UCR Data, Kids Count Data, Watch MN Resources on Court Watch, OVC Web Forum on Victims and the Media and Easier Access to “Repaying Debts”

February 3, 2008

Dear Friends:

Well, I’m on pins and needles with the NFC Playoffs starring my beloved Packers only six hours away! So I’ve been inspired to load you up with LOTS of great resources this week. Also, I’ll be
on the road without internet access next weekend, so your next MMM will come from me on January 28. Five Missives for you this week.

The FBI just released preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported a decrease of 1.8 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in the first half of 2007 when compared with figures reported for the first six months of 2006. These are GREAT data to use for 2008 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. You can download the Uniform Crime Reports data at: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/prelim2007/index.html.

The latest statistics and data from the annual Kids Count project have just been released. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT online database has a whole new look and feel. Now featuring child well-being measures for the 50 largest U.S. cities, this powerful tool contains more than 100 indicators, including the most recent data available on education, employment and income, poverty, health, and youth risk factors for the United States as a whole, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is an excellent resource for MMMers: http://www.aecf.org/MajorInitiatives/KIDSCOUNT.aspx.

I’ve recently been introduced to a great organization, WATCH Minnesota, which in 2007 won a Mary Byron Foundation “Celebrating Solutions” award. They offer excellent resources and technical assistance to help folks establish court watch programs, including a wonderful “how to” manual. In the early days of our field, court watch programs were an important staple, and should be today! Check out their website and resources at: http://www.watchmn.org/.

I’ll be hosting an OVC Web Forum on Wednesday, January 30, from 2 pm tp 3 pm EST with my great Colorado colleague, journalism professor Greg Luft. We’ll be discussing “Cultivating Relationships Between Victim Service Providers and the Media.” It ought to be an interesting and lively chat, so please join us and help spread the word. More info is available from the Office for Victims of Crime at: http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum/index.asp.

Loyal MMMer Stephanie Frogge let me know that some folks were having difficulty accessing the CSG document on restitution, “Repaying Debts.” She provided a more direct link for you all: http://www.reentrypolicy.org/special_projects/financial_obligations. Thanks, Steph!



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