Clackamas County Juvenile Department (CCJD) is committed to the principles and values of Restorative Justice. In practice this means our department is committed equally to the needs of victims of crime, the needs of the youth committing the offense, and the needs of the community in which the crime occurred. We believe that the needs of each of these stakeholders are mutually dependent with the needs of the other. The needs of each must be met in order to effectively meet the needs of any. While meaningfully responding to the needs of victims of juvenile offense is the primary focus of the VIP, the information the program provides will also help offenders understand the importance and value for themselves, their crime victims, and their community, in taking responsibility and being accountable for the harm caused by their crimes.
Victims of Juvenile Offense
Victims of crime have clearly stated what issues are most important to them and the response they would like to receive from the justice system. People who have been victimized by a criminal offense generally want: acknowledgement, information, a voice, and a choice to participate.
People victimized by crime state with great consistency that it is important to them to have the justice system, as representatives of the community, acknowledge the harm done to them as crime victims. They want to know the community takes seriously what has happened to them and is committed to responding in meaningful ways. VIP is a specific way in which CCJD clearly states that this community is concerned about people victimized by crime. As a representative of our communities, we are committed to acknowledging how crime victims have been impacted by the harmful actions committed against them.
Victims of crime want to know what the community’s justice system is doing about the harm done to them. What steps have been taken? Where in the legal process do matters stand? What, if any part, might they have in the resolving of this offense? The Victim Impact Program seeks to provide information to crime victims that address these questions.
The specific circumstances of any given case can often effect how quickly the CCJD is able to provide information. In some cases there are time-consuming steps that must take place before crime victims are contacted. However, it is the CCJD's commitment to contact crime victims and to inform them of the steps being taken to address the harm done to them as quickly as possible.
People victimized by crime not only want to receive information, they want to be able to provide information. It is important that victims of crime be given the opportunity to tell the community’s justice system: what happened to them, how they have been impacted, and what they would like to see happen to hold the offender accountable for the harm done.
VIP initiates contact with crime victims to provide an opportunity for them to tell their story and to identify the issues that are important to them. While the crime victim’s voice is not the only voice in determining how the community will hold offenders accountable, they need to be a voice. CCJD is committed to actively elicit how crime victims have been impacted by the harmful actions committed against them.
A Choice to Participate
It is important that people harmed by crime have a meaningful role in the community’s response to that offense. Their voice and participation should be encouraged; however the extent of their role should always be the crime victim’s choice.
VIP provides crime victims with the opportunity to participate in the community’s response to crime by: being informed, providing input and, where it is appropriate and safe, to be actively involved in the justice process. This involvement is based on the crime victim’s interest, but can range from sharing with VIP how they have been impacted, making an impact statement in the hearing, and/or meeting face to face or communicating through a facilitator (through the Victim Offender Dialogue Program discussed later in this manual) with the youth that harmed them.
These options for participation are discussed with crime victims through personal contact made by the Victim Impact Program staff. Victims of crime are enabled to make an informed choice about how their interests are best addressed. CCJD is committed to encourage the crime victim’s voice and participation in determining how to meaningfully address and repair the harm done to them.
If young people who commit crimes are going to be able to understand and be accountable for the harm they have done through a criminal offense, they need to be presented with the human impact of their actions. Learning from their offense, growing in empathy for those they impact, becoming safe, responsible citizens – all of these healthy, pro-social outcomes are intrinsically connected to these youth being presented with the real human impact of their actions.
The victims of youth’s harmful actions are the only ones that can directly speak to these human impacts. Our work with crime victims is not only essential in effectively serving those harmed by juvenile offenses, but also in holding youth meaningfully accountable to the impact of their actions.
Value to Justice System
The Victim Impact Program also supports the needs of the justice system. Timely and in-depth contact with victims of crime, when desired and appropriate, helps the justice system to respond effectively and appropriately to an offense. Victims of an offense, the community, and ultimately the offender are all best served when the information and experience of those harmed by a crime are made part of the justice process. The work of prosecutors, judges, and the juvenile department is enhanced by timely and thorough restorative outreach to crime victims, bringing their voice, information, and experience into the decision-making process.
The District Attorney’s office is provided valuable support by having VIP staff contact victims of property crime within a week after initial information letters are sent out. If crime victims respond to initial contacts by VIP staff, they are engaged in a conversation regarding their rights, the harms they have experienced, and their questions regarding monetary or symbolic restitution and the court process. Also, needed documentation often is received more quickly from crime victims, which can result in better communication regarding the legitimate amount of loss or damage and the feasibility in the fulfillment of in restitution issues.
Through VIP, Juvenile Counselors (JCC) have a team of colleagues that assist them in addressing the questions, needs, and concerns of crime victims. Through expedient contact with crime victims, VIP will be able to offer information, insights, and resources to support and enhance the JCC’s effort in holding youth meaningfully accountable. This insight into the human impact of the youth’s actions can guide the JCC’s decisions on what obligations the youth have to the crime victim and community as a result of their harmful actions.
VIP can also provide support in working through challenging restitution issues either through direct contact with crime victims or through providing the opportunity for crime victims and offenders to meet face to face (when appropriate and safe) in order to work out these challenging issues through a facilitated dialogue (Victim Offender Dialogue).
Research concludes that services like those delivered through VIP increases crime victim satisfaction with the justice system because their harms have been acknowledged and addressed which creates increased public confidence in the justice system and the community. VIP is a positive and responsive program which can lead to stronger and safer communities, both in the capacity of its individuals and institutions.
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