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April 10 – 16, 2011
This year marks the 27th anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act, a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan which laid the groundwork for the field of crime victims services. April 10 - 16, 2011 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. We will commemorate the week with a public ceremony in the State Capitol from 12:00 – 12:30 on April 12. The national theme for the week is “Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past.”
Wisconsin passed the nation’s first “Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights” in 1993 and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office was home to one of the nation’s first two victim/witness programs housed in district attorneys’ offices. The state helped forge a model that has been adopted nationwide to deliver services directly to victims as their offenders are being prosecuted, to secure cooperation and meet victim needs. Today, the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Office of Crime Victim Services provides training and technical assistance to county victim witness offices and administers funds to partially reimburse counties for expenses related to their victim/witness programs. Rights enforcement is inextricably linked to local victim/witness services through reimbursement requirements that ensure victims receive core rights and services in every county.
Wisconsin was one of the first states to legislate a process for rights enforcement to provide victims with a process to redress violations by public officials. While many states passed crime victims rights bills, Wisconsin was one of the first states to provide for the investigation and mediation of crime victims’ rights complaints