureau, social security administration and utility companies;
* The probation agency should establish policies and procedures which guarantee that
all victim impact statements are forwarded to correctional and paroling authorities for
inclusion in the inmate's agency file; and
* The probation agency should establish policies and procedures to notify and inform
crime victims of their right to submit victim impact statements or updates of
previously submitted victim impact statements. This contact can be by letter or
personal contact. At a minimum, victims shall be informed of any policies pertinent to
the implementation of victim impact statements in their cases including:
* The purpose and use of victim impact statement in the criminal justice system; the
victim's option for exercising or declining his or her right to submit a victim impact
statement; and specific guidelines concerning the confidentiality of victim impact
statements;
* Eligibility requirements for submission of victim impact statement, i.e., victim only,
family members, or designated victim representative;
* How the victim impact statement should be submitted and/or options for
submission, i.e., written, oral, audio, video or other electronic means;
* How the victim impact statement will be reviewed by the court, i.e, inclusion in the
presentence investigative report or as an attachment to the presentence investigative
report;
* The date and time of the sentencing hearing, as well as the right to attend the
proceedings;
* A specified time frame for returning the completed victim impact statement;
* Instructions for submitting the victim impact statement to the court, i.e, through the
prosecutor, probation department or submitted directly to the court;
* Information as to the victim's right to request no contact orders; to receive
notification of early release, probation revocation hearings; and instructions for
requesting these rights;
* Information for requesting assistance in completing the victim impact statement,
i.e., name and phone number of agency contact; and
* The importance of notifying probation, correctional and paroling authorities of
changes in address, and instructions for doing so;
Additionally, probation agencies with sufficient resources, the following victim
services relating to collection of victim impact information should be incorporated
into agency policies and procedures:
* Create a paid or volunteer victim advocate position within the probation department
to assist victims in the completion of victim impact statements or other victim related
issues or needs;
* Provide home/hospital/nursing home visits for disabled, ill, child or elderly victims
who would otherwise be excluded from presenting victim impact evidence;
* Provide non-English speaking crime victims with victim impact statements
instruments and information written in their native language or allow the victim to
designate a representative to act on his or her behalf;
* Provide interpreters or signers for non-English speaking and hearing impaired
victims or allow the victim to designate a representative to act on his or her behalf;
and
* Provide assistance in the completion of victim impact statement for victims who do
not write or read well.
Correctional Settings: An Agenda to Meet Victims' Needs
Just as judges and paroling authorities cannot make accurate and informed sentencing
and paroling decisions without considering victim impact evidence, the same need for
victim impact evidence exists in the correctional setting. Victim impact statements can
provide correctional personnel with an assessment of the actual crime that occurred,
which often differs from the crime for which the offender was actually sentenced. In
addition, victim impact evidence can provide correctional personnel with crucial
information needed to determine:
* The need for correction-based victim service programs;
* Accurate placement of offenders in correctional institutions and correctional
treatment programs;
* Appropriateness of victim/offender mediation programs; and
* Eligibility requirements and safety considerations in the offender's early release;
placement in community programs or granting furlough options.
The Critical Need for Program Services
Most victims have even less of an understanding of the correctional process than they
have of the criminal justice process. They possess little or no knowledge of how or
where to learn of an offender's placement, treatment plan or pending release, and often
the victim's advocate in the justice process also possesses little knowledge of the
procedures necessary to obtain this information. They often see the sentencing phase
of the criminal justice process as the final phase of their participation.
When a defendant is sentenced to a prison term, the measure of safety is short-lived
because victims know that in most cases, the offender will be released from custody at
some point. Victims need to be reassured that they have a measure of control over
their own safety. This control hinges on the ability to prepare in advance for the
release of the offender. No victim, especially of a violent act, should learn of an
offender's release when they encounter the offender walking along the street or
shopping in the neighborhood store.
In addition to the victim's need to feel safe, information about the offender's treatment
plan and movement within the correctional system may promote the psychological
healing of some victims, and may directly increase victim satisfaction with the justice
process. The victim may feel their participation in the justice process has spared an
innocent victim for a similar experience.
Victim services in the correctional setting are relatively new. As such, it is critical that
systematic, comprehensive policies and procedures for program services are
established for the fair and sensitive treatment of crime victims, including the use of
victim impact statements. When correctional personnel take the time to hear from
victims, they are receiving valuable information that will enable them to do their jobs
more efficiently and effectively.
National Protocol Recommendations for Correctional Authorities:
* Correctional authorities should establish program services for victims of crime with
sound policies and procedures that clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for the
administration of program services. Specific penalties should be drafted and instituted
for noncompliance of established policies and procedures;
* Correctional authorities should establish policies and procedures that require all
employees having direct contact with crime victims to participate in state, local and
departmental victim assistance training programs that address the needs, rights and
legal interests of victims;
* Correctional authorities should establish policies and procedures that require the
inclusion of the victim impact statement into offender's correctional file;
* Correctional authorities should establish policies and procedures that require ALL
VICTIMS OF VIOLENT CRIMES TO BE NOTIFIED IMMEDIATELY of their
offender's escape from the correctional institution;
* Correctional authorities should establish policies and procedures that require victims
to be notified when there is a change in the offender's custody status, i.e., change in
institutional placement within the correctional system, early release, community
placement, furlough, etc., if the victim should so desire. If state law mandates, victims
shall be notified of any changes in the offender's treatment plan;
* Correctional authorities should establish policies and procedures for assisting
victims who are attending parole hearings within the institution; and
Additionally, in correctional agencies with sufficient program services and budget
allowances, the following victim services should be incorporated into agency policies
and procedures:
Create a paid or volunteer victim advocate position within each institution to
provide:
* General information on the department of corrections and a through explanation of
any rights or privileges victims have in the correctional setting;
* Information on the length of offender's sentence, location of offender in the
correctional department, offender treatment plan, matters/issues pertaining to
restitution and parole hearing dates/issues; and
* Information on the institution's victim/offender mediation program if applicable and
provide the victim with all necessary information to exercise his or her option for
participation.
The Importance of Victim Impact in the Parole Process
For some victims, paroling authorities represent the last opportunity to see that justice
is done. In essence, society demands that the offender's loss of physical freedom is
commensurate with the crime committed. However, due to the wide-spread use of
plea negotiations, many victims have not been given the opportunity to provide
accurate victim impact evidence to sentencing and paroling authorities because often,
victims are not brought into the plea negotiation process. By allowing victims to
submit victim impact statements at the time of parole consideration, paroling
authorities are provided with victims' perspectives of the actual crime that occurred,
which often differs from the crime for which the offender was sentenced.
When crime victims are allowed to submit updated victim impact statements to
paroling authorities at the time of release hearings, these updated statements can be
compared to statements submitted at sentencing. This process provides paroling
authorities with information about the long-term impact of the crime. In addition, the
submission of an updated victim impact statement allows the victim to present
additional financial losses incurred after sentencing to the paroling authority for
consideration in amending existing restitution orders.
Our criminal justice process has assigned paroling and sentencing authorities with a
grave responsibility...to protect the overall safety of our citizens by refusing to release
dangerous or violent criminals back into the American mainstream. Paroling
authorities cannot make sound judgements concerning our safety without having
access to all available information about the crime. To make competent and informed
decisions for our safety, paroling authorities must hear from the police, prosecutors,
courts, and most importantly, the victim. We must establish policies and procedures to
solicit victim involvement. We must also have a system of accountability if we fail to
seek the information that only a victim can supply. Failure to hear from victims is not
only an injustice to individual victims, but is greater disservice to society as a whole.
National Protocol Recommendations for Paroling Authorities:
* Paroling authorities should establish program services for victims of crime with
sound policies and procedures that clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for the
administration of program services. Additionally, specific penalties should be drafted
to address noncompliance of established policies and procedures;
* Paroling authorities should establish policies and procedures that require all
employees having direct contact with crime victims to participate in state and local
victim assistance training programs that address the needs, rights and legal interests of
victims;
* Paroling authorities should establish policies and procedures that guarantee victims
notification of offender's eligibility for parole consideration. These policies and
procedures should clearly delineate roles and responsibilities for the notification of
victims;
* Paroling authorities should establish policies and procedures that provide for inter-
agency cooperative agreements in coordinating victim impact statement services with
all key criminal justice agencies. Specifically, these services should address the
coordination of victim impact statement services to ensure that responsibilities do not
overlap and to ascertain special victim needs such as emotional or physical needs;
* Paroling authorities should postpone parole considerations in cases involving a
violent act until such a time that the victim is notified and provided the opportunity to
submit a victim impact statement;
* Paroling authorities should establish policies and procedures that guarantee due
diligence in securing victim impact information from crime victims, even to the extent
that contact is made with outside agencies in an attempt to locate the whereabouts of
crime victims, i.e., victim-witness assistance units, postal service, drivers license
bureau, voters registration bureau, social security administration, and utility
companies;
* Paroling authorities should establish policies and procedures that guarantee victims
that offenders and their attorneys will not have access to the victim impact statement.
If this cannot be done due to legal mandates, the paroling authority should remove all
confidential victim contact information from the victim impact statement prior to
review by the offender and his or her attorney or advise victims about the information
the defendant and the defense attorney will have access to;
* Paroling authorities should establish policies and procedures that guarantee victims
the right to receive notification of the paroling authorities' decisions, i.e., parole was
granted with the following conditions, parole was denied, but offender will be eligible
to apply for consideration in one to two years, etc.; and
* Paroling authorities should establish policies and procedures to notify and inform
crime victims of their right to submit or update victim impact statements and/or to
attend parole hearings. At a minimum, victims should be informed of any policies
pertinent to the implementation of victim impact statements in their cases including:
* The purpose and use of the victim impact statements in the paroling process; the
victim's option to exercise or decline his or her right to submit or update victim impact
statements and specific guidelines concerning the confidentiality of victim impact
statements;
* Eligibility requirements for submission of victim impact statements, i.e., victim
only, family members, community representative designated victim representative;
* How the victim impact statement can or should be submitted, i.e., written, oral,
audio, video or by other electronic means. This information should also include any
special provisions for submission for disabled, elderly or child victims;
* The date, time and location of the parole hearing, the victim's right to attend the
proceeding, as well as informing the victim how the proceeding will be conducted,
i.e., victim allowed to meet separately with paroling authority, defendant will/will not
be present, etc;
* A specified time frame for returning the completed victim impact statement;
* Information as to the victim's right to request no contact orders, to receive
notification of the paroling authorities decisions for parole or early release and the
conditions of these releases; and instructions to exercise these rights;
* Information as to the victim's right to submit evidence of additional financial losses
for consideration in the modification of existing restitution orders;
* Information to requesting assistance in completing the victim impact statement, i.e.,
name and phone number of agency contact; and
* The importance of notifying paroling authorities of changes in address, and
instructions for doing so.
Additionally, paroling authorities with sufficient personnel and budget allowances
should provide the following victim services relating to victim impact statements and
these services should be incorporated into agency policies and procedures:
* Creation a paid or volunteer victim advocate position within the parole setting to
assist victims with notification of parole proceedings, in completion of victim impact
statements and other related victim issues and needs;
* Provide victims with the opportunity to meet and talk with parole board members
without the offender or the offender's family present;
* Provide non-English speaking victims with victim impact statements written in their
native language or allow the victim to designate a representative to act on his or her
behalf;
* Provide interpreters or signers for non-english speaking or hearing impaired victims
or allow the victim to designate a representative to act on his or her behalf;
* Provide assistance in the completion of the victim impact statements to victims who
do not read or write well; and
* Provide separate waiting rooms for victims staffed with personnel knowledgeable of
victim rights in the paroling process.
1 United States. President's Task Force on Victims of Crime. Final Report. December
1982.
2 National Victim Center, "Crime Victims and Corrections: Implementing the Agenda
for the 1990's project funded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice
Programs, U.S. Department of Justice Grant No. 90-DD-CX-K030 (S-1)
3 Susan J. Hillanbrand, Suzanne McDaniel, Carol Shapiro, "Victim Impact
Statements: Three Research Projects." MADDVOCATE, Fall Edition. (1989).
4 Carol Shapiro, "Making it Work: Addressing Victim Concerns Through Community
Corrections Programs." National Institute of
Corrections. (1988).
.

