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Crime Victims' Rights and Crime Victim Assistance

NCJ Number
Date Published
8 pages
After summarizing the history of the victims' rights movement in the adult criminal justice system, the slower progress of victims' rights under the juvenile justice system is noted, followed by summaries of various resources on recent developments and emerging issues in the crime victims' rights/victim assistance movement for both the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems.
For much of the nation's history, crime victims have been deprived of any formal role in or attention from managers of court proceedings against their offenders. In the 1970s, however, the imbalance between the criminal justice system's focus on offenders' rights and its neglect of victims' concerns was noted by increasing numbers of public advocates and criminal justice leaders; and the "victims' rights" movement was born. In 1980, Wisconsin became the first state to enact a crime victims' bill of rights. All 50 states have now enacted some type of crime victims' rights legislation, and 29 states have amended their constitutions to safeguard those rights. Such legislation generally includes the right to be treated with dignity, the right to receive notice of events and proceedings in their offenders' case processing, the right to attend and participate in those proceedings, and the right to receive restitution for their losses. Similar federal legislation has been enacted for the federal criminal justice system. For victims of juvenile offenders, however, progress has been slower, largely due to the juvenile justice system's emphasis on the confidentiality of records and secrecy of proceedings. Still, as of 1997, 19 states had enacted victims rights bills of rights applicable to victims of juvenile offenders, and 35 states afford victims the right to attend and/or participate in juvenile hearings. Summaries are provided for 17 resource materials on various victims' rights issues in either the adult or juvenile justice systems.

Date Published: January 1, 1999