Magazine article Corrections Forum

Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections

Article excerpt

When convicted offenders are sentenced to a term of imprisonment, the State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons assumes responsibility for their supervision. The State Department of Corrections (or Federal Bureau of Prisons) houses offenders for their period of incarceration; implements and monitors work; makes educational and treatment activities available to inmates; and coordinates any release into the community with paroling authorities. Historically, the majority of adult and juvenile corrections agencies' primary goals were to strive to do the following:

* Preserve "public safety."

* Reduce the risk of repeat criminal behavior through incarceration and community supervision.

* Effect offender behavioral change.

Gradually, the criminal justice system has become more aware of the need to integrate victim services as part of its responsibilities, Not only should corrections protect the public safety and welfare but also provide assistance to victims which includes the following goals:

* Being an advocate for the victim.

* Providing direct services to victims (i.e., restitution collection, victim/ offender meetings, victim notification of offender parole hearing, etc.).

* Protecting victims from intimidation or harassment by offenders.

* Training staff regarding sensitivity to victims' issues.

* Holding the offender accountable for his/her behavior.

* Educating offenders about the impact of crime on victims (California Youth Authority, Office of Prevention and Victims Services).

In addition to the above mentioned goals, corrections departments are becoming aware of the impact of workplace violence on their employees. Due solely to the nature of correctional populations, the risk of being victimized on- the job is greater for correctional professionals than for most other jobs. Also, unlike most victims who have the option of completely removing themselves from "the scene of the crime," (i.e., leaving their communities, getting a new job, changing identities, etc.), in corrections, victimized staff are, in many cases, expected to "return to the scene of the crime"-often very soon after the incident occurs. The stress that develops from the job and from victimization frequently is magnified when correctional agencies fail to adopt strong policies and procedures that promote worker safety and victim assistance when an employee is victimized on- or off the job. …

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