Victim Impact in the Federal System
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more
uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of
things."
Niccolo Machiavelli
Selection of an appropriate sentence is one of the most important decisions made in
the criminal justice system. The primary vehicle used to assist the sentencing court in
fulfilling this responsibility is the presentence investigation report. In November 1987,
the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 became effective and radically changed the
philosophical model for sentencing offenders in Federal courts. Congress relinquished
an indeterminate model of sentencing and adopted a determinate model based upon
national guidelines. Changes in the content and format of the presentence report were
necessary to accommodate the new sentencing process.1
As part of the Crime Control Act of 1984, Congress created the U.S. Sentencing
Commission to serve as an independent body of the judicial branch. The Commission
was assigned responsibility for establishing sentencing policies and practices for the
Federal criminal justice system in compliance with the Sentencing Reform Act of
1984. The Commission was further directed to produce guidelines that would avoid
unwarranted sentencing disparities while retaining enough flexibility to permit
individualized sentencing when called for by mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
However, if the court is to accurately determine mitigating or aggravating
circumstances of each individual case, it must have access to all information pertinent
to the case, and this information must include a careful review of victim impact.
Historically, this information has been presented through the use of a presentence
investigation report.
In the United States Federal Court system, when a defendant is apprehended and
charged and is either found guilty or enters a plea of guilty, a presentence
investigation report is ordered by the court prior to imposing a sentence. Under
Federal Rule 32(c)(1) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and 18 U.S.C.
Section 3552, the defendant cannot waive the presentence investigation with the
exception of violations where penalties include the death penalty. Rule 32(c)(1) also
delegates the responsibility of preparing the presentence investigative report to U.S.
probation officers.
Traditionally, this report assists the Court to understand the offender's background and
to offer explanations as to the circumstances surrounding the offense(s) and the
offender's involvement. As required by Rule 32(c)(1), the presentence report shall
contain information on the history and characteristics of the defendant, including any
prior criminal record; financial condition; educational attainments; family history and
marital history; and any circumstances affecting the defendant's behavior (mitigating
and aggravating conditions) which may be helpful in imposing sentence or the
correctional treatment of the defendant, and any other information to be collected as
directed by the sentencing authority.
Crime Victims' Rights to Submit Victim Impact Evidence at the Federal Level
Breaking with long established traditions to not seek victim input at the time of
sentencing, the Federal criminal justice system took the lead in setting a legal
precedent to learn of crime's burdens on its victims with the passage of the Victim and
Witness Protection Act of 1982. The Act allows for the submission of victim impact
information at the time of sentencing. Specifically, the Victim and Witness Protection
Act, which amends Rule 32 (c)(1), allows for the inclusion into the presentence report,
"information concerning any harm, including financial, social, psychological and
physical harm done to or loss suffered by the victim of the offense." Additionally, the
Victim and Witness Protection Act provides for the inclusion of "any other
information that may aid the court in sentencing, including the restitution needs of any
victim of the offense" into the presentence investigation report.
The mandate to include victim impact information into the presentence report has
been a significant victory for Federal crime victims; although, neither the Victim and
Witness Protection Act of 1982 or Rule 32(c)(1) provide victims with the right by
law, to submit victim impact information directly to the court in either written or oral
form.
In 1990, Congress passed the Victims' Rights and Restitution Act which grants
Federal crime victims the right to be notified of and to be present at all public court
proceedings (except where the testimony of the victim would be materially affected if
the victim heard other testimony at trial), and to receive information about the
conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender. The passage of this
legislation signifies the Federal criminal justice system's acknowledgment and
acceptance of the victim's right to have a more active role in the justice process. With
the passage of this important legislative initiative, the Federal government began
necessary steps to ensure Federal crime victims a right to participate in the justice
process. However, the passage of the Victims' Rights and Restitution act did not
specifically address Federal crime victims' rights to directly speak or to be heard by
the sentencing authority through allocution or written impact statements, except with
child victims.
Efforts to grant Federal crime victims the basic right to speak at sentencing is being
addressed in a crime bill currently pending before Congress. If passed, the proposed
legislation will mandate allocution rights at the time of sentencing. Although
legislators and supporters of the crime bill remain optimistic about its passage, there is
no guarantee that allocution provisions will survive as part of the crime bill package.
If the passage of the crime bill should fail or if language is drafted in such a manner
that it excludes or limits specific categories of victims in the granting of allocution
rights, it is critical that continued efforts are made to enact legislation that will grant
all Federal crime victims a right to present victim impact evidence either orally or in
writing.
The lack of legislation to mandate a Federal victim's right to speak before sentencing
is surprising as the Federal criminal justice system has been in the forefront of
statutorily mandating victim/witness legislation. Perhaps the lack of statutory
mandates that allow victims a voice in the sentencing process can be attributed to the
few cases of violent crime seen at the Federal level.
Crime Statistics at the Federal Level
Traditionally, crimes committed in the Federal system have been ones of a financial
nature against government and institutional entities, i.e., income tax fraud and
evasion, postal fraud, embezzlement, bank robbery, forgery, interstate transportation
crimes, etc., and crimes involving the sale and distribution of narcotics and weapons.
Typically these crimes have been primarily thought to be "victimless" because they do
not involve the human element of victimization as do those of violent offenses, and
most frequently seen at the state and local levels. Exceptions would be the offense of
bank robbery in which the primary victim is the banking institution, but where
physical act of violence is committed against the bank employee. Other cases would
include fraud where individual consumers are targeted for crime rather than
government or institutional entities.
When Federal crime involves a human element, the victim has been more apt to suffer
financial losses, i.e., fraud, con and deceit, as opposed to physical injuries. (It must be
noted that while the majority of fraud victims do not suffer physical injury as a direct
result of the crime, the loss of one's life saving is in and of itself detrimental and
certainly deserving of victim services and victim impact participation.)
There has been, until recently, comparatively few cases involving life-threatening,
direct victim/offender confrontation at the Federal level. Unfortunately this is no
longer true -- violent crime is beginning to gather momentum at the Federal level. The
numbers of violent crimes remain relatively small when compared to state and local
crime statistics, but the Federal criminal justice system is witnessing an increase in the
number of violent crimes entering the system for prosecution. This is evident when
statistics are compared for the ten year time span, 1980 to 1990. In 1980, 2,382
violent crimes were referred for prosecution at the Federal level. In 1990, that number
rose to 3,358, with a marked increase in crimes of rape and other sexual offenses,
assault, and robbery.2 As drug crimes increase at the Federal level and the Federal
government assumes the prosecutorial role of crimes previously prosecuted at the
state level, such as carjacking, the potential for an influx of crime victims in the
Federal system may dramatically increase.
The Critical Need to Amend Currently Existing Federal Legislation
Although prior Federal legislation authorizes the submission of victim impact
information for the sentencing authorities review (under Rule 32 (c)(1) and the Victim
and Witness Protection Act of 1982), it must be noted under both legal mandates,
victims are afforded only with the opportunity to provide impact evidence to the U.S.
Federal Probation Office and not directly to the court. Current legislation contains no
specific language to address specific provisions for the collection of impact evidence
other than it's inclusion in the presentence report.
Additionally, existing legislation supplies no directive as to how victims are to submit
victim impact information to the probation department for inclusion in the presentence
report, i.e., in the form of a written statement, a phone call or through a personal
meeting between the probation officer and the victim. Nor does the legislation
specifically provide the victim with any legal recourse should the probation officer
fail to solicit impact information from the victim. Current trends in rights for victims
at the state and local levels has been to create "remedies" for rights. The Federal
criminal justice should consider adopting a similar policy to protect victims whose
rights are not observed.
Furthermore, current legislation places a heavy burden on those that it has charged to
relay victim harm - the court's probation officers. Certainly, probation officers are in a
position to recount to the court, the "factual" and "verifiable" financial and physical
harm the crime places upon the victim. However, can someone other than the victim
accurately and effectively convey the subjective emotional burdens that crime inflicts?
This issue is currently being reviewed at the state level. Several states have taken the
lead in enacting legislation that limits the probation officer's ability to summarize
victim harm in presentence reports to only those areas relating to physical or financial
harm. Additionally, this legislation specifically mandates that only victims or their
representatives can submit victim impact information concerning the emotional
effects of the crime unless they waive their right to do so.
As more Federal crime victims experience crimes that directly threaten their physical
persons and that may result in extreme emotional discord, it is critical that Federal
legislation be drafted that will provide victims with a statutorily mandated right to
submit victim impact information directly to the sentencing authority. Although
victim impact information is sought in the presentence report, victims must be granted
a basic right to come before the court to:
* Speak of crime's impact if they so desire; and
* Communicate in their own words, the impact of crime through written, audio, video
impact statements or other electronic means.
The victim impact statement should serve as an attachment to the presentence report
rather than as an inclusion into the presentence report.
Clearly, through the passage of numerous legislative statutes, the Federal criminal
justice system has set in motion the tentative steps necessary to begin the permanent
infusion of crime victims in the dispensing of justice. However, Congress and the
Attorney General must now take further steps to recommit America to protecting the
rights of Federal crime victims by closely, impartially and critically reviewing all
existing Federal legislation to ensure that the needs and rights of crime victims are
adequately addressed. Where weak, they must take a leadership role in enacting or
amending legislation that will allow victims to take their rightful place in the justice
process.
1 "The Presentence Investigation Report for Defendant's Sentenced Under the
Sentencing Reform Act of 1984." Publication 107. Administrative Office of the
United States Courts, Probation and Pretrial Services Division (September 1987,
revised 1992) p.i.
2 1991 Source Book of Criminal Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau
of Justice Statistics. (1991).
.

America's Forgotten Victims: Victims of Juvenile
Crimes
"...advocating rights for victims does not mean lessening rights for the offender. It is a
question of balance and it is a question of justice."
Senator Paul Laxalt
As one of this nation's most under-served victim populations, victims of juvenile
crime have traditionally been afforded few rights to participate in the adjudication
process of the juvenile offender. Victims have typically been excluded from any
participatory role in the justice process other than to serve as witnesses. Currently
only eight states afford victims an opportunity to submit some form of victim impact
information for the juvenile court's review. However, the ability to do so in the
majority of these states is generally restricted:
* Arizona allows for an interview with the victim during the course of a preliminary
hearing and allows the victim to prepare restitution affidavits for consideration;
* California allows the victim to submit victim impact information only if the minor is
alleged to have committed a crime that if committed by an adult, would be classified
as a felony. In addition, the victim is provided information on the victim's right to file
for civil damages and the victim's opportunity to be reimbursed from the restitution
fund;
* Colorado considers the impact of the offense when deciding whether or not to waive
juvenile court jurisdiction over the child. If the child is retained in the juvenile court,
the juvenile may be ordered to perform work for the victim if the victim so consents.
Colorado also issues restraining orders to victims to protect the victim from further
threats or intimidating acts by the juvenile;
* Florida allows victims to have full participation in the juvenile adjudication process
by allowing victims with the opportunity to comment on the disposition and proposed
rehabilitative plan for the juvenile;
* Iowa allows the intake officer to interview the victim during the course of a
preliminary hearing;
* Kansas allows the attitude of the victim or the victim's family to be considered as
part of an investigation and report conducted by the court's service officer;
* New York allows a victim impact statement if deemed relevant;
* North Carolina interviews the victim for impact during the intake process; and
Wisconsin allows the court to prepare a report attempting to determine the economic,
physical, and psychological effect of the crime on the victim if: the delinquent act
would be a felony if committed by an adult, or if the victim has suffered bodily harm
or an act involving theft or damage to property.
In some measure, the failure to infuse victims of juvenile crime into the adjudication
process can be contributed to the complex legal concerns surrounding the protection
and confidentiality of the juvenile's rights and identity; and society's and the criminal
justice system's belief that juveniles, though no less culpable than their adult
counterparts, have a higher success rate of rehabilitation due to their age and lack of
maturity.
Traditionally, the juvenile justice system has operated under the premise that the
successful rehabilitation of juveniles relies on the coupling of therapeutic intervention
with a system of accountability (punishment). In essence, isolate the behavior and its
causes, provide a treatment program, and where applicable, introduce the juvenile to
the consequences of his or her actions through accountability and punishment. But can
society expect juveniles to be accountable to the consequences of their actions if they
are not made aware of the specific harm they have caused others, namely their
victims. If the treatment and rehabilitation of the juvenile is to be successful, juveniles
must be confronted by the financial, emotional and physical repercussions of their
actions.
The Alarming Growth of Juvenile Crime
In 1987, 1,145,000 delinquency cases were processed
nationally through the juvenile courts; in 1989, that number
grew to 1,189,200 cases; and in 1990, figures for juvenile
crime reached an all time high of 2.2 million cases1. Of the
1990 figures, juveniles accounted for 16% of all crime in our
country, and more specifically, 14% of homicides; 15% of
forcible rapes; 24% of robberies; 14% of aggravated
assaults; 33% of burglaries; 43% of motor vehicle thefts; 7
percent of drug abuse arrest; and, 43% of all arson cases
were committed by America's youth.
These statistics are indeed frightening. With millions of victims of juvenile offenses,
our criminal justice system must begin to systematically bestow victims with
legislatively mandated rights to fully participate in the adjudication of the juvenile
offender. Victims of juvenile offenders have the same need for information
concerning the apprehension and adjudication of the juvenile offender as do those
victimized by adult offenders. We cannot fail to take into account the financial and
emotional cost of juvenile crime when determining the overall cost of crime, not only
for victims but for all citizens who must bear the brunt of crime's devastating costs.
For the victims of juvenile crime, the victim impact statement provides some degree
of psychological closure just as the victim impact statement does in the adult criminal
justice process. It also provides information to the sentencing court on the financial,
physical and emotional impact of the crime. For the juvenile, the victim impact
statement may provide some tangible evidence establishing the harm their actions
have caused.
If the statistics of 1987, 1989 and 1990 are indicators of the growing trend in juvenile
crime, record numbers of victims will be entering the juvenile justice process. It is
critical that legislation be drafted and enacted that provides victims of juvenile
offenders with the same basic rights as those afforded to victims of adult offenders --
the right to be informed and present. These rights must also extend to include the right
to be heard at the juvenile court level through the submission of victim impact
statements. Enacting this critically needed legislation will send a resounding
affirmation to victims of juvenile crime that their financial losses, their physical
injuries and their emotional wounds are no less important than those victims of adult
crime.
1 Howard N. Snyder, Ph.D., "OJJDP Update on Statistics, Arrest of Youth 1990."
Juvenile Justice Bulletin. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (1992).
.

