U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

New Directions From the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century- Judiciary

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages
After reviewing judicial concerns about implementing victims' rights, judicial leadership in this area, and the restructuring of courts to solve problems, this paper offers 14 recommendations for the judiciary in providing victim services and ensuring victims' rights.
This is a reprint of chapter 4 from "New Directions From the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century." The Final Report of the President's Task Force on Victims recognized the important role of judges in ensuring the rights of victims as well as defendants. According to a focus group of judges and judicial administrators from diverse regions of the Nation, many judges find it difficult to view victims as having a legitimate role in the justice process because they are not official parties to the criminal proceedings. Judges are also sometimes unaware of the laws on victims' rights and the specific services to which victims are entitled. Moreover, judges often worry that paying "special" attention to victims other than as witnesses for the prosecution impinges on the impartiality of the court and creates the appearance of impropriety. Still, as community leaders, judges can and should be catalysts for coordinating the delivery of services to both victims and offenders. In some jurisdictions, judges are addressing the needs of offenders and victims with a new focus on restorative community justice that involves the community, holds the offender accountable through punishment and supervision, and helps the victim to heal. A good example of judicial leadership to help victims through problem-solving is the pioneering use of neighborhood or community impact statements in cases that involve drug crimes. Recommendations address advising victims of their rights, judicial education on victims' rights, judicial facilitation of the presence of crime victims and their families at court proceedings, consideration of victim safety in any prerelease of postrelease judicial decision, and allowance for victim impact statements. Other recommendations pertain to victim input into plea agreements and resulting sentences, the implementation of victims' rights legislation, ordering restitution for victims, separate and secure waiting areas for prosecution and defense witnesses, and the inclusion of the pivotal role of victims in codes of judicial conduct. 31 notes

Date Published: January 1, 1998