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Child Victims and Witnesses: A Three-State Profile, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
195 pages
This report presents the findings of a project to assess current practices and procedures in Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina for handling criminal court cases involving child victims/witnesses.
Project purposes were to document the frequency with which innovations in court processing were used with children and to examine the utility of these practices in improving system effectiveness, reducing trauma to child witnesses, and increasing participant satisfaction with the judicial system. The project had four components, each of which was designed to examine issues relevant to current practices in the handling of child victims/witnesses: (1) case file reviews of all cases adjudicated in each of 9 judicial courts over a 12-month period; (2) interviews with participants (children and parents, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim/witness advocates, and judges); (3) analysis of statutes and case law; and (4) development of a recommended protocol for criminal courts in handling child witnesses. Case file reviews indicated that Alabama handled a significantly higher percentage of black children than South Carolina or Florida. Cases were about evenly distributed between those reflecting a single crime and chronic victimization. About one-third of all cases involved parents as offenders, and an additional 40 percent involved crimes perpetrated by an acquaintance of the child. Almost 90 percent of the crimes were of a sexual nature. A total of 294 offenders were convicted of crimes against children from among the 316 cases reviewed. The results of local judicial circuit interviews focus on videotaped testimony, the use of one-way mirrors, procedures to accommodate developmental needs, court orientation and modifications, victim advocates, and other procedures designed to minimize trauma to child witnesses and enhance criminal justice system efficiency. Legislative and policy recommendations relevant to child victims/witnesses are offered. Appendixes contain additional information on statutory and case law. 56 references and 9 tables


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