Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $750,000)
Healing Justice, with assistance from the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) and other national partners, seeks to address the gap in post-conviction victim support with the creation of the safe, centralized, and mobile-friendly “Post-Conviction Online Resource Center (PCRC).”
Understandably, the post-conviction setting can be deeply confusing and concerning to victims, and often they cannot find anywhere to get their questions answered or needs met. Currently, there is a dearth of post-conviction support for victims nationwide. Generally, if a victim registers for continuing notification post-conviction, they will be contacted about very specific activity: initial housing locations, projected release dates, court rulings affecting sentence length, hearings relating to parole and pardons, escapes from institutional custody and apprehension, assignments to work programs and release from prison by any means, including death. In addition, advocacy units based at state departments of corrections may provide safety planning and other direct victim assistance and support around release. However, victims rarely if ever receive consistent or sufficient information and support around all of the other continuing post-conviction activity in their cases - an acute gap that is expanding rapidly as increasingly more convictions and sentences are altered by Prosecutor Conviction Review Units (CRUs).
In just the past five years, more than 50 CRUs have been established throughout the U.S. to review convictions and sentences in cases long thought to be resolved. These cases may result in overturning convictions based on official misconduct, granting early release or clemency, shortening sentences, or exonerating individuals based on factual innocence. While these actions are important to addressing systemic failures and inequities, in each of these cases, there are crime victims, survivors, and family members (victims) whose lives are upended and shattered anew. Victims must have access to post-conviction information, services, and support to prevent compounding the harm and trauma they have already experienced.
The PCRC will be a unique online resource center where all victims can find critical information about the post-conviction process, get their questions answered and concerns addressed, and, if desired, connect directly with a trained victim services specialist for individualized support. The specialized information and resources provided, along with the opportunity for direct support will not only help meet the widespread needs of victims in the post-conviction setting, but it will also help victims better advocate for themselves throughout their entire engagement with the criminal legal system.