Frequently Asked Questions
Victim Impact Panel Program
How can a victim apply to become a victim impact panelist?
Contact the Victim Services Division office at (800) 848-4284 and ask for the Victim Impact Panel Program. Information about the program is also available on the TDCJ website.
Does the offender have to be in prison in order for a victim/survivor to be a panelist?
Not necessarily; however, if charges were filed, the case must have already been adjudicated. It cannot be pending in the court system. The VIP Program does allow victims or survivors whose cases are unsolved or were never prosecuted to speak on panels.
What does a victim/survivor gain from being on a victim impact panel?
The road of recovery is a personal journey, and is experienced in various ways by different individuals. Victims who have participated have reported a sense of empowerment and healing as a result of their participation. The main purpose of the program is to provide this forum for victims so they may obtain support, validation and affirmation, and derive whatever healing they can from speaking on a panel.
Why are victim impact panels used in trainings for criminal justice professionals?
It is important that professionals in the field of criminal justice are cognizant of victims’ issues and aware of resources and best practices when coming into contact or working with victims. The use of victim impact panels in conjunction with training heightens the criminal justice professional’s awareness and sensitivity to the needs of the victim, and personalizes the effects of crime, reminding the professional that there is ‘another side to the story’.
Why are victim impact panels provided for offenders?
Victims do not make the choice to become victims, but are involuntarily introduced to the criminal justice system and may suffer a lifetime of painful repercussions from the crime. Panelists help offenders realize the lasting and long-term effects of their crime. This raises awareness and addresses accountability for offenders, many of whom subsequently express remorse for their actions and report having a better understanding of the widespread negative results of criminal behavior.
What should an offender do when/if court ordered to attend a victim impact panel?
An offender should first ask the supervising court or probation department if there is a designated location/date/time to attend a panel. If their sentence is for an alcohol/substance abuse related offense such as DWI, the offender can also contact the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter and inquire whether they conduct regularly scheduled VIPs at a location near them.