Victim Impact Statement
Models:
Improving Communications Between the Justice System
and Our Nation's Crime Victims
Crime victims have tenaciously fought to have an effective
voice in the justice process through the use of victim impact
statements and the justice process, by the passage of Federal
and state legislative mandates, has started the necessary steps to ensure that victims'
voices are no longer silenced. Despite this monumental victory, victims and the
criminal justice system alike have failed to take full advantage of the information and
closure that victim impact statements offer.
As previously discussed in this report, there are several factors that can be directly
attributed to this failure on both the part of the criminal justice system and crime
victims. Factors for victims include the fear of defendant retaliation and the belief that
judges and paroling authorities do not consider victim impact statements in
determining appropriate sentences and parole decisions. A factor involving the
criminal justice system includes the lack of comprehensive criminal justice agency
guidelines for notifying victims of their statutory right to submit impact evidence at
the time of sentencing or parole consideration. Additionally, a lack of systematic
agency guidelines for the implementation, collection and application of victim impact
statements have also limited its use.
Perhaps the greatest challenge in examining the effectiveness of victim impact, for
both the victim and the criminal justice system, is to look at the instruments used to
capture the impact of the crime on the victim. According to Robert Wells, Senior
Instructor, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and a leading expert in the field
of victim impact, "The instruments, forms, and cover letters used to obtain victim
impact evidence may not be effective in eliciting victim participation and response."
Mr. Wells further concludes that, "The criminal justice system has failed to
systematically examine even the most elementary question on this issue - namely,
what is the purpose of victim impact statements to victims, law enforcement officers,
prosecutors, judges, and parole officials?" The failure to evaluate these documents, all
too often translates into "victim impact statements" that fail to express the real
"impact" of crime on the lives of the victim, and his or her family.1
Unfortunately, there has been little formal research conducted to measure the direct
correlation between ineffective victim impact statements and the lack of victim
participation in submitting victim impact information. In the drafting of model victim
impact statements, NVC, MADD and APRI analyzed existing victim impact
statements to determine if the design, language, layout, and the supporting materials
used to extract victim impact evidence could be improved to better meet the needs of
victims and the criminal justice system. Improvements that would increase victims'
willingness to participate more fully and the criminal justice system's application of
the victim impact statement.
Model Victim Impact Statements Designed to Increase Victims and the Criminal
Justice Systems Perception of Victim Impact Information: Project Models
Ultimately, the victim impact statement should address the agenda of both the victim
and the criminal justice system. The victim impact statement should provide the
victim with a vehicle to recount the extent of harm inflicted by the criminal act; to
participate in determining appropriate sentences and fair restitution orders, and more
importantly, to promote psychological healing, if possible.
Traditionally, the criminal justice system has looked to victims to primarily provide
information on the financial impact of crime. Although many courts have argued that
court is not an appropriate therapeutic forum, more courts are allowing the submission
of emotional impact evidence for several reasons: to better learn of the overwhelming
burdens crime places on its victims; to better determine fair restitution orders; to
balance the information the court receives on the defendant's background; and, in
some small measure, to increase victims' satisfaction with the criminal justice system.
However, courts will not be privy to crime's impact if victims do not submit victim
impact statements for review, and many victims may not exercise their right to do so
if the instruments currently used to document victim impact are insensitive,
ineffective and poorly designed.
NVC, MADD, and APRI offer the following model victim impact statements to the
criminal justice field as a tool to strengthen the common bond between the justice
process and the victim. Tools that will provide victims with a meaningful avenue in
which to make the court aware of the onerous burdens that crime inflicts and will
enhance the information previously available to the courts.
Proposed Models
Four proposed models are being offered in this report. Each model has been designed
to meet the needs of adult victims at the state and local levels; adult victims at the
Federal level; child victims at the Federal, state and local levels; and, family members
of homicide victims. Separate adult and child models were developed for use at the
state and local level and the Federal level due to the distinct statute variations of the
victim's rights to present victim impact information and in its submission process.
Elements of each model includes:
An Introductory or Informational Sheet: Provides general information on the use
of victim impact statements, the victim's right to submit a statement (easily modified
based on jurisdictional statutes), procedures and/or suggestions for the completion and
return of the statement, crime victim compensation, and agency contact information if
further assistance is required.
An Instrument to Record the Emotional and Physical Impact of Crime: Allows
the victim to write about the emotional and physical impact of crime based upon
written cues or questions. The victim is given ample space to write as little or as much
as he or she feels is necessary to convey emotional wounds, concerns and fears to the
sentencing and paroling authorities.
A Worksheet to Record Financial Losses: Allows for the documentation of all
financial losses suffered by the victim. Content of the financial worksheet was
designed to list not only current expenditures, but to alert sentencing and paroling
authorities to possible future losses so that additional restitution hearings can be held
to modify restitution orders as necessary, i.e., continued medical treatment, additional
surgeries, etc., insurance deductibles if the claim has not been settled prior to
sentencing, etc.
The financial worksheet should be distributed by the prosecutor's office as soon as the
case is referred for prosecution. Many times, victims will not will not know to retain
receipts and estimates for future use. By alerting the victim early to the need to save
and document receipts, victims will not have the additional burden of replacing lost
receipts and estimates. Prosecutors will also have immediate access to the victim's
losses if the case is settled by plea negotiations.
A Sentencing Recommendation Instrument: Allows the victim to participate fully
in the sentencing process by providing victims with an opportunity to express his or
her opinion as to the sentencing of the defendant. The instrument also allows the
victim to request no contact orders; to indicate his or her desire to receive information
on the status of the defendant if he is placed in the probation, correctional and
paroling community; and, provides the victim with information on how to request
notification formally from the Department of Corrections.
Each of the recording instruments, i.e., emotional/physical, financial and sentencing
recommendation, have been designed to easily stand alone or to work as a unit in the
submission of victim impact information. This design allows the victim to supply
information to the criminal justice system as the information becomes available, and it
allows the criminal justice system to have immediate access to the information
believed to be most appropriate and critical to the functions of the justice process. For
example, for prosecutor's there is a critical need to document the victim's financial
losses prior to any offer or acceptance of any plea settlement agreement (while the
long-term effects of the crime may not be apparent early on in the prosecutorial
process).
In adopting the model presented in this report, the prosecutor will be in a better
position to extract the necessary financial information and alert the victim to his or her
right to submit information on emotional and physical harm along with the victim's
opinion for sentencing.
Having individualized access to victim impact information is an especially critical
issue. In over 80% of all cases brought into the criminal justice system, the case is
settled by a plea agreement and as such, victims may not be given or presented with
an opportunity to submit victim impact information.
Critical Components to Consider When Developing and Designing Model Victim
Impact Statements
In the development of victim impact statement models and their supporting materials,
MADD and NVC incorporated findings from focus groups held with victims,
prosecutors, judges, probation officers and correctional personnel and those from the
victim impact statement evaluations to ensure that the needs of both the victim and the
justice process were met. (For highlights of the these evaluations, please refer to
Appendix 1 and 2) Although it was hoped that one model could be developed for
national adoption by the field, it was realized that statutory authority to implement
these models varied greatly among Federal, state and local jurisdictions. Therefore,
the sample models enclosed in this report have been designed to be easily modified
according to the specific laws for submission and use in individual jurisdictions. (For
statutory variations, please see Appendix 3).
Based upon findings from the focus groups and evaluations, the following
considerations were noted to be of fundamental importance in designing model victim
impact statements that not only address the need of the victim to impart impact
information to the court, but provide the court with easily extracted, useful and
pertinent information. Based upon these recommendations, the models were drafted
keeping the following considerations in mind:
Form Design: Victim impact statements should be easy to read and understand. They
should use clear, concise language in both its instructions and its questions. A layout
and graphic appearance that is pleasing to the eye should be used, and there should be
sufficient space to for victims' responses. Additionally, the statement should
demonstrate appropriate sensitivity to victims by showing support and sympathy, and
by avoiding impersonal or "bureaucratic" language.
Introduction to the Victim Impact Statement: The victim impact statement should
be introduced to the victim in a manner that makes clear what the purpose of the form
is and how it will be used, provide information as to why the victim would want to
complete it and should also relay to the victim, that he or she has a choice to submit or
not submit a statement for review.
Instructions for Completion and Submission: A model victim impact statement
should include instructions that provide useful information to complete the statement
and should provide suggestions or cues regarding what material might be included and
how the form should be submitted once it has been completed, i.e, mailed directly to
the court, returned to the probation office, parole board or soliciting agency. These
instructions may appear on the form itself or in an introductory letter or section of the
statement. In addition, these instructions should provide a contact name and phone
number to call if assistance is needed in completing the statement.
Confidentiality of the Statement: Some victims may fail to complete the statement
because they fear retaliation by the defendant or his family. A model victim impact
statement should make clear who will have access to the statement, specifically
mentioning the judge, prosecutor, defendant, defendant's attorney, and any other
criminal justice professional that will have access to the statement. Victims must be
assured of their safety from the defendant and the defendant's family. One way to
achieve this is not to compel victims to reveal any unnecessary identifying
information such as his or her address or phone number.
Order of Impact Questions: A model victim impact statement should seek
information from the victim on a number of aspects of the victim's life: emotional
state, social and family relationships; concerns for safety and security; physical
condition; and, financial status and costs. The statement should not ask narrowly
focused, specific questions regarding the impact of crime but rather, should ask
victims to write about these issues by using open-ended questions. This allows victims
to identify what is important, not what the criminal justice system deems to be of
importance to the victim. Following considerations should be given thought when
designing the this portion of the model:
Emotional Impact: The order in which the "impact" questions are asked is important
to victims. The victim impact statement should first ask for the emotional impact on
the victim before eliciting information on the physical or financial impact. Some
victims find it insulting that the court or paroling authority would be primarily focus
on the financial impact as opposed to the emotional impact of the crime.
Victims should be afforded ample space to express how the crime has personally
affected him or her. Family members or friends of homicide victims should be given
ample space to describe the deceased's personal characteristics and how the loss of the
person killed has affected their lives.
Physical Impact: The victim impact statement should seek information regarding the
physical injuries the victim may have suffered as a result of the crime. Victims should
have space and opportunity to describe the type and degree of injury, how long the
injury lasted or is expected to last, the amount of pain and/or modifications to lifestyle
experienced as a result, and any medical treatment required thus far and in the future.
Financial Impact: When seeking financial impact from victims, the model victim
impact statement should seek detailed information on cost of the crime. Victims
should be given the opportunity to list medical cost, including hospitals, doctors, and
drugs; counseling cost; lost income from work, or expenses incurred in tasks
performed by the victim, such as in replacing stolen, damaged or lost property; ability
to earn a living; lost support for dependent if the victim died; funeral bills; and other
costs related to the crime. Victims should be asked to include current costs and if
known, estimates of future costs. Victims also should be asked to provide information
on that portion of the costs covered by insurance, crime victim compensation, and any
other source. The victim impact statement should clearly and readily allow for a
calculation of restitution to the victim.
Notification of Offender's Post-Conviction Status: In jurisdictions that allow the
victim to be notified of the offender's post-conviction status, the victim impact
statement should ask the victim to what extent he or she wishes to be notified of these
developments, i.e, parole consideration, probation revocation, correctional placement,
or early release in to the community through work release programs or furloughs. The
statement should not assume that all victims will want to be involved or notified.
Victim's Opinion on Sentence: In some jurisdictions, the victim is allowed to
provide a perspective or opinion on the sentence that the defendant should receive. If
so allowed, the victim impact statement should provide ample space for the victim to
inform the sentencing authority of his or her wishes in the sentencing of the
defendant.
Signature/Oath of Victim: In general, a model victim impact statement should
burden the victim with as few requirements as possible regarding swearing to the
accuracy of the statement and notarization of the victim's signature. While such
formalities may be requirements in some jurisdictions, those that have no such
requirements should not compel the victim to seek a notary nor should victims be
compelled to swear to the emotional impact of the crime. (In many jurisdictions,
victims are only required to swear to portions of the victim impact statement that
involve factual information such as restitution.)
Distribution of the Victim Impact Statement Model
Continuing concern among criminal justice professionals is at what point should
victim impact statements be distributed to victims. Although there are no established
rules on the subject, there are several factors that should be considered prior to the
distribution of the victim impact statement. Factors for consideration in the
distribution of victim impact statements at the time of a finding or a plea of guilt may
include:
* not providing a sufficient time frame for victims to gather financial information
necessary for accurate restitution orders;
* the exclusion of millions of victims that have their cases settled by plea negotiations
and as part of the plea settlement, the sentencing authority passes sentence
immediately following the entering of a plea;
* not providing a sufficient time frame for victims to complete the emotional and
physical harm sections of the victim impact statement for inclusion or attachment to
presentence investigation reports or review by the court; and
* not providing sufficient travel time for disabled victims or those victims that would
like to present victim impact information directly to the sentencing authority but
reside outside of the jurisdiction of the court. In addition, the need to travel back and
forth to the sentencing jurisdiction may impose addition financial hardships on
victims;
Factors for consideration when distributing the victim impact statement prior to a
finding or a plea of guilt include:
* discoverablity of the victim impact statement and possible cross examination of the
victim by the defense attorney if the victim impact statement is given early in the
prosecutorial process;
* providing victims with a false sense of security that the offender will be convicted
and sentenced;
* information contained in the emotional impact section of the victim impact
statement can be used to gage the need for support, information and program services
for crime victims during the prosecutorial process; and
* having accessibility to the financial impact section for use restitution determination
in plea negotiations; thereby, ensuring victims are afforded fair restitution;
Adapting the Models Based Upon Special Victim Needs
The models are designed to be easily modified based upon victims' physical and
emotional needs; and distinct category of victimization, i.e., sexual assault, burglary,
white collar crime, assault, etc. These modifications can be as simple as:
* Increasing the font size of the model to accommodate the vision problems of the
elderly or sight-impaired;
* Reproducing the models in languages indigenous to individual jurisdictions , i.e.,
Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. For example, the victim impact statement
should be reproduced in Spanish if the jurisdiction is heavily populated by a Hispanic
population.
* Reproducing and presenting the child's model as a parent/child activity.
* Tailoring individual questions to meet the needs of specific crime victimizations,
i.e., sexual assault, burglary, white collar, assault, etc. For example, an individualized
victim impact statement for family members of homicide victims was drafted by
simply modifying the model designed for the adult at the state and local level
prototype. In reviewing the homicide model, the reader will note that the question
concerning physical injuries has been removed and replaced with a question that
allows an opportunity for the surviving family member or friend to personalize the
characteristics of the deceased. (Surviving family members should not be asked to list
the injuries received by the deceased, and additionally, the information is easily
obtained in medical reports.)
Additional modifications might include tailoring examples of financial losses based
upon specific crime victimizations. As can be seen when looking at the model for
family members of homicide victims, the cues or prompts in the informational sheet
were modified to reflect expenses that are characteristic of the crime type, i.e., funeral
expenses, loss of support, etc.
1 Robert C. Wells and Francie Wendelborn, "Victim Impact: Are We Really
Considering It?". Federal Impact Statement Project.
.

