Victim Services and Assistance
At its core, the criminal justice system is about preventing and enforcing crime and meeting the needs of victims of crime. Each level of government plays a role in responding to the needs of victims, including investigation of crimes, prosecution of perpetrators, notification to victims of their rights under the law, facilitating financial or other restitution, and providing services to victims in need of support.
Violence Against Women Act
In 1994 Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to enhance the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. The Act established and authorized funding for three formula grant programs including STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors), SASP (Sexual Assault Services Program), and State Coalitions and 18 smaller discretionary programs to support victims and promote a coordinated community response. Funding is provided to local, state and tribal governments, courts, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, secondary schools, institutions of higher education, and state and tribal domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions.
VAWA programs are administered by the Office of Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice. The primary formula grant, the STOP grant, is administered by state VAWA administrators. In most states, the VAWA and Byrne JAG programs are administered within the same state agency. Click here to view the administering agencies.
The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized for five years at the beginning of the 113th Congress. The bill included a number of provisions supported by the Association of VAWA Administrators and by NCJA to make the administration of the grants more efficient and effective.
Crime Victims Fund
Congress first passed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) in 1984 recognizing the unique and often urgent needs of victims of crime. By that law, Congress created the Crime Victims Fund to be used for victim compensation and assistance. The Fund is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders as well as other assessments and donations. The Fund is neither supported by tax dollars nor subject to the annual appropriations process. States and territories receive an annual formula grant from the balance in the Fund to support crisis intervention, emergency shelter and transportation, counseling, and other criminal justice advocacy services. States and territories are allocated a base amount with the rest distributed on population.
The Fund is administered by the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC). Beginning in 2000, Congress placed a cap on the amount of money available annually for distribution from the Fund in order to maintain stability and protect the balance in the Fund. Congress sets the cap in the annual Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill. In recent years the cap was set just above $700 million. In FY15, the cap was raised to $2.361 billion. In FY16, it was raised again to $3.042 billion, from which $379 million is carved-out to fund Violence Against Women Act programs.
In 34 states, the VOCA and Byrne JAG programs are administered within the same state agency. For more information, see the National Association of Victim Assistance Administrators website and VOCA Fact Sheets.
Statewide Victim Notification Information and Notification
Significant attention has been devoted to ensure that crime victims and survivors have opportunities to be safely and actively engaged participants in their cases and in the overall justice process. A victim’s right to notification and information about his or her case has long been considered a “threshold right” from which all other victims’ rights flow, and is articulated in state law, Victims’ Bill of Rights, 33 state constitutions, and federal law. When victims are informed about the status of a criminal case and the custody status of an alleged or convicted offender, it empowers them to more safely participate in justice processes and make decisions related to other critical needs, including protection, support services, restitution, and victim compensation. Informed victims are also encouraged to voice their recommendations in plea agreements, sentencing, and parole decisions through victim impact statements.
One mechanism for providing this vital service is Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (SAVIN) systems. These systems are intended to provide a single point of shared services for victims anywhere in a state to learn about the status of their case against an offender, from the point of arrest and incarceration through disposition, release, and community supervision. Other federally and state-funded SAVIN services are providing status information and notification on domestic violence protective orders and court events.
NCJP SAVIN Resource Center
The NCJA Center for Justice Planning (NCJP) operates the SAVIN Resource Center to serve the training and technical assistance needs of the practitioners who develop and direct SAVIN programs. This website is intended as a conduit for the distribution of SAVIN-related information and materials gathered or developed by the SAVIN Training and Technical Assistance Project Team. Formerly known as SAVIN Online, the NCJP SAVIN Resource Center launched in 2011 as part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) SAVIN Training and Technical Assistance Program, and was a partnership between the NCJA, Justice Solutions and IJIS Institute.
The NCJP offers ongoing training and technical assistance to assist with program planning, governance, implementation, and evaluation.There are two categories of technical assistance available: programmatic/policy assistance and technology assistance. To request formal training and technical assistance, please contact Tammy Woodhams, NCJA Senior Staff Associate, at email@example.com.