CDCR leads nation in providing services for crime victims and survivors
CDCR this week joins communities and organizations across the country in recognizing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, acknowledging the journey and courage of crime victims and survivors and celebrating those who advocate on their behalf.
This year’s theme — Support Victims, Build Trust, and Engage Communities — is demonstrated by services provided through CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS). This article explores some of the most active and beneficial services provided by OVSRS.
When state offices shut down as a result of the pandemic, OVSRS went virtual. Despite the move, the number of registered victims increased by 15 percent from 2019, email communications went up 117 percent and the number of people reached on the OVSRS webpage increased by more than 31 percent.
The office was established in 1988 through Proposition 8, or the “Victim’s Bill of Rights” approved by California voters in 1982. OVSRS has become a national leader in enforcing the rights of victims and providing vital post-conviction services to communities impacted by crime.
Operating a comprehensive victim services program, OVSRS ensures crime victims and survivors are afforded the utmost respect in exercising their legal rights.
Services offered to victims, survivors and witnesses if the offender sentenced to a CDCR facility:
Notifying victims of their rights
The victim of crime, next of kin, immediate family member of a victim, parent or guardian of the minor victim, or witness may request to be notified of the release, death, escape, parole proceeding, contract, or scheduled execution of their offender(s). Requests can be made by completing a “Request for Victim Services” form. Please note that to receive notification of any change, or potential change, in an offender’s status one must be registered with OVSRS.
Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) Program
VOD is a process in which the victim of a crime, or the surviving family members, and the offender who committed the offense meet face-to face in a safe and secure setting. For certain victims/survivors of severe violence and violation, the facilitated VOD process can provide a pathway to a sense of further healing and justice.
Victim input into special conditions of parole
Victims may request to provide input into the following special conditions of parole considered by the CDCR Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO):
- That the parolee be required to live in another county or in another city within the committing county if they are clearly threatened, or if the offender was convicted of a specific violent felony they may request parole placement 35 miles from their actual residence.
- Restrict the parolee’s contact with the victim.
Victim notification of parole suitability hearings
When requested, the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) will notify the victim/next of kin/immediate family member of an upcoming parole suitability hearing for an offender. Requests to attend or make a statement may be made by calling OVSRS. If victims can’t attend the hearing but would like to still participate, they can request to participate with an audio connection or appoint a representative who may attend the hearing. Victims may also submit a written statement to BPH to be read into the record, or an audio or video recording, which will be viewed by the commissioners conducting the hearing. Additionally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BPH has moved to an all virtual model for parole suitability hearings, making it even easier for victims’ voices to be heard. In 2020, there were 2,411 victims that attended a virtual parole hearing.
The sentencing court can order an offender to pay two different types of restitution: (1) restitution to the victim, known as a direct order of restitution, and (2) restitution fines.
Restitution fines are considered an offender’s debt to society for the offender’s criminal behavior. In California, the court must impose a restitution fine regardless of the crime committed or the sentence imposed. A fine is set at the discretion of the court. The court must order offenders who are sentenced to state prison to pay a fine between $300 and $10,000. The money collected for the restitution is transferred to the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) to assist victims of violent crimes who suffer out-of-pocket losses and who may be eligible to apply for financial reimbursement.
The court can also order an offender to pay direct order restitution to the victim.
The California Penal Code states the court must award restitution to the victim(s) in the full amount of the economic loss, including but not limited to:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Psychological counseling
- Lost wages and any other expenses related to the crime.
Story by the Office of Public and Employee Communications.