Appendix 1
NVC, MADD and APRI Examine Currently Used
Victim Impact Statements
To evaluate the victim impact statement forms and materials currently utilized by the
criminal justice field, NVC and MADD each placed a separate call to the criminal
justice field requesting samples of all instruments used to solicit impact information
from crime victims. Response to MADD's call to the field resulted in the submission
of 49 victim impact statement forms from 22 states; and NVC received 120 victim
impact statements as a result of their call to the field, representing 42 states.
MADD conducted an in-house review of the collected materials using an established
list of evaluation criteria developed by MADD researchers. MADD's findings
revealed a number of concerns surrounding the use of existing victim impact
statements. Some of these concerns include the use of indifferent forms, the use of
multiple forms, the use of the victim impact statement primarily as a restitution
document, limited explanations for the use of the victim impact statement and
minimal instructions for its completion, and poor form layout and design.
NVC also conducted an in-house review of the 120 victim impact statements collected
for review, and in addition, convened an advisory council of 28 nationally known
victim impact experts to evaluate and rate the collected materials. Advisory board
members were asked to apply a rating value of poor, fair, good, or excellent to
comprehensive evaluation criteria developed by American Prosecutors Research
Institute (APRI) when evaluating each impact statement. Each of the victim impact
statements and supporting materials were evaluated in substantive areas that included,
but were not limited to:
* Does the information supplied to victims fully explain the use and purpose of the
victim impact statement in the criminal justice system;
* Is the information provided in easily understood language;
* Is the reading level appropriate for the targeted audience;
* Does the statement provide an explanation as to who will see or have access to the
victim impact statement;
* Are victims provided with adequate instructions for the completion and submission
of the victim impact statement;
* Does the statements' form design provide adequate space for victims to respond; and
* How effective is the statement in eliciting what the impact of the crime on the
victim was emotionally, physically and financially?
Additional evaluation criteria used to identify field models included:
* Does the statement provide an opportunity for the victim to indicate his or her
opinion on the sentencing of the defendant;
* Does the statement provide the victim with an opportunity to request notification of
other developments in the case, i.e., correctional status, parole notification, etc.; and
* Does the statement allow for a calculation of restitution owed to the victim, as a
total of all the financial losses the victim had listed?
Evaluation Findings:
MADD's evaluation of 49 instruments did not result in the identification of any
potential field models, while NVC's evaluation identified four percent of the 120
instruments submitted for review to be potential field models. Clearly, the results of
MADD's and NVC's victim impact statement evaluations reveal that the victim impact
statements and supporting materials currently offered to crime victims fall short in
providing victims with a meaningful avenue in which to fully disclose to the courts
and paroling authorities, a complete and accurate assessment of the harm inflicted on
them and their families as a result of the crime.
Ultimately, the victim impact statement is the most powerful vehicle victims have to
become actively involved in the sentencing of the offender. If provided with an
instrument that is sensitive to their needs, informs them of the purpose of the
information sought, and provides suggestions for completion, victims may have a
better understanding of the importance of the victim impact statement resulting in
more submissions. In doing so, victim impact statements will satisfy their original
intent, to present a written, objective description of the emotional, physical and
financial impact of crime. If the criminal justice system fails in this mission, victims
will once again be unjustly silenced by the very system that was established to protect
them. (Fora more in-depth review of both MADD and NVC's evaluations, please refer
to Appendix 2).
Victim Impact Statements Currently
Used: An Evaluation by NVC
Poor Fair Good Excellent
How would you rate the victim impact
statement in terms of its clarity and
readability?
12.5% 25% 54% 8.5%
How would you rate the victim impact
statement in terms of its layout and the
amount of space
provided for the victim's responses?
20.5% 35% 36% 8.5%
How appropriately sensitive is the
language of this victim impact statement?
16% 28% 48% 8%
How well does the victim impact statement 35% 21% 29% 15%
address what the purpose of the victim
impact statement is in the sentencing
process, and how it will be used?
How well does the victim impact statement
address why the victim may want to
submit it, while assuring the victim that it
is not a requirement?
38% 26% 26% 10%
How comprehensive and helpful are the
instructions in the victim impact
statement?
30% 36% 24% 10%
How well does the form explain who will
see or have access to the victim impact
statement?
55% 18% 19% 8%
How well does the form avoid asking for
unnecessary victim identifying
information?
26% 15% 38% 21%
In general how effective is the form in
asking what the emotional impact of crime
is on the victim?
28% 32% 36% 4%
In general how effective is the form in
asking what the physical impact of crime is
on the victim?
40% 23% 32% 6%
In general how effective is the form in
asking what the financial impact of crime
is on the victim?
26% 32% 33% 9%
How readily does the form allow for a
calculation of restitution owed to the
victim, as a total of all the financial losses
the victim has listed?
37% 33% 21% 9%
How well does this form seek information
on the extent that the victim wishes to be
notified and/or involved in the
developments in the case?
67% 8% 23% 2%
How well does the form ask for the
victim's opinion or perspectives on the
47% 20% 29% 4%
sentencing of the defendant?
How do you rate this form overall as a
model for use in other jurisdictions?
29% 41% 26% 4%
.

Appendix 2
Victim Impact Statements: Do They Increase Victim Satisfaction?
Victims' Response to MADD's Criminal Justice Survey
To determine the level of victim satisfaction with the criminal justice system, the
Summer, 1992 issue of the MADDVOCATE included a two-page survey inviting
victims of drunk driving crashes to assess various components of the criminal justice
system. The survey sought information from victims in order to obtain up-to-date
information on victim satisfaction within the justice process and data for analysis of
the justice process' weaknesses. An additional component of the survey was included
to measure victim satisfaction with victim impact statements, specifically for the
Focus on the Future grant project. For the purpose of this report, only questions and
findings concerning victim satisfaction with victim impact statements are highlighted,
with the exception of overall satisfaction with the criminal justice system. The survey
instrument was developed, tabulated and analyzed by MADD researcher Regina
Sobieski. Excerpts of her findings, based upon responses from 614 respondents, are
outlined below, along with a sampling of questions contained in the survey.
According to Ms. Sobieski, "Victim impact statements and other procedures that
allow victims to ventilate their feelings are a significant factor in the healing process.
It is imperative that victims be granted these rights in a setting free of apathy or
judgment." The survey findings indicate that presenting a victim impact statement
validates the victims role in the justice process and lends credence to the gravity of the
criminal act. Many of the victims responding to the survey felt that preparing the
statement was something tangible they could do for themselves or for their loved
ones. In essence, it is something they can do that may make a difference.
Findings
Overall findings of this survey further demonstrate that victims, although they have
the right in fifty states to submit some form of victim impact evidence at the time of
sentencing, are not consistently notified of this right. Only 50% of the 614 survey
respondents were informed of their right to submit written victim impact statements,
and only 40% received any information on their right to present oral impact
statements. Findings further conclude that the level of victim satisfaction with the
criminal justice system was highly influenced when victims were permitted to become
actively involved in the prosecution of their cases, including the submission of victim
impact statements.
In cases where victims were given the opportunity to submit written victim impact
statements, 56% were satisfied with the overall criminal justice system, and 34% of
respondents indicated they were dissatisfied. When victims were not afforded the
opportunity to submit written victim impact statements, victim satisfaction dropped to
a low of 14%, and victim dissatisfaction rose to a high of 75%. Similar satisfaction
results were reflected by victims that were given the opportunity to submit impact
evidence orally - overall satisfaction with the criminal justice process rated at 58%
while those not given the opportunity rated their dissatisfaction level at 65%.
Clearly the findings of the survey support the belief that victims who perceive they are
seen as integral players in the justice process rate their overall experiences with the
system as favorable, even if there is no empirical evidence to support that this belief is
confirmed by the criminal justice system.
Survey Questions
Listed below is a sampling of questions asked in the MADD Criminal Justice Survey
that relate to victim impact statements:
* Were you informed that you had the right to offer a written or oral victim impact
statement during the sentencing hearing?
* Who notified you of this right?
* Did anyone assist you in preparing this statement, if yes, who?
* Were you given the opportunity to submit a written victim impact statement?
* Were you given the opportunity to offer an oral victim impact statement at the
sentencing hearing, if yes, did you?
* If your offender went to prison, were you given the opportunity to offer a victim
impact statement again at the parole hearing?
* How important do you think it is for the prison system to inform victims and their
families of parole hearings and the release of the offender?
* How upsetting did you find presenting your oral victim impact statement?
* If you were to do it over again, would you still choose to present a victim impact
statement?
* Overall, how do you feel about the way the criminal justice system (from police
through parole) treated you and your family?
.

Appendix 3
Do Statutory Variations Limit Direct Victim Involvement in the Sentencing
Process?
"Just about the only right a victim has is to be present at the commission of the
crime."
Joyce Isaacs, a victim
As national and state policy makers rush to pass much needed victim rights
legislation, including the right to submit impact evidence, they often fail to have in
place the necessary policies, guidelines, and protocol to implement newly-passed
legislation. The lack of systematic, cohesive guidelines, policies and procedures
governing the implementation and use of victim impact can be directly linked with the
under-utilization of victim impact statements.
In 1987, Dr. Maureen McLeod analyzed legislation, case law and administrative
policies in states with laws allowing victim input at sentencing and the one state,
Alabama, that allows it by administrative procedure. Dr. McLeod's research1 revealed
five major areas of statutory variation among states regarding victim input at
sentencing:
* Implementation Procedures: Even though many states mandate victim impact
statements, some statutes indicate that they be incorporated within presentencing
reports, leaving the victim without the opportunity to submit a statement if a
presentence investigation is not done.
* Definition of Victim: Some states allow only certain types of felony victims to
submit victim impact statements. For example, Rhode Island defines "victims" as
those who have "sustained personal injury or loss of property directly attributable to
the felonious conduct of which the defendant has been convicted." This definition
could exclude victims of attempted robbery, rape, drunk driving and homicide
survivors. The difference could be significant since restitution to the victim may be
tied to the plea.2
McLeod's research found that 58% of probation officers surveyed felt that victim
impact statements should relate to all crimes charged.3 In cases involving multiple
victims, some states say that only those "most harmed" may present victim impact
statements.
* Content of Statement: Allowable questions range from focusing only on facts which
directly result from the crime for which the defendant is being sentenced (which
would be irrelevant in the case of plea bargaining or a conviction on a lesser, included
offense) to both quantifiable and subjective commentary on both the impact of the
crime as well as sentencing recommendations.
* Method of Preparation: In most jurisdictions, the victim and the probation
department are expected to work "together" to prepare the victim impact statement.
However, some statutes allow prosecutors, victim/witness advocates or prosecutor
office staff to assist in the completion of the statements. Methods of verification of
fact, particularly of crime-related expenses which lead to restitution orders, range
from non-existent to checklists and scales which presumably objectify impact.
Other jurisdictions allow non-structured statements which may better reflect the
nuances of a specific incident, but may also contribute to disparity in criminal justice
decision-making.
* Method of Presentation: McLeod's study identified five statutory methods of
presentation a) written but presented as a component of the presentence report; b)
written but separate from the presentence report; c) oral, introduced as a separate
statement at the sentencing hearing; d) written, introduced as a separate statement at
the parole hearing; and e) oral, introduced as a separate statement at the parole
hearing.
1 Maureen McLeod "An Examination of the Victim's Role at Sentencing: Results of a
Survey of Probation Administrators", 71 Judicature 162, 168 (1987).
A Report Card to the Nation on Victim Impact Statements: What Federal and State
Systems Allow at the Time of Sentencing and Parole

Victim Impact Statements in the Parole Process: What are States Allowing by Statute
or Administrative Policy?
1 Allow for the submission of written and oral victim impact statements at the time of
parole consideration.1
2 Allow for the submission of victim impact statements through video or audio
devices at the time of parole consideration.2
3 Allow for the submission of victim impact statements via telephone at the time of
parole consideration.
4 Allow for the submission of victim impact statements via fax at the time of parole
consideration.
5 Allow for the submission of victim impact statements at parole revocation
hearings.3
Method for Presenting Oral Impact Evidence to
Parole Boards
6 Require the victim to testify at the inmate's parole hearing. This may or may not
include the offender's presence or that of the offender's family.
7 Allow victims to choose between testifying at the inmate's parole hearing or meeting
privately with parole board members.
8 Hold separate parole hearings/meetings with victims.
Notification of Parole Hearings and Outcome--State Breakdown Parole Hearings:
9 Provides notification of parole hearings only when requested by the victim.
10 Notifies all victims of parole hearings.
Parole Decisions:
11 Notifies the victim of parole decisions.
12 Notifies the victim of parole decisions only if the victim requests notification.
13 Notifies the victim only if the offender is released.
14 Do not allow for the notification of parole board's decisions.
Victim Impact Statements: What States Statutorily Allow at Sentencing (In most
states, a defendant has the right to contest assertions made in the victim impact
statement. this is often limited to objecting to or rebutting factual portions of the
statement. in a few states, the defendant or defense counsel even has the right to cross-
examine a victim.)
15 Allow for some form of submission of victim impact statement either at the time of
sentencing or to be contained in presentence investigation reports.
16 Allow victims to present oral statements at sentencing.
17 Require the consideration of victim impact statements or the victim's opinion
regarding the offense or sentence at sentencing.4
18 Allow for the inclusion of financial impact as an element of the victim impact
statement.
19 Allow for the inclusion of emotional or psychological impact as an element of the
victim impact statement.5
20 Allow for the inclusion of physical or medical impact evidence as an element of
the victim impact statement.
21 Allow for the inclusion of a statement of need for restitution.
Admissibility in Other Criminal Justice Proceedings
22 Allow victim impact statement to be submitted via video or film.
23 Allows victim impact statements to be presented early on in the criminal justice
process and the statement is considered at all proceedings.
24 Allow victim impact statements to be submitted in plea bargain hearings.6
25 Allow victim impact statements to be submitted in determining work release status.
26 Allow victim impact statements to be submitted when the offender has requested
consideration for a pardon.
27 Allows victim impact statements to be submitted at restitution hearings.
Victim Impact Statement Admissibility in Death Penalty Cases
28 As of 1991, a few states continue to prohibit the use of victim impact statements in
death penalty cases Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts each retain laws on their books
stating that victim impact evidence will not be presented in cases where the death
penalty could be imposed, but also have laws that do not contain such a restriction on
victim impact information.7
1 The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 abolished parole in the Federal justice system.
The findings contained herein regarding parole do not apply.
2 Restrictions in North Dakota and Utah apply. In North Dakota, video and audio
impact statements are accepted only if it is impossible for the victim to appear. In
Utah, submission of video and audio impact statements are determined on a case-by-
case basis.
3 In North Carolina, an attorney must request permission to allow the victim to submit
impact statements during parole revocation hearings, and Utah only accepts written
impact statements during parole revocation hearings.
4 Georgia and New Hampshire specifically provide that a court may consider such
statements at the time of sentencing
5 Other states may instead, or in addition, permit evidence of any request for
psychological services made by the victim or victims family.
6 Some states allow victims a right to be heard at "all critical proceedings", or similar
language. Those proceedings are not defined.
7 States referenced are examples, and are not meant to be inclusive listings.
New York is currently the only state that makes no provisions for the submission or
consideration of written or oral victim impact statements; however, New York does
allow for notification to victims, upon request, when an offender has escaped,
absconded, been discharged from parole, or been granted a temporary release.

.

