The significance of victims’ assistance programs evidently show the history of victimization inflicted on society. This victims and crime evaluation paper will give the principles associated with the word “victim” and provide the history of victims’ assistance programs. Moreover, the paper will evaluate how the first program initiated other victims’ assistance programs to further assist victims of crime. In addition, the evaluation of the other programs such as problem-solving courts and restorative justice whether if any of these programs serve their function to society as well as their effects on the criminal justice system.
The definition of victim and its principles The principles associated with victim correlates with the definition of the “victim” within the aspects of expanding certain laws to support the unwilling participants and address the offense accordingly. According to Schmalleger (2010) and the reference of The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 “a victim is any individual against whom an offense has been committed,” p. 543 , therefore the definition’s principle refers to any individual in general defined as a victim by any offense committed against the individual.
In addition, the definition specifically denotes the victim for procedural purposes as an individual, who is either below the age of 18, incompetent, and legal representation of the deceased by another family member (Schmalleger, 2010). In the Bureau of Prisons, the correlation of what defines a victim combines all of the aspects of what the stated definitions above, In addition to involving financial harm (Schmalleger, 2010). The principles within the definition of victim were the prerequisites for the formation of “official” support groups otherwise known today as victims’ assistance programs.
The history of victims’ assistance programs The history of the victims’ assistance programs both non-official and official that range from the early ancient times to the present is known as the Era of Victims’ Rights. From the early ancient times to A. D 400, the “Golden Age of the Victim,” as it was known as, initiated revenge by the victim onto the individual who committed the crime. The rationale for this came from society mandating the social norms, and giving support to the victim by actively participating in the punishing of the offender. From A. D. 00 to the 1960s, the time was known as the King’s Peace. During this era, the perspectives of the crimes were toward society as a whole, and the individual was not involved in any aspect of the state-centered justice (Schmalleger, 2010). From the 1960s to the present known basically as the Modern Times saw the transformation of unofficial mechanisms to official mechanisms, more support for the victims, and more specific rights given to the victims with initiation of one of the first victims’ assistance programs.
The types of victims’ assistance programs. In evaluating the victims’ assistance programs, initially the victim(s) had no rights or voice to speak summary about the crimes inflicted onto them. The criminal justice system structured the victim’s role to a minimal, and focused on solving the crime before taking into consideration other needs of the victim(s). Therefore, the victim’s other needs were met through the establishment of victims’ assistance programs. Initially, the establishment of the first civilian-type victims’ assistance program was by a woman named, Carol Vittert (Davies, 2010). Vittert witnessed an assault on a woman in St. Louis and took the initiative to provide support for the victim. Vittert realized the victims did not have official support mechanisms or programs readily available for them; therefore she initiated the Aid for Victims of Crime, Incorporation in 1972 (Davies, 2010). The St. Louis Police Department assisted Vittert with information on other victims of crime that needed some support on coping with the criminal act(s) inflicted onto them (Davies, 2010). This type of support by Vittert initiated the first government-based as well as two, well-known nonprofit organizations that assist victims of crimes in the United States.
The first government victim assistance programs established in 1974 within the district attorneys’ offices for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Brooklyn, New York, (Davies, 2010). The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration allocated funds to the police department(s) with assistance in researching different methods of crime prevention. According to Davies, 2010, “President Ronald Reagan appointed the Task Force on Victims of Crime,” para 4. This task force recommended and led the passage of the Victims of Crime Act, which provides funding to assist victims of crime programs.
Another government program that provides victims’ assistance is the Office for Victims of Crime. Office for Victims of Crime initiated the Crime Victims Fund that assists victims of federal, state, and tribal crimes (Office for Victims of Crime, 2011) The first, well-known and private nonprofit organization that provides victims’ assistance programs is NOVA. NOVA, established in 1975, stands for National Organization Victims Assistance assists victims of crime with giving victims knowledge of their rights in court proceedings and by promoting other services that offer support with crises evolved around the nature of the crime (Davis, 2002).
The second well-known nonprofit organization is MADD. In similarity to NOVA, Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s function is to increase the penalties levied against drunk drivers and change laws defining what constitutes drunkenness, according to Davis, 2002, para, 8. The formation of victims’ assistance programs focused on the victim(s) entirely. With matters involving problem-solving court and restorative justice, the focus was not only on the victim but on the offender and the victims’ family members, and society. Evaluating problem-solving courts and restorative justice
In evaluating problem-solving courts, the main goal is to go beyond the due process and address the needs of the all parties affected by the crime. If the goal of problem-solving court is met on each facet of the due process then the ideology of problem-solving court enhancing the quality of life of the offender, the victim and society denotes the sanction as successful. In evaluating the restorative justice, the main goal is to repair the harm done by healing the victim and society (Sentencing & Corrections, 2005). To heal the victim and community means the formation of a relationship etween the offender, the victim and society in which all would have to participate in creating a response to the crime. The response to the crime has to adhere to the disposition of the case and to the needs of making the victim and the community whole again. In summary, the definition of victim can include the offender and society. The rationale for this is the goals of current criminal justice sentencing models entail focusing on the cause for the offender’s behavior or actions and to restore the offender and society to a prior state.
Davies, Kim. (2010). Victim Assistance Programs, United States. Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention. Retrieved March 21, 2011, from http://www.sage-ereference.com/victimologyandcrime/Article_n333.html
Davis, Robert C., and Delmira Gonzalez. “Victim Advocates.” Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. 2002. SAGE Publications. 21 Mar. 2011. <http://www.sage-ereference.com/crimepunishment/Article_n442.html
Heath-Thornton, Debra. “Restorative Justice.” Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. 2002. SAGE Publications. 21 Mar. 2011. <http://www.sage-ereference.com/crimepunishment/Article_n360.html>.
Schmalleger, F. (2010). Criminal law today: An introduction with capstone cases. (4th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
“Sentencing and Corrections.” Crime: A Serious American Problem. Thomas Wiloch. Detroit: Gale, 2005. Information Plus Reference Series. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 22 Mar. 2011.