Taking Restitution Seriously

January 19, 2008

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with victim advocates in Hawaii on measures to improve the enforcement of victim restitution laws. Last year, Hawaii completely revamped its restitution statutes to make restitution a priority of the justice system, and of those who serve and assist victims of crime. In doing so, I’ve had the chance to work with them on creating processes that make it as simple as possible for victims to understand and implement their right to restitution. I also had the opportunity to develop a “philosophy statement” on victim restitution (see below). I’d love to hear from you about your thoughts!

For too long in America, the right of crime victims and survivors to restitution has been viewed and treated as a “suggestion,” rather than an actual law. When convicted offenders realize that little or nothing will be done to make them pay their restitution obligations, there is no incentive for them to comply with either the state’s law or the actual restitution order from the court.

Victim restitution is perhaps the only core victims’ right that addresses the wide range of what are often devastating effects of crime – the physical, emotional, psychological, social and financial impact of crime. The consistent, collaborative and comprehensive enforcement of restitution laws has benefits for victims, for persons convicted of crimes, and for our society as a whole:

  • Every time convicted offenders make a restitution payment, they are reminded of the simple fact that somebody was hurt by the crime they committed.
  • When we seek strategies for effective offender case management, restitution provides an important foundation that holds offenders at least financially accountable for the harm they have caused their victims.
  • When a convicted offender’s “ability to pay” is considered, the ability of the innocent victim to pay must also be raised and considered.
  • Every time victims receive a restitution payment, it greatly increases their sense of justice; their overall satisfaction with the criminal justice system and those who represent it; and their feelings that the justice system really cares about them, and about the losses they have endured as the result of a criminal action.
  • When society as a whole recognizes that convicted offenders are being held financially responsible for their criminal actions, and that victims are being compensated for the harm they endure, it enhances their faith in a justice system that addresses not only criminal justice, but victim justice and community justice as well.

–Anne Seymour


Important VOCA Survey, NCVRW Resource Guide and NCVRW Action Kit Now Available Online, and VAWA Briefing Book

January 14, 2008

Dear Friends:

GBPackersAs you can guess, I had a FANTASTIC weekend with my beloved Green Bay Packers headed to the NFC Playoffs next week, at Lambeau in the “frozen tundra!” We went from two years of “faith-based football” to an amazing “dream team,” and I couldn’t be prouder! FOUR MISSIVES THIS WEEK, and DO please take time to complete the VOCA survey!:

The OVC National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide is now available online at www.ovc.gov. In addition, APPRISS (provider of the VINE and SAVIN services) has produced a NCVRW Action Kit with an emphasis on automated victim notification. You can download this Kit at www.appriss.com.

IMPORTANT VOCA ACTION ALERT: The FY08 appropriations omnibus bill passed by Congress and signed by the President REDUCED VOCA spending to $590 million. This will mean an estimated 11 percent cut in VOCA Assistance grants to the states (we are hosting a VOCA Briefing on the Hill on February 8th to address this concern!). The National Center for Victims of Crime and its partners are gathering information to share with policymakers about the real world effect of this drastic cut. Please help us by taking a few minutes today to complete our survey. While we request that each agency or organization only complete the survey one time, additional comments by other staff are welcome. Send your additional comments to NCVC’s Public Policy Department at: ncvc_public_policy_dept@ncvc.org with the subject line “VOCA.” The survey, which should only take 5 to 10 minutes to complete, is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=M3ycwV_2b1ZMk4QeAymdpYhg_3d_3d. PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF SURVEYS WE RECEIVE – YOUR INPUT AND THAT OF ALL FOLKS WHO RECEIVE VOCA FUNDING ARE TRULY APPRECIATED!

Your national policy leaders are currently updating the VAWA Appropriations Briefing Book, and MMM will keep you posted when this is available. You may want to check out the most recent version to get up to speed on key funding issues related to VAWA: http://www.nnedv.org/docs/Policy/BriefingBook08.pdf.



Teen Action Campaign and New Website on Drug Abuse

January 5, 2008

Dear Friends:

Hope you are all settling into a productive 2008! I wanted to offer my recommendation to ya’ll on a great speaker/presenter for victim conferences. Mildred Muhammad is the ex-wife of the man known as the “D.C. Sniper,” who is now working to help other survivors of domestic violence. She has a very compelling story to tell about her experiences as a survivor of domestic violence; having her children kidnapped; and being the main target of her ex-husband as he committed countless murders and assaults in the DC Metropolitan Area. You can visit her website at http://www.afterthetrauma.org/; and for information about speaking engagements, you can contact Mildred directly via email at: afterthetrauma@yahoo.com. TWO MISSIVES for you this week.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund is co-sponsoring the Teen Action Campaign, See It and Stop It, an unprecedented multi-media public education campaign by and for teens. It offers posters, radio and television public service announcements, an online toolkit, and valuable information on how to recognize the warning signs of dating violence, how to stop it, and how to make a difference in your school and community. See It and Stop It was developed by teens in Massachusetts, with support from the Family Violence Prevention Fund and The Advertising Council. You can download a great Toolkit and more information about the Campaign at: http://www.seeitandstopit.org/pages/.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has launched a website to serve researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. The NIDA Networking Project site facilitates information sharing and research collaboration among those concerned with drug abuse through access to locations, people, expertise, and resources from NIDA’s research networks. You can access this great new website at: http://nnp.drugabuse.gov/.


Another Constitutional Attack??

January 2, 2008

“It’s definitely a breach of the First Amendment rights, the Constitution and everything else,” Holder said during a phone interview. “What is happening toView » the American dream? To life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I was born and raised in the United States.” — Joey Holder, owner of Valley Girls, Rio Grande Valley, TX

flagWhat could this latest threat to our liberties be? Warrantless wiretaps? More Guantanamo detainees? Another raid on the Crime Victims Fund?

Nope, it’s the latest idea in funding sexual assault programs in Texas…a $5 tax on strip clubs, dubbed, “The Pole Tax.” Expected to raise some $40 million for sexual assault programs, the fee went into effect on Jan. 1 and is being challenged by bar owners, saying there is no relationship between nude bars and rape [Topless bar owners: Don’t strip us of our rights, The Monitor].