Existing Victim Impact Forms: A Review
As a component of MADD's criminal justice survey, MADD staff collected and
reviewed 49 different victim impact statements from 22 states, a broad representation
of the types of forms currently utilized nationwide. MADD's review of the documents
identified a number of problems with many of the existing forms which may in part
contribute to the under-utilization of Victim Impact Statements by victims as well as
the criminal justice system. In brief, those problems include:
* Indifferent Forms - Many victims are already overwhelmed with the number of
forms generated as a result of crime including: police reports, medical forms,
insurance claim forms and crime victim compensation reimbursements. Additional
paperwork may be viewed by many as an intrusion rather than an opportunity to
participate in the criminal justice process. The majority of the victim impact
statements reviewed by MADD give the appearance of "just another form." Nearly all
were on white copy paper and many were of poor copy quality. Many contained
typographical errors, uneven margins, and an amateur layout. Several victims
interviewed about victim impact statements reported being depressed, intimidated or
resentful of having to fill out yet another form.
* Multiple Forms - In many jurisdictions, victims were asked to complete a separate
victim impact statement for the prosecuting attorney, the probation department, and in
jurisdictions with police-based victim assistance programs, victims may be asked to
complete yet a third victim impact statement. This is clear indication of an apparent
lack of communication and cooperation among various agencies that have victim
assistance responsibilities. (This lack of communication and cooperation further
supports the need for comprehensive and systematic guidelines and protocol for each
criminal justice agency working with crime victims.)
* Using the Victim Impact Statement Primarily as a Restitution Document -
Although identifying the financial cost of crime is one component of a victim impact
statement, the primary purpose has traditionally been to give the victim an opportunity
to be heard and to participate in the criminal justice process. The victim impact
statement should be a vehicle for identifying and communicating the emotional and
physical impact, as well as the financial impact of the crime. Many victims are
insulted that the criminal justice system would ask about the financial outlays first and
ask about the victim's emotional loss last, as if it were merely an afterthought.
* Form Format - Most advocates and researchers who have studied the use of victim
impact statements agree that the most effective statement is one that allows the victim
to relate their experiences and losses in an unrestricted narrative. The majority of
forms reviewed provided inadequate space for victims to write about their emotional
losses. The message victims glean from the lack of space is to "keep is short." These
losses are most effectively conveyed in a narrative form which allows the victim to
describe as much or as little as they would like.
* Limited Explanation and Instructions Many of the victim impact statement forms
reviewed contained no explanation as to the purpose of the form, how it is used,
confidentiality issues addressing who will have access to the form, and why the victim
should even complete a victim impact statement. This is particularly troubling if the
form is received in the mail with no cover letter or personal contact by the distributing
agency. None of the victim impact statement reviewed provided information on
victims' options for completing the form. Although most victim advocates would
agree that failure to offer the opportunity to participate in the justice process would be
a form of re-victimization for those who wish to do so, little thought has been given to
the reverse premise.
Additional Concerns Identified
The use of a form does not address the needs of the victim who does not read well or
read at all (some 30% of our population), nor does it allow for the needs of a
culturally diverse population. For example, checking the "no" box when asked if
counseling was sought may be interpreted as an indication that the crime had minimal
impact rather than a cultural reluctance to seek counseling. Very few forms are
offered in languages other than English.
There is a definite under-utilization of victim impact statements. Many statement are
only provided after a finding of guilt, leaving victims whose cases were plea-
bargained (over 90% of all criminal cases) with no avenue for submitting impact
evidence if no presentence investigation is ordered by the court.
Requiring victims to provide personal information such as home and work phone
numbers and addresses may be sufficient in causing victims to waive their right to
submit impact evidence for what they feel is a more important issue--personal safety.
.

(Sample Cover Letter Accompanying Victim
Impact Statement/Federal Level)
Date
Dear__________,
Although many crime victims experience similar feelings, questions and concerns as a
result of crime, no two victims experience the same emotional, physical and financial
impact. Only you can tell those of us involved in your case how you or those close to
you have been affected by this crime. One way to do this is to prepare a victim impact
statement. Not all victims are comfortable putting their thoughts on paper, and while
you have the opportunity to complete an impact statement, you are under no
obligation to do so.
If you would like to submit a victim impact statement for the court's review, an impact
statement is attached for your use. The enclosed form may appear to be impersonal,
but when it is completed in your own words, it will help to personalize for the judge,
probation officer and correctional personnel, the impact that this crime has had on
your life and those close to you. To further assist you, I am enclosing a suggestion
sheet that may aid you as you complete your impact statement.
It is your right under Federal law to be notified of the sentencing date. If you are
uncomfortable writing down your feelings on an impact statement, you may have the
opportunity to attend the sentencing hearing and speak to the judge before he passes
sentence. If you would like to attend the sentencing hearing to make a personal impact
statement to the court, please call us/me as soon as possible so we can arrange for
your appearance.
If you choose to prepare a written victim impact statement, please complete the form
if possible within 10 days and return it to our office. Upon receipt of your victim
impact statement, we/I will forward it to the United States Probation Department. The
probation department may use your impact statement, after the defendant has been
convicted, to prepare a presentence investigative report for Judge__________
Someone from the probation office may contact you for additional information. If a
probation officer does contact you, please respond promptly. In addition to the judge,
Assistant U.S. Attorney, and probation officer reviewing your impact statement, it
may be viewed by the defendant and his or her attorney.
The victim impact statement also provides you with an opportunity to present any
financial cost you may have incurred as a result of this crime. Judge__________ may
use this form in determining what amount of restitution may be appropriate.
Restitution is the payment the defendant may be required by the court to make to you
as the victim for your financial losses. However, there is no guarantee that the
defendant will be able to pay the entire amount. If you have lost property, suffered
medical expenses not fully covered by insurance or experienced any additional
financial expenses as a direct result of this crime, please complete the enclosed victim
financial worksheet and, if possible, attach receipts for your losses.
If you have any questions concerning how to complete the victim impact statement or
how it will be used within the criminal justice system, please call me at__________. I
have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for your use in returning the form to
my office. If at all possible, please complete and return your statement within the next
10 days.
No one knows better than you how this crime may have changed your life. Those of
us involved in your case believe that it is very important for you to help the court to
understand all of the ways this crime has affected you and those close to you. Thank
you for taking the time to provide us with this important information.
Sincerely,
Enclosure
.

Suggestions for Completing Your Victim Impact
Statement
The following suggestions and the attached form are offered
only as a guide. Please answer as many questions as you
wish. If you need more space, please use additional pages and simply attach these
pages to the form when you return it.
Only you know how to best describe the effects this crime has had on you and those
close to you. We realize it may be difficult to put into words the impact this crime has
had on you and those close to you. Many victims find it helpful to organize their
statement by the emotional, physical, and financial effects. Some victims have found
it helpful to write a rough draft of their statement before completing the final
statement. If you should need any assistance in completing your victim impact
statement, please feel free to contact my office for assistance at phone number .
If you would like to tell the court about the emotional impact of this crime, you may
want to consider:
* Has this crime affected your lifestyle or those close to you?
* Have your feelings about yourself or your life changed since the crime?
* Has your ability to relate to others changed?
If you or your family members were injured, you may wish to tell the court about the
physical impact of this crime. You may wish to:
* Describe the physical injuries you or members of your family suffered.
* Describe how long these injuries lasted or how long they are expected to last.
* Describe any medical treatment you have received or expect to receive in the future.
If you are making a written statement, you may want to discuss how this crime has
affected your ability to earn a living and how it has affected you financially. We have
also included a separate Victim Financial Statement to help you fully record the
financial impact of this crime. It is important to be as complete as possible in
describing your financial losses as this information will be used by the probation
department and provided to the judge for determining restitution. Restitution is the
possible payment by the defendant to you for any financial losses you may have
suffered as a result of this crime.
.

Victim Impact Statement
What Is a Victim Impact Statement and How Is It Used?
As a crime victim, you have the opportunity to use this Victim Impact Statement to
describe how this crime affected you and others close to you. This statement has space
for you to write about the physical, emotional, and financial effects of this crime, as
well as any other changes in your life you may have experienced. If the defendant
pleads guilty or is found guilty after trial, your impact statement will help the judge
understand how this crime has affected you and those close to you.
Filling out this statement is voluntary
You do not have to fill out a victim impact statement. However, it may be helpful to
the judge when he or she decides what sentence the defendant should receive and/or
any money the defendant may have to pay you for expenses you have paid or owe
because of this crime. When the judge makes the defendant pay the victim it is called
"restitution." If the judge orders the defendant to pay you restitution, there is no
guarantee that the defendant will be able to pay the entire amount.
Your statement will become an official court document after it is given to the court,
and will become part of the defendant's permanent file. The judge, prosecutor and
probation officer will read your statement. In addition, prison and parole officials may
read your statement if the defendant is sentenced to a prison term. The defendant and
the defendant's attorney will also be able to read what you have written. They may
even be able to ask you questions about your statement in court. However, the
defendant will not be able to see your address and telephone number because you are
not asked to put them on your statement.
No one knows better than you how this crime may have changed your life. Those of
us involved in your case believe that it is very important for you to help the court
understand all of the ways this crime has affected you and those near you. Thank you
for taking the time to provide us with this information.
[Add in applicable jurisdictions: You also have the right to speak to the judge at the
time of sentencing. If you would like to do so, please contact our office right away
and we will help set this up for you.]
[Add in applicable jurisdictions: You also have the right to give your victim impact
statement in the form of an audio or video tape. If you would like to do this, please
contact our office right away for further information.]
[Add if applicable: The statement also asks what you believe the sentence should be in
this case. Although the judge will decide the defendant's sentence, the judge may
consider your opinion before making this decision. Your statement also may be used
at other hearings where decisions are made about parole or releasing the defendant
early.]
Suggestions for Completing Your Impact Statement
The following suggestions are offered only as a guide in filling out this form. Feel free
to write in your own words how this crime has affected you and those close to you.
Please answer as many questions as you wish. If a question makes you feel
uncomfortable, you do not have to answer it.
If you need more space or you wish to provide information in a different way, please
use as much paper as you need, and attach the pages to this form when you return it. If
you feel uncomfortable in any way using this form, you may write a letter to the judge
and tell him or her how this crime has affected you and those close to you.
The first part of the impact statement asks you three questions about:
* the emotional impact of this crime on you and those close to you;
* the physical effects of this crime; and
* the effect of the crime on your ability to work or do any of the things you normally
do, such as going to school, running a household, or any other activities you normally
perform or enjoy.
If you have paid or owe any money for bills because of this crime, please fill out the
financial impact section of the statement. It is important to be as accurate and
complete as possible when listing your costs because this information will be used by
the prosecutor, probation officer and the judge to help them determine what restitution
the defendant must pay to you, the victim. Some examples of expenses you may have
paid or owe include medical bills or supplies; eyeglass or hearing aid replacement or
repair; counseling costs; lost wages or support; funeral expenses; lost, stolen or
damaged property which may include crime scene cleanup; and the repair or
replacement of door locks and security devices. It is important to attach copies of any
bills or other proof of any money you have spent or expect to spend in the future.
In addition to medical or counseling bills, you may want to include any time off from
work that you were not paid for as a result of this crime. For example, if you took time
off from work to go to the doctor or courthouse, and your employer did not pay you
for this time, you may want to ask the judge to think about these expenses when he or
she decides if the defendant will owe you any restitution.
Crime Victim Compensation
Did you know that you may be able to receive financial help from the Crime Victim
Compensation Program? This program can pay victims back for certain types of out-
of-pocket expenses for physical or emotional injuries received as a direct result of a
crime. These expenses include medical bills, counseling costs, funeral bills, and lost
wages and support. This is not the same as restitution. You may be able to receive
money to help you with some of your medical bills even before you go to court.
You will have to meet certain conditions to receive Crime Victim Compensation
benefits, but you can file for benefits immediately following the crime even if no
arrest has been made. If you would like more information on the benefits available, or
how to apply for compensation, please contact our office for assistance.
For Help With Your Victim Impact Statement
Please return your completed impact statement to our office within 10 days. If you
have any questions while writing your impact statement or if you would like to speak
to the judge at sentencing, please contact our office right away so we can help set this
up for you. If our office can help you in any way at all, please feel free to contact our
office at:
(Your printed organizational name goes here with contact name, phone number and
mailing address.)

Victim Impact Statement
If you need more space to answer any of the following questions, please feel free to
use as much paper as you need, and simply attach these sheets of paper to this impact
statement. Thank you.
Your Name
Defendant's Name(s)
1. How has this crime affected you and those close to you? Please feel free to discuss
your feelings about what has happened and how it has affected your general well-
being. Has this crime affected your relationship with any family members, friends, co-
workers, and other people? As a result of this crime, if you or others close to you have
sought any type of victim services, such as counseling by either a licensed
professional, member of the clergy, or a community-sponsored support group, you
may wish to mention this.
2. What physical injuries or symptoms have you or others close to you suffered as a
result of this crime? You may want to write about how long the injuries lasted, or how
long they are expected to last, and if you sought medical treatment for these injuries.
You may also want to discuss what changes you have made in you life as a result of
these injuries.
3. Has this crime affected your ability to perform your work, make a living, run a
household, go to school or enjoy any other activities you previously performed or
enjoyed? If so, please explain how these activities have been affected by this crime.
.

