No More Rights Without Remedies

An Impact Evaluation of the National Crime Victim Law Institute's Victims' Rights Clinics

by Robert C. Davis, James M. Anderson, Susan Howley, Carol Dorris, Julie Whitman

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Research Questions

  1. What is the scope of clinic activities?
  2. How are victims' rights addressed according to prosecutor case files in which victims were represented by clinic attorneys and those of similar cases without such representation?
  3. Do victims believe that their rights are observed, and are they satisfied with the justice process?
  4. What are the opinions of prosecutors, judges, victim advocates, and defense attorneys about victims' rights and about the clinics?
  5. What are the legislation, court rules, appellate decisions, and media reporting pertaining to victims' rights before and after the start of the clinics?
  6. Do clinic directors think that the clinics are sustainable?

The National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) victims' rights clinics are an effort to remedy what many perceived as a serious deficit in victims' rights legislation. Although all states have laws protecting victims' rights and many have constitutional amendments establishing rights for victims, the rights of many victims still are not observed. In large measure, this may be because there are no remedies enforceable when victims are denied their rights. The NCVLI clinics were intended to promote awareness, education, and enforcement of crime victims' rights in the criminal justice system. The victims' rights clinics sought to protect and enforce rights for victims in the court process through filing motions in criminal cases in which victims' rights were denied and by seeking appellate decisions that interpreted and reinforced victims' rights statutes. By providing direct representation to individual victims in criminal court, NCVLI hoped not only to increase the observance of rights in those particular cases but also to increase awareness of victims' rights by prosecutors, judges, and police officers in general.

Key Findings

The Victims' Rights Clinics Have Been Somewhat Successful in Achieving Their Key Goals

  • Survey results indicated a shift toward more-favorable attitudes toward victims' rights and greater compliance with victims' rights by court officials after establishment of the clinics. The changes were small with respect to attitudes toward victims' rights but larger with respect to perceptions of compliance with victims' rights.
  • There are differences in compliance on some measures in some jurisdictions between cases in which victims were represented by an attorney and those in which they were not. In the aggregate, however, the analysis of prosecutor files did not suggest an increase in compliance as a result of having a victim attorney.
  • Victims represented by clinic attorneys more often reported that they were notified of defendants' release from jail, that they had made a victim impact statement, that they were notified of the case disposition, and that they were referred to counseling services. However, victims represented by clinic attorneys also were less satisfied with the way they were treated by court officials, less satisfied with the court process, and less satisfied with the outcomes of their cases.
  • There is some inconsistent evidence that clinics made a difference in the expansion of victims' rights both in terms of legislation related to victims' rights and in terms of appellate decisions.
  • There was no consistent increase in the number of articles in the print media about victims' rights or change in the proportion of articles sympathetic to victims' rights.

Recommendation

  • An expanded set of clinics could be one component of a comprehensive effort to ensure that victims' rights are honored, in coordination with state victims' ombudsmen and a network of pro bono attorneys or law school clinics.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Method

  • Chapter Three

    Survey of Criminal Justice Officials' Attitudes Toward and Knowledge of Victims' Rights

  • Chapter Four

    Determining Compliance with Victims' Rights, Based on Prosecutor Records

  • Chapter Five

    Surveys of Victim Experience in the Criminal Justice System

  • Chapter Six

    Community Impact

  • Chapter Seven

    Clinics' Impact on the Legal Landscape

  • Chapter Eight

    Clinic Sustainability

  • Chapter Nine

    Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Survey for Colorado Criminal Justice Officials

  • Appendix B

    Survey for Maryland, South Carolina, and Utah Criminal Justice Officials

  • Appendix C

    Survey for Victims

  • Appendix D

    Case-File Data-Collection Form

This project was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and was conducted in the Safety and Justice Program of RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

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