A “victimless” crime does not exist. Obviously, killing, raping, sex and labor trafficking and assaulting result in significant physical and emotional suffering. White collar and cyberspace crime also reap waves of emotional and financial pain on the victims. When offenders are willing to honestly reflect on the suffering they have caused, are capable of genuine remorse, and desire to make restitution for the damage inflicted, they have taken the first step in personal change.
During the week of April 26 - May 2, 2009, crime victims and survivors and those who serve them will join together across America to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This year’s theme, “25 Years of Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating the Victims of Crime Act,” marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). This landmark legislation established the Crime Victims Fund, the only federal program that funds services to help victims of crimes. A unique feature of VOCA is that it does not include your tax dollars. The fund consists of fines and penalties assessed against convicted federal offenders.
Rebuilding lives and seeking justice for victims is reflected in the TDCJ mission statement: The mission of the TDCJ is to provide public safety, promote positive change in offender behavior, reintegrate offenders into society and to assist victims of crime.
The TDCJ Victim Services Division fulfills this mission statement by providing direct, personal service to victims and their families throughout Texas. Many of the services provided are mandated by statute as the Texas Legislature determined victim services should be provided from the initial crime scene through the offender’s criminal justice supervision. The following represents an overview of how the TDCJ Victim Services Division assists victims and their families.
- Victim Notification System is a confidential 70-point notification database to keep victims, their families and concerned citizens informed of the status of the offender in the parole review process. In conjunction with the initial notification letter, each victim registered on the database receives a brochure explaining available services
- Toll-Free Information Hotline (800-848-4284) is available between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Victim Services representatives answer calls and provide information about offender status, the criminal justice system and arrange personal meetings with Parole Board members.
- Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) is a toll-free automated telephone service, which allows victims to obtain offender information 24 hours a day in English or Spanish. If requested by a victim, VINE will call them automatically to tell them when an offender is being processed for release. This system is a service offered to victims in addition to written notification.
- Case File Analysts answer victims’ questions about the parole conditions placed on an offender and act as liaisons between victims and Parole Board members, criminal justice professionals and law enforcement personnel.
- Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse (TxCVC) provides technical assistance, information and referrals to victims, victim service providers, law enforcement and criminal justice professionals. The TxCVC maintains a statewide victim assistance resource directory and, every odd-numbered year, updates the Victim Impact Statement upon adjournment of the legislative session. TxCVC sponsors an educational conference for victims, victim advocates and other criminal justice professionals. A quarterly newsletter, The Victim’s Informer, is produced by TxCVC and mailed to approximately 4,000 people.
- Victim Impact Panel Program (VIPP) offers victims/survivors of crime the opportunity to share details of their victimization by addressing audiences of offenders on probation or parole and criminal justice professionals. The goal is, for those who hear the victims’ stories, to recognize the suffering caused and give the victims a voice before an audience open to receive their message.
- Victim Offender Meeting/Dialogue Program (VOM/D) provides victims and survivors of violent crime the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the offenders in a structured, safe environment. These meetings serve as a vehicle to get information only the offender can provide and to facilitate healing in the victims who initiate the process.
- Victim Support and Community Education (VSCE) prepares and accompanies victims who choose to view executions. VSCE conducts prison tours and provides training in individual peer support intervention for TDCJ employees interested in serving on the Crisis Response Intervention and Support Program (CRISP).
Please take time during the week of April 26 - May 2, 2009 to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and pay tribute to crime victims and all those who dedicate their lives to helping them.