Victim Impact Statement for Family Members or Friends
of a Homicide Victim
What Is a Victim Impact Statement and How Is It Used?
As a homicide victim's family member or close friend, you have the opportunity to
use this victim impact statement to describe how the loss of your loved one has
affected you and others close to you. You do not have to use the statement. If you
prefer, you may wish to write a letter to judge instead. If you choose to use this
statement, there is space for you to write about the emotional and financial effects this
crime has caused you and those close to you, as well as any other changes in your life
you may have experienced. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty after trial,
your impact statement will help the judge understand how this crime has affected you,
your family and those close to you.
Filling out this statement is voluntary
You do not have to fill out a victim impact statement. However, it may be helpful to
the judge when he or she decides what sentence the defendant should receive and/or
any money the defendant may have to pay you or other family members for expenses
you have paid or owe because of this crime. When the judge makes the defendant pay
the victim's family, it is called "restitution." If the judge orders the defendant to pay
you or your family restitution, there is no guarantee that the defendant will be able to
pay the entire amount.
Your statement will become an official court document after it is given to the court,
and will become part of the defendant's permanent file. Judges, prosecutors, and
probation officers may read your statement. In addition, prison and parole officials
may read it if the defendant is sentenced to a prison term. The defendant and the
defendant's attorney will be able to read what you have written. They may even be
able to ask you questions about your statement in court. However, the defendant will
not be able to see your address and telephone number because you are not asked to put
them on your statement.
No one knows better than you how this crime may have changed your life. Those of
us involved in the prosecution of this case believe that it is very important for you to
help the court understand all of the ways this crime has affected you and those near
you. Thank you for taking the time to provide us with this information.
[In applicable jurisdictions: You also have the right to speak to the judge at the time of
sentencing. If you would like to do so, please contact our office right away and we
will help set this up for you.]
[In applicable jurisdictions: You also have the right to give your victim impact
statement in the form of an audio or video tape. If you would like to do this, please
contact our office right away for further information.]
[In applicable jurisdictions: The statement also asks what you believe the sentence
should be in this case. Although the judge will decide the defendant's sentence, the
judge may consider your opinion before making this decision. Your statement also
may be used at other hearings where decisions are made about parole or releasing the
defendant early.]
Suggestions for Completing Your Impact Statement
The following suggestions are offered only as a guide in filling out this form. Feel free
to write in your own words how this crime has affected you and those close to you.
Please answer as many questions as you wish. If a question makes you feel
uncomfortable, you do not have to answer it.
If you need more space to complete your statement or if you wish to provide
information in a different way, please use as much paper as you need, and attach the
pages to this form when you return it. If you feel uncomfortable in any way using this
form, you may write a letter to the judge and tell him or her how this crime has
affected you and those close to you.
The first part of the impact statement asks you two questions about:
* The emotional impact of this crime on you and your family.
* The effect of the crime on your ability to work or do any of the things you normally
do, such as going to school, running a household, or any other activities you normally
perform or enjoy.
If you would like to and feel comfortable in doing so, you may wish to write about
what kind of person your loved one was and what he or she meant to you. You may
wish to tell the judge some of your loved one's interest, hopes, dreams or you may
wish to write something about the special memories you have of your loved one.
If you have paid or owe any money for bills because of this crime, please fill out the
financial impact section of the statement. It is important to be as accurate and
complete as you can when listing your costs because this information will be used by
the prosecutor, probation officer and the judge to help them determine what restitution
the defendant must pay to you. Some examples of expenses you may have paid or owe
include medical bills or expenses; counseling costs; lost wages or loss of support;
funeral expenses; crime scene cleanup; and, the repair or replacement of door locks
and security devices. It is important to attach copies of any bills or other proof of any
money you have spent or expect to spend in the future.
In addition to medical or counseling bills, you may want to include any time off from
work that you were not paid for as a result of this crime. For example, if you took time
off from work to go attend to your loved one's medical care or funeral arrangements,
and your employer did not pay you for this time, you may want to ask the judge to
think about these expenses when he or she decides if the defendant will owe you any
restitution.
Crime Victim Compensation
Did you know that you may be able to receive financial help from a state crime victim
compensation program? This program can pay victims and family members of
homicide victims for certain types of out-of-pocket expenses for physical or emotional
injuries received as a direct result of a crime. These expenses include medical bills,
counseling costs, funeral bills, and lost wages and support. This is not the same as
restitution. You may be able to receive money to help you with some of the medical
bills even before you go to court.
You will have to meet certain conditions to receive Crime Victim Compensation
benefits, but you can file for benefits immediately following the crime even if no
arrest has been made. If you would like more information on the benefits available, or
how to apply for compensation, please contact our office for assistance.
For Help With Your Victim Impact Statement
Please return your completed impact statement to our office within 10 days. If you
have any questions while writing your impact statement or if you would like to speak
to the judge at sentencing, please contact our office right away so we can help set this
up for you. If our office can help you in any way at all, please feel free to contact us
at:
(Your printed organizational name goes here with contact name, phone number and
mailing address.)
Victim Impact Statement
If you need more space to answer any of the following questions, please feel free to
use as much paper as you need, and simply attach these sheets of paper to this impact
statement. You do not have to use this form. If you prefer, feel free to write a letter to
the judge. This form is only offered to provide you with an example of what you may
wish to write about. Thank you.
Your Name
Your Loved One's Name
Defendant's Name(s)
1. How has the loss of your loved one affected you and those close to you? Please feel
free to discuss your feelings about what has happened and how it has affected your
general well-being. Has this crime affected your relationship with any family
members, friends, co-workers, and other people? As a result of this crime, if you or
others close to you have sought any type of victim services, such as counseling by
either a licensed professional, member of the clergy, or a community-sponsored
support group, you may wish to mention this.
2. Has this crime affected your ability to perform your work, make a living, run a
household, go to school, or enjoy any other activities you previously performed or
enjoyed? If so, please explain how these activities have been affected by your loss.
3. Only if you feel comfortable in doing so should you use this space to tell the judge
anything you would like him or her to know about your loved one and the kind of
person he or she was. If you wish, you can write about any special memories you have
of your loved one, times you shared together, what his or her hopes and dreams were,
and any other information you would like to share with the judge.
.

Victim Impact Statement for Children and Their Parents
What is a Victim Impact Statement and How is It Used?
Only you and your child can tell the court the effects this crime has had on you, your
family, and those close to you. One way to do that is to fill out a victim impact
statement. If the defendant pleads or is found guilty, your statement will help the
judge understand what the impact of this crime has been on your child, you, and those
close to you. While you have the right to fill out a statement, you do not have to fill
out a statement if it will make you feel uncomfortable in any way. Filling out the
victim impact statement is voluntary. [Add in applicable jurisdictions: You also
have the right to speak to the judge at the time of sentencing or to present an audio or
video tape describing the impact of this crime. If you would like to do so, please
contact our office 10 days before the sentencing date so we can help set this up for
you.]
It may be hard for you and your child to put into words the impact this crime has had
on you and those close to you. However, your impact statement may help the judge in
your case decide what punishment the defendant should receive and/or if the
defendant will be ordered to pay you any money you have paid or owe because of this
crime. When the judge makes the defendant pay the victim, it is called "restitution." If
the judge orders the defendant to pay you restitution, there is no guarantee that the
defendant will be able to pay you the entire amount.
Your statement will become an official court document after it is given to the court,
and will become part of the defendant's permanent file. The judge, prosecutor and
probation officer will read your statement. In addition, prison and parole officials may
read it if the defendant is sentenced to a prison term. The defendant and the
defendant's attorney will be able to read what you have written. They may even be
able to ask you questions about your statement in court. However, the defendant will
not be able to see your address or telephone number because you are not asked to put
them on your statement.
Where Do I Get a Victim Impact Statement and How Do I Complete It?
Along with this sheet are two victim impact statements. The first statement is for you,
the parent. It gives you a chance to tell the judge about any changes that may have
happened to your child or to your family; any physical injuries or physical problems
your child may have suffered; and, any money you have spent or may owe as a result
of this crime.
The second statement is for your child. As a parent, you know what is best for your
child. If you are uncomfortable with your child filling out a statement, don't let your
child fill it out. However, if your child wants to fill out the statement, he or she will be
able to tell the judge how this crime may have changed their life. If your child would
rather draw a picture, tell a story, write a poem, this is fine as well.
Suggestions for Parents in Completing the Victim Impact Statement
Many parents find it helpful to arrange the impact statement by the emotional,
physical or financial effects of the crime. It may be helpful to write a rough draft of
your statement before filling out a final statement. This way, you can make as many
changes to the statement as you want.
As you write your impact statement, you may want to write about the emotional
impact of this crime on yourself and your child. You may want to think about:
* Has this crime affected your life, your child's life or the lives of those close to you?
* Has anything changed between your child and his or her friends, both at school or in
your neighborhood?
* Has anything changed with your child's behavior or schoolwork?
If your child was physically injured, you may wish to write about the physical impact
of this crime. You may want to:
* Write about the physical injuries your child received.
* Tell how long these injuries lasted or how long the injuries are expected to last.
* Write about the medical treatment or emotional counseling your child or your
family has received or expects to receive in the future.
If you have paid or owe any money for bills because of this crime, please fill out the
financial impact section of the statement. It is important to be as accurate and
complete as you can be when listing your costs because this information will be used
by the prosecutor, probation officer and the judge to help them determine what
restitution the defendant must pay to you, the victim.
In addition to medical or counseling bills, you may want to include any time off from
work that you were not paid for as a result of this crime. For example, if you took time
off from work to take your child to the doctor, therapy, or to the courthouse and your
employer did not pay you for this time, you may want to ask the judge to think about
these expenses when he or she decides if the defendant will owe you any restitution.
Helping Your Child Complete the Victim Impact Statement
Your child will find it helpful to know that by filling out a statement, he or she can tell
the judge how they "feel" about what happened. If your child is nervous or scared and
does not want to complete the form, let your child know that it is okay to feel this way
and let them take some time to think about what you are asking them to do and what
they would like to say or draw. Your child can always fill out the form another day.
Tell your child that they are not being asked to "tell" what the defendant did, but
rather how they are "feeling" about what has happened. Let your child know if they
make a mistake on the statement, they can start over. Your child can write or draw as
much or as little as they wish. Some children may feel that the statement must be
perfect from spelling everything just right to using "big" words. Let your child know
that what they are feeling is more important than spelling everything right or using big
words. This is not a test. Let your child know there are no right or wrong answers.
If at anytime your child feels that he or she cannot fill out the form, or if you can see
that your child is becoming too upset, stop and tell your child that you are proud they
tried to fill out the statement, and that you understand how they feel. Let your child
know that they do not have to fill out the statement unless they want to.
Crime Victim Compensation
Did you know that you may be eligible for financial help from the Crime Victim
Compensation Program? This program can pay victims back for certain types of out-
of-pocket costs for physical or emotional injuries received as a direct result of a crime.
These costs include medical bills, counseling cost, funeral bills, and lost wages and
support. This is not the same as restitution. You may be able to receive money to help
you with some of your medical bills before you go to court.
You will have to meet certain conditions to receive Crime Victim Compensation
benefits, but you can file for benefits right after the crime has happened even if no one
has been arrested. If you would like more information on the benefits available, or
how to apply for compensation, please contact our office for assistance.
For Further Assistance
No one knows better than you and your child how this crime may have changed your
life. Those of us involved in your case believe that it is very important for you to help
the court understand all of the ways this crime has affected you and those near you.
Thank you for taking the time to provide us with this important information.
If you need any help in completing your statement, or if we can help you to photocopy
any bills or receipts you plan to submit for restitution consideration, please contact our
office. We will be happy to assist you in any way we can. Please return your
completed impact statements within the next 10 days to:
(place your agency contact information here)

Victim Impact Statement For Parents of Child Victims
Name of parent or guardian
Name of child
Name of Defendant
1. Has your child been emotionally affected by this crime? If yes, you may wish to
discuss how the crime may have affected your child's relationships with you, family
members, and those close to you. If your child received any form of victim services
such as counseling by either a licensed professional, member of the clergy or a
community-support group, you may wish to mention this. Please use additional paper
as necessary.
2. Was your child physically injured or hurt as a result of this crime? If yes, you may
wish to write about the type of injuries your child had, what medical treatment your
child received, and how long these injuries lasted or are expected to last. Please use
additional paper as necessary.
3. Has this crime affected the way your child relates to his or her friends, either at
school or in your neighborhood? Has this crime affected your child's school work in
any way? Please use additional paper as necessary.
4. How has this crime affected you, your family and those close to your child? You
may wish to write about changes that may have occurred in your family, in your
ability to perform your work, make a living, run a household or enjoy any other
activities you enjoyed before the crime. You may also wish to include any victim
services or counseling that you and those close to your child have received. Please use
additional paper as necessary.

Victim Impact Statement For the School-Aged Child
What is your name?
How old are you?
What grade are you in?
1. Please write or draw anything you would like the judge to know about how you feel
because of what has happened to you. You may want to write about anything that has
changed in your life or in your family. You can even tell a story or write a poem if
you would like. You can add more paper if you run out of room.
2. Please write or draw anything you want the judge to know that may be different at
school, in your neighborhood or with your friends because of what has happened to
you. You can add more paper if you run out of room.

just for little kids
To parents: if your child is too young to read or is just learning to read, you will want
to help your child fill out the victim impact statement. when helping your child, you
will want to read the directions aloud to your child, talk about what feelings are
(happy, sad, mad, scared, or any other feelings you think are appropriate), and what
your child may want to think about when they are drawing or writing on the
statement. please do not tell your child what to draw or write. This is your child's
chance to tell the judge how he or she is feeling about what has happened. if your
child would rather draw a picture of a bird, a boat or write a story about bumblebees,
this is okay as well. Should your child become uncomfortable in any way while filling
out the victim impact statement, reassure your child that he or she does not have to fill
out the form unless he or she wants to.
What is your name?
(it's okay if your parents help you write your name)
How old are you?
If you go to school, what grade are you in?
How do you feel about what happened to you? (you can circle as many as you like.)
(circle as many as you like)

Happy Sad Mad Scared Other
If you were the judge, what would you do to__________?
A. send to jail
B. pay some money
C. go to a doctor to get help
D. nothing
E. Stay away from kids
F. What else?? Put your own idea here!!
If you want to, you can use this page to draw a picture, write a poem, tell a story, or
anything else you would like to do to tell the judge about how you are feeling about
what has happened to you. If you don't want to write or draw anything here, that's
okay too!

Financial Impact Statement Worksheet
Please use this portion of the form to list any expenses you have had or paid as a result
of this crime. Some of the sections may not apply to you. If possible, please attach
copies of bills, receipts, estimates of value, replacement costs, or other evidence of the
costs listed below. Please attach additional pages as necessary.
A. CRIME RELATED COSTS
1. List any personal belongings or personal property lost, destroyed or damaged as a
result of this crime and the value. This would include damage to your home, business
or other real estate. (Examples of losses are: loss or damage to personal belongings
such as televisions, clothing, jewelry, and automobiles. You also may wish to include
expenses for installing deadbolts, repairing locks, and/or any crime scene cleanup.)
2. List any medical expenses incurred as a result of this crime. (You may wish to
include expenses for doctors, medications, hospital stays, physical or occupational
therapy, counseling, medical supplies, wheelchair rental, glasses, hearing aids, etc.)
3. Please describe any future medical or counseling expenses your doctor or therapist
anticipates and attach an estimate of their costs.
4. If you had any funeral expenses, please list them.
5. Please list any other expenses you incurred. (You may wish to list items such as
child care during court appearances, transportation costs for medical treatment or
court appearances, installing new locks or security devices, fees incurred in changing
banking or credit card accounts, moving expenses, etc.)
6. If you lost wages or income because you were unable to work because of the crime,
had doctor or therapy visits, or attended court, please indicate the total amount of
money you lost in wages. (Where possible, please attach a letter from your employer
verifying the amount of lost wages or income.)
Amount of lost wages or income $
TOTAL OF CRIME RELATED COST $
B. MONEY YOU WERE PAID BY INSURANCE, VICTIM COMPENSATION OR
OTHER SOURCES
(Whenever possible, attach copies of receipts or insurance payments.)
1. If you have already received or expect to receive any payments or benefits from the
sources below, please indicate any amounts received, name of insurance company and
claim number.
Property, Auto or Homeowners Insurance
Amount Received
Name of Company
Claim Number
Address
Phone Number
Medical Insurance
Amount Received
Name of Company
Claim Number
Address
Phone Number
Other (list sources and amount and please use additional paper if necessary.)
Amount Received
Name of Company
Claim Number
Address
Phone Number
2. Have you applied for Crime Victim Compensation benefits?
Yes__ No__
If you received any compensation as a result of your claim, please list the amount. $
*If you have not filed for Crime Victim Compensation benefits and would like to
receive further information on requirements for filing a claim, please contact:
TOTAL MONEY RECEIVED FROM INSURANCE, CRIME VICTIM
COMPENSATION, AND OTHER SOURCES $
Please write any additional information you would like the judge to know about the
money this crime has cost you.
I declare under penalty of law that the above information is true and correct to the best
of my knowledge.
Signature__________Date__________

Sentencing Recommendation
Answer only those questions you wish to answer. Please feel free to use additional
paper if necessary.
1. What are your thoughts regarding the sentence the Court should impose on the
defendant?
2. Would you like the judge to issue a "no-contact" or restraining order instructing the
defendant to stay away from you and your family?
__Yes __No Your comments
3. Would you like to be told about further developments in this case including parole,
early release hearings, community placements, furloughs, changes in prison
classification, and any actions taken by the Parole Board or probation officer while the
defendant is in jail or under probation supervision?
__Yes __No
If you answer yes, it is very important that you keep the Department of Corrections,
Probation and Parole Offices advised every time you change your address, otherwise
they will not know how to contact you. Please do not list your address on this form.
You should mail your current address to:
Signature__________Date__________
Please return your victim impact statement to:

Acknowledgments
We would like to acknowledge and offer our sincerest thanks to the Impact
Statements: A Victim's Right to Speak -- A Nation's Responsibility to Listen Advisory
Board Members for their invaluable contribution of knowledge, energy and time so
generously given to this project. We are grateful to the Office for Victims of Crime
for their dedication to improving the sensitive treatment of crime victims and for
providing the encouragement and funding necessary for the development of this
report, in particular, Bob Hubbard, our grant monitor. Special thanks is given to
National Victim Center staff members Julie Oldham and Gary Markham, both of
whom went above and beyond the call of duty to assist project staff members with the
research and administrative duties associated with the writing of this report. We offer
our heartfelt thanks to the many victims who came forward during the life of this
project to share not only their painful accounts, but to share their commitment to
improving the criminal justice's response to future crime victims. Without their unique
perspective, this report would be only partially complete. Finally, we extend our
deepest appreciation to Dan Eddy and Bob Wells for their service as technical
advisors to the project. The countless hours of input, insight and expertise they lent to
the project staff was undaunting.
Principal Project Staff Members
Trudy Gregorie, Project Director, Victim Impact: A Victim's Right to Speak -- A
Nation's Responsibility to Listen, National Victim Center
Ellen Alexander, Principal Author and Program Manager, Victim Impact: A Victim's
Right to Speak -- A Nation's Responsibility to Listen, National Victim Center
Janice Harris Lord, Co-Author and National Director of Victim Services, Mothers
Against Drunk Driving
Stephanie Frogge, Assistant Director of National Victim Services, Mothers Against
Drunk Driving
Advisory Board Members
Darrel Ashlock, Director of Victim Services, Buchanan County District Attorney, St.
Joseph, MO
David Austern, General Counsel, Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust,
Washington, DC
David Beatty, J.D., Director of Legislative Services, National Victim Center,
Arlington, VA
Dennis Carroll, Superior Court Judge, Madison Superior Court, Anderson, IN
Helen Corrothers, Commissioner, U.S. Sentencing Commission (ret.); Fellow, U.S.
Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Robert Davis, Ph.D., Senior Research Consultant, Victim Service Agency, New York,
NY
Dan Eddy, Executive Director, National Association of Crime Compensation Boards,
Alexandria, VA
Christine Edmunds, Consultant; Former Director of Program Development and
Project Director, Victim Impact: A Victim's Right to Speak-- A Nation's
Responsibility to Listen, National Victim Center, Arlington, VA
Carroll Ann Ellis, Acting Director, Fairfax County Victim-Witness Program, Fairfax,
VA
F. A. Gossett, Superior Court Judge for the State of Nebraska, Blair, NE
Susan Hillenbrand, J.D., Director of Special Projects, American Bar Association,
Washington, DC
Susan Smith Howley, J.D., Assist. Director of Legislative Affairs, National Victim
Center, Arlington, VA
Kimberly Jensen, State of Virginia Department of Probation and Parole, Fairfax, VA
Spencer Lawton, Jr., Chatham County District Attorney, Savannah, GA
Leslie Lewis, Judge, Third District Court, Salt Lake City, UT
Suzanne McDaniel, Crime Victim Information Officer, Office of the Attorney
General, Austin, TX
Maureen McLeod, Ph.D., Assoc. Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Russell
Sage College, Delmar, NY
Thomas McQuillan, J.D., Assist. U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Virginia,
Alexandria, VA 1">
Thomas Nelson, J.D., Assist. Director of Legal Affairs, National Victim Center,
Arlington, VA
Victoria O'Brien, J.D., Associate Counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice,
Washington, DC
George Phillips, J.D., United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi,
Jackson, MS
Ryan Rainey, J.D., Senior Attorney, American Prosecutor Research Institute,
Alexandria, VA
Dwight K. Scroggins, Jr., Prosecuting Attorney for Buchanan County, St. Joseph, MO
Anne Seymour, Consultant; Former Director of Communications, National Victim
Center, Arlington, VA
Helen Smith, Chatham County Victim-Witness Coordinator, Savannah, GA
Karen Spinks, Victim-Witness Coordinator, U. S. Attorney' Office, Eastern District of
Virginia, Alexandria, VA
John Stein, Deputy Director, National Organization for Victim Assistance,
Washington, DC
Harvey Wallace, Professor, Department of Criminology, California State University,
Fresno, CA
Robert Wells, Senior Instructor, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Glynco,
GA
Sandra Witt, Victim-Witness Specialist, Fairfax Victim-Witness Program, Fairfax,
VA
Victim Representatives
Lynette Binford, Arlington, VA
Vonda Charlton, Alexandria, VA
Gary Glick, Fairfax, VA
John Ireland, Springfield, VA
Jeff Sabol, Leesburg, VA

National Victim Center
The National Victim Center was founded in 1985 to promote the rights and needs of
violent crime victims, and to educate Americans about the devastating effect crime
has on our society. The Center has offices in Arlington, Virginia, Fort Worth, Texas,
and New York, New York.
Today, there are almost 10,000 victim service and criminal justice organizations in all
50 states which benefit from the National Victim Center's programs and services.
These Groups serve a wide range of constituents, including victims of child abuse and
neglect, sexual assault, family violence, elder abuse, drunk driving, hate violence, and
survivors of homicide victims.
The Center's many programs include:
* Training and technical assistance to strengthen the abilities of victim advocates and
criminal justice officials to assist and support crime victims;
* An extensive resource library containing over 10,000 documents on every aspect of
violent crime, criminal justice, and, victimology;
* The Crime Victims' Litigation Project with 5,000 cases and authorities to assist
victims' attorneys in civil litigation cases;
* A legislative data base containing nearly 20,000 victim related statutes from all 50
states, which supports the development of policies and statutes designed to protect the
rights of victims nationwide;
* A public awareness program that provides resources and experts for over 2,000
news media nationwide; and
* An information and referral data base for victims
In 1991, there were 35 million victims of crime, including almost six million who fell
prey to violence. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that five out of six of
today's twelve-year-olds will become victims of violent crime during their lifetimes.
These painful statistics represent countless individuals whose lives are irrevocably
altered by violence. These innocent victims are the ultimate reason the National
Victim Center exists.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980 by a bereaved mother
when her teenage daughter was killed by a repeat offender, hit-and-run-drunk driver.
What began as one mother's crusade against the crime of drunk driving is now a
national organization of over 400 chapters in 48 states, with 3.2 million volunteers,
members and supporters. MADD's National Office is located in Irving, Texas.
MADD is a non-profit organizations whose mission is "to stop drunk driving and to
support victims of this violent crime" by offering:
* Support: MADD advocates, through an extensive chapter network, have helped
thousands of injured victims and survivors of those killed cope with their tragedies.
These dedicated advocates provide:
* Crisis Intervention
* Group Support
* Criminal Justice Advocacy
* Brochures on Grief and Injury
* Victim Impact Panels
* Direct Victim Services: MADD's National Victim Services Department provides
direct victim services through the MADDVOCATE, the National Annual Candlelight
Vigil, crisis response teams, the development of victim literature, a 24-hour toll-free
hotline; and, a staff of trained victim advocates.
* Training and Technical Assistance: MADD provides ongoing training for MADD
victim advocates and other service providers. MADD conducts a standard 40-hour
beginning training session, as well as advanced training sessions which has been
attended by many victim/witness coordinators nationwide.
Organizational Successes:
* Drunk Driving is the only violent crime to decrease in America;
* Alcohol-related fatalities have decreased 20% since MADD's inception;
* Over 1,000 drunk driving laws have been passed and implemented since 1980; and
* Dramatic changes have taken place in public attitudes and social policy as a result of
the anti-drunk driving movement.

American Prosecutor Research Institute
American Prosecutor Research Institute (APRI) was founded in 1983 by the Board of
Directors of the National District Attorneys Association to provide useful, practical
and direct services to prosecutors. APRI is based in Alexandria, Virginia.
Today, APRI is recognized as the leading source of national expertise on the
prosecution function, working to improve local prosecution through research, policy
analysis, practitioner-defined training and community-specific technical assistance.
* National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse: a central source for prosecutors and
other child abuse professionals responsible for handling criminal child abuse cases.
* National Drug Prosecution Center: a source to provide training and technical
assistance to prosecutors so they are more able to effectively investigate and prosecute
drug cases.
* National Environmental Crime Prosecution Center: a source to collect and
disseminate model statutes, assisting state and local prosecutors in developing and
implementing new policies and practices; and conducting research concerning
environmental crime trends, characteristics, and prosecution methods.
* National Traffic Law Center: a source to improve the quality of justice in traffic
safety adjudications by increasing awareness of highway safety issues through the
creation and dissemination of legal, technical information, training and resources.
* Research Center: a source for the empirical study of prosecution. Some of the
Research Center's programs include conducting studies in prosecutorial decision-
making and prosecution-based case tracking systems
APRI's many programs embody the principle that the prosecutor has a major role to
play in formulating the community's response to crime and public protection. Equally,
it believes that citizens have the right to expect their local prosecutors to have access
to state-of-the-art research, training and resources.
***All pie charts receive the following credit: Source: MADDVOCATE: Study by
Regina Sobieski
The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.

Battery Victim Impact Statement Example

Elaine Conrad, Yahoo Contributor Network
Sep 9, 2009 "Share your voice on Yahoo websites. Start Here."
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The following example is a sample Victim Impact Statement after an individual has been battered.
This sample can be used as a guide to show what points need to be stressed when writing a Victim
Impact Statement.
To Whom It May Concern,
I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to disclose the emotional impact that this
occurrence has had on me and my family. In particular the emotional stress and anxiety that
xxxxxxxx has caused my children.
I am a victim of a violent crime, but more importantly my children have become victims as well. They
have continually witnessed the constant environment of intimidation created by xxxxx and now have
witnessed her brutal attack on me on December 7, 2008. It breaks my heart that my children have
been exposed to such angry and aggressive behavior by an adult.
My 6 year old daughter xxx appears to be suffering the most. The night the assault took place she
asked me, "How will xxx (our newborn) eat if xxx kills you?" These are words that literally brought
tears to my eyes. Words that a mother should never have to hear her child utter. Words that
disappoint me so much because I could not protect her from the abuse that she witnessed. Now, an
innocent 6 year old little girl is afraid that her step-brother's mother is going to kill her mommy. She
was so fearful that evening once we arrived home that she went around to all the doors to make sure
they were locked. I assured her that everything was going to be alright, and that xxxxx would not be
able to do anything to me. She was worried about what would happen the next time we picked up
xxxx. I told her that we would begin meeting at a safe place where xxxxx would not be allowed to get
close to us.
Once again though, I failed to protect my children from the unstable behavior of xxxxx even at "the
safe place". After the incident on Dec. 28 when xxxxx approached my vehicle with me and the
children in it and began knocking continuously on the windows, my daughter has become so
frightened of her that she does not want to go with us anymore to pick up or return her brother.
Because my husband provides all the transportation to and from visits, we have taken advantage of
that travel time and use it as "family time". We generally talk about our previous week and catch up
with one another and the activities that have taken place. After we pick up xxxx we all go out to eat
for a nice "family dinner". Now that xxxx is too frightened to go with us, we are no longer able to
spend that quality family time in the car together or have a family dinner right after we pick up xxx.
Because of the emotions that xxxxx has created in my children they both have been seeing a
counselor, xxxxxx of CSS, to help them work through some of the anxiety and fear that they have
regarding xxxxx. Once again, xxxx seems to have been most affected.
Raising a blended family can be difficult at times but when one party shows more anger than love it
is even more difficult to protect the hearts and minds of the children involved. I feel that xxxx is still
a physical threat to me and my children and because of that ask the court impose a restraining order
that would prohibit xxxxx from coming within a 10 foot radius of myself as well as my children. xxxxx
has demonstrated an extreme lack of anger control and seems to be very unstable mentally going
from one extreme of "nicey - nice" to abusive rage. Because of this I ask the court to order her to take
a professional mental evaluation to be evaluated for any mental disorder. I also ask that she be
ordered to take anger management classes along with possibly a parenting class since these incidents
have taken place in front of not only my children but hers as well.
Once again, thank you for your time and for allowing me the opportunity to present the emotional
impact that this crime has had on me and my family.
Thank you,
Victim Impact Statements
Victim impact statements are typically presented before an
offender is sentenced, although they may also be requested in
advance of decisions to release a prisoner. The following articles
and resources concern how and why victims prepare victim
impact statements.
Select committee urged to avoid courtroom 'Oprahfication'
from the article on Voxy.co.nz: Rethinking Crime and Punishment agrees that victims should be
able to provide information to the court about the effects of offending; and the harm they have
suffered. However, it does not believe that the presentation of a victim impact statement in the
Court, was the best way to achieve it.
Victim Impact Statements
Analogous to the demonization of an offender in the public mind, is the pathologization of the
victim in the public mind. The pathologization of the [...]
Victim impact statements: Some concerns about current practice and proposed
changes
from the article by Chris Marshall in Rethinking Crime and Punishment: Currently victims have the
right to submit a VIS in a variety of ways, though it is usually in writing, and to request the
opportunity to present the statement in open court. The judge has the discretion to deny this
request and to edit the statement if there are concerns about its length or content. Under the new
proposal, victims will have the right to use their own words in the VIS and to address the offender
so that the offender may better perceive the impact of the offence on the victim. For serious
offences (s.29 of the Victims Rights Act), victims will have an automatic right to present their VIS
in court, though the judge retains the right to manage the process.
Church arsonist doubts God will forgive him
from Alexandra Zabjek's article in the Edmonton Journal: A man who torched two Wetaskiwin
churches in what a judge described as a "totally senseless wanton act of destruction" was
sentenced Thursday to four years in prison. But he was offered hope by one of the ministers
whose church was destroyed. "We have not been abandoned and we don't want you, Peter
Terence Jones, to feel abandoned," Wetaskiwin First United Church minister Ruth Lumax told the
24-year-old arsonist in her victim impact statement, which was read in court.
Submission of Victims' Rights
A response prepared by the Restorative Justice Centre at AUT University in New Zealand to the
Ministry of Justice's discussion document, "A Focus on Victims of Crime: A Review of Victims'
Rights."
Restorative Justice Centre's submission to Ministry of Justice on
victims' rights
The Restorative Justice Centre at AUT University in New Zealand has responded to a discussion
draft titled "A Focus on Victims of Crime: A Review of Victims' Rights" on how the government
might better address the needs of crime victims. Following are excerpts from RJC's response: 9.
The central justice needs of victims are submitted to be accountability, vindication, empowerment,
information, truth-telling and future safety. Only the first and last of these are addressed (to some
degree) by the current legal process, and then only when the offender is convicted. Thus in
crimes that go largely unreported, such as sexual offences, there can be no feeling of
accountability in the absence of alternative processes, and victims remain unsafe. 10. The
remaining four central justice needs are those which Dr Howard Zehr, known to and used by MoJ
as a consultant in restorative justice, has said are especially neglected. They are next
mentioned separately. However they overlap with needs identified by other writers.
Edgar, Allen and Roberts, Julian V. Victim Impact Statements at
Sentencing: Perceptions of the Judiciary in Canada
The use of victim impact statements (VIS) at sentencing continues to generate controversy, even
in countries such as Canada, where VIS have been in use for many years. While a great deal of
research has addressed the use of these statements at sentencing, very little is known about the
experience and perceptions of the professional for whom these statements are written: the judge.
In this article, we report the findings from a survey of judges in Canada regarding their use of
victim impact statements. Some critics of VIS have argued that these statements add nothing to
the sentencing process, and simply raise false expectations among victims. The findings from this
survey demonstrate that judges find victim impact statements to be a useful source of information
at sentencing. Many judges reported that the VIS provided information that was unavailable from
any other source. That said, many issues remain to be addressed with respect to victim impact
statements in Canada. These findings will be of particular interest to jurisdictions contemplating
the introduction of victim impact statements at the sentencing stage of the criminal process.
(authors abstract)
Williams, Christopher and Arrigo, Bruce A. Victim Vices,
Victim Voices, and Impact Statements: On the Place of
Emotion and the Role of Restorative Justice in Capital
Sentencing
Victim impact statements are thought of as offering a voice to victims of crime who have been
unwilling participants in the process of criminal justice. However, the efficacy and legitimacy of
these statements during the penalty phase of capital cases has been questioned. Some argue
that the emotional quality of VIS undermines the offenders chance for a fair and impartial
sentence. It has also been argued that such emotionally laden statements undermine a
meaningful and restorative justice experience for victims. In order to examine the efficacy and
legitimacy of including VIS during the sentencing phase of capital cases, the authors outline the
principles of critical restorative justice and explore the legal and empirical limits of VIS. Societys
urge to punish offenders is contrasted to the compassion and forgiveness that are important
dimensions of the sentencing process. The authors offer several policy considerations that are
consistent with critical restorative justice and that address the need to give voice to victim
experiences. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service, www.ncjrs.org.
Long, Katie. Community Input at Sentencing: Victim's
Right or Victim's Revenge?
Citing examples of community response to decisions in the criminal justice system, Katie Long
asserts that communities are seeking greater influence over the process of criminal justice. One
emerging focal point of community activism is criminal sentencing. Across the United States,
citizens are pursuing grassroots efforts to affect sentencing policies and practices. Long explores
all of this by looking at the expansion of community input in criminal sentencing. In particular she
examines community-impact statements at the time of sentencing and the implications of such
statements. This involves consideration of the practical and constitutional problems with
occasionally allowing or institutionalizing community participation at sentencing. Longs
perspective is that the widespread use of community-impact statements would produce an
unacceptable skewing of the criminal justice process in favor of victims.
Burr, Richard. Litigating with victim impact
testimony: the serendipity that has come from Payne
v. Tennessee.
A lawyer experienced in representing accused individuals facing the death penalty, Richard Burr
makes these two observations about victim impact testimony in capital cases: (a) it usually serves
the prosecutions goal of procuring a death sentence; and (b) it does little to address most of the
needs of survivors of murder. At best, such testimony provides a momentary opportunity for
survivors to voice their loss, thus being heard and felling less isolated. At worst, it exploits the
immense pain suffered by survivors to serve as a lever to produce a death sentence. With all of
this in mind, he considers the situation in the wake of Payne v. Tennessee (501 U.S. 808 [1991]),
a case that made it virtually impossible for defense counsel to exclude or limit victim impact
testimony. Now, he argues, defense lawyers must reach out to survivors with genuine
compassion. They must learn from survivors which needs can be met within the criminal justice
process; and they must do what they can do, consistent with representing the interests of their
clients, to ensure that those needs are adequately addresses. Defense lawyers must work for
respectful inclusion of survivors in the criminal justice process and not be complicit in exploiting
and excluding them.
van der Hoven, Anna. The value of victim
impact statements in court
Victim impact statements constitute one of the ways in which victims of crime are participating
more significantly in the criminal justice system in recent years. The purpose of a victim impact
statement is to present the victims perspective to the sentencing authority as part of the
sentencing process. In this paper, Anna van der Hoven discusses the status of victim impact
statements in the South African criminal justice system. She writes that the use of such
statements is still in its infancy and seldom are they submitted. To highlight the situation in South
Africa as well as the value of impact statements, she summarizes a particular case in which she
assisted a crime victim in preparing and presenting a victim impact statement.
Victims Support Agency. A victim's voice:
Victim impact statements in Victoria.
VIS legislation has been in operation since 1994 and it is timely to consider whether the
legislative aims are being realised. The Attorney-General, the Honourable Rob Hulls MP, directed
the Victims Support Agency (VSA), Department of Justice (DOJ) to undertake research to assess
the effectiveness of VISs. In particular, whether VISs: are the appropriate tool to inform the court
about the impact of the crime; assist the court in determining sentence; increase victims levels of
satisfaction and; therefore participation in the criminal justice system. In order to explore these
issues in Victoria, the VSA conducted extensive consultations with key stakeholders involved in
the VIS process including police, prosecutors, defence counsel, the judiciary and magistracy,
victims service agencies, witness assistance services and victims of crime. The Report A Victims
Voice: Victim Impact Statements in Victoria (the Report) discusses key findings in relation to VIS
legislation in Victoria. (excerpt)
Sheley, Erin. Reverberations of the
victim's "voice": Victim impact
statements and the cultural project of
punishment.
This article will proceed in four parts. Part I will summarize the legal history of victim impact
statements and the existing debate over their appropriateness in the sentencing context. I will
argue that much of the literature focuses on a tripartite competition between victim, defendant,
and state, which has the tendency to ignore the capacity for a victim impact statement to
externalize and convey the social harm of a criminal act. In Part II, through textual analysis of how
a group of actual victim impact statements convey individual suffering to an institutional audience,
I will demonstrate the unique complexity of the harm they narrate. I will show that while critics
concerns over the capacity of subjective narratives to yield undifferentiated antipathy and lapses
into trope language of victimhood are in fact justified by reality, other features allow these
narratives to get at the nuanced truth of suffered harm and its context in the social world
protected by the criminal justice system. The model that emerges from this analysis reveals a
deep tension between narrative authorities in the structure of victim impact testimony. On the one
hand, the victim has the potential to overcome the monopoly on narrative previously held by the
trial attorneys, as well as some of the signification problems identified in the theoretical literature,
to develop uniquely subjective accounts of harm through some of the techniques I identify. On the
other, the victims sheer consciousness of their own bodies and identities as potentially
transformed by the defendant, and the continuing consciousness of the courts authority to assign
meaning to these transformations, has the tendency to subvert the victims authority as subjective
authors of their own experiences. (author's abstract)
Henning, Kristin . WHATS
WRONG WITH VICTIMS RIGHTS
IN JUVENILE COURT?:
RETRIBUTIVE V.
REHABILITATIVE SYSTEMS OF
JUSTICE
"In this article, I contend that victim impact statements move the juvenile court too far away from
its original mission and ignore the childs often diminished culpability in delinquent behavior. I also
argue that victim impact statements delivered in the highly charged environment of the courtroom
are unlikely to achieve the satisfaction and catharsis victims seek after crime. To better serve the
needs of the victim and the offender, I propose that victim impact statements be excluded from
the juvenile disposition hearing and incorporated into the childs long-term treatment plan.
Interactive victim awareness programs, such as victim-offender mediation and victim impact
panels that take place after disposition, allow victims to express pain and fear to the offender,
foster greater empathy and remorse from the child, and encourage forgiveness and reconciliation
by the victim. Delaying victim impact statements until after the childs disposition also preserves
the childs due process rights at sentencing and allows the court to focus on the childs need for
rehabilitation." (Excerpt from Author)
Booth, Tracey. Homicide,
family victims and
sentencing: continuing the
debate about Victim Impact
Statements.
In October 2003, I attended a conference in Canberra -- Innovation: Promising Practices for
Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System organised by the ACT Office of the Victim
of Crime Coordinator. Participants addressed a number of issues including therapeutic justice
and problem-solving courts, restorative justice (particularly in the context of sexual assault
offenses), circle sentencing, criminal injuries compensation and victim involvement at various
stages of the criminal justice system. My paper addressed the issue of victim involvement in the
process of sentencing and, more specifically, the relevance of victim impact statements (VISs)
from family victims in the context of homicide offences. I expressed the view that it is time to shift
the debate from a consideration of the VISs as factors in the sentencing equation to a broader
perspective of the role of VISs in the process of sentencing in homicide matters. (excerpt)
Cassell, Paul G.. In
defense of victim
impact statements.
My argument proceeds in four substantive parts. It begins in Part I by briefly tracing the crime
victims' rights movement in this country, which, in recent years, has successfully argued for the
right of victims to deliver an impact statement at sentencing. Part II then provides a real world
example of a victim impact statement-a statement by Sue Antrobus regarding the criminal sale of
the handgun used to murder her daughter. Looking at Sue Antrobus's statement will allow the
reader to assess the desirability of victim statements with the knowledge of what such a
statement actually looks like. Part III then lays out the four main justifications for victim impact
statements. First, they provide information to the sentencing judge or jury about the true harm of
the crime-information that the sentencer can use to craft an appropriate penalty. Second, they
may have therapeutic aspects, helping crime victims recover from crimes committed against
them. Third, they help to educate the defendant about the full consequences of his crime,
perhaps leading to greater acceptance of responsibility and rehabilitation. And finally, they create
a perception of fairness at sentencing, by ensuring that all relevant parties-the State, the
defendant, and the victim-are heard. Part IV rebuts the objections that critics have raised to victim
impact statements. The claim that victim impact statements do not relate to the purposes of
punishment is refuted by the fact that they provide information about the severity of crimes, a
salient consideration for judges at sentencing. The claim that the statements are so emotional
that they will overwhelm sentencers is disproven by empirical evidence showing little effect from
victim statements on sentence severity. The claim that victim impact statements lead to unfair
inequality is invalid in view of the need to create fairness within criminal cases by allowing a
victim response to allocution from criminal defendants and their families. And finally, the claim
that a competition of victimhood arises in mass killing cases, even if true, provides no basis for
abolishing the victim impact statements entirely. (excerpt)
Fulkerson,
Andrew. The Use
of Victim Impact
Panels in
Domestic
Violence Cases:
A Restorative
Justice Approach
The present article looks at the effectiveness of Victim Impact Panels for victims and offenders in
domestic violence cases. A study was conducted in five court jurisdictions in the State of
Arkansas that used Victim Impact Panels for helping victims and offenders heal from the effects
of domestic violence. The feelings of victims and offenders toward the impact panels were
measured, as was the effectiveness of the panels for reducing future incidents of violence.
Victims reported some satisfaction in the process because they were given the opportunity to tell
their stories, and offenders reported having a clearer sense of the effects of their actions on
others. However, with respect to subsequent convictions for offenders for a domestic violence
related offense, there was no difference between rates for the control and experimental groups.
The study points to the restorative contribution that Victim Impact Panels can make but also to
the need for additional and in-depth research on the nature of that contribution.
Myers,
Roslyn. Part
I: Victims as
storytellers:
The
importance
of victim
impact
testimony in
criminal
justice
proceedings
.
One of the ways in which the victims rights movement has influenced criminal justice in recent
years is the emergence of victim impact statements as part of the court process. Victims have
deep and strong needs and desires to tell their story, and what they have to say is crucial to a
good criminal justice system. Myers discusses the importance of the victim narrative to
prosecution, the modern history of victims role in criminal justice, and court rulings on victim
impact statements.
O'Keef
e,
Kristen
and
Bennet
t,
Cheryl
M.
Victim
Impact
Statem
ent
A brochure with information about victim impact statements geared towards the victim who may
be interested in making one.
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This Article focuses on the sentencing phase in child sexual abuse cases, and, in particular,
evaluates the practice of receiving information in the form of a victim impact statement. It then
highlights South African courts recent reactions to victim impact statements. This Article
concludes that a court open to therapeutic jurisprudence principles, such as embracing an ethic
of care, can play a vital role in addressing victims harm. (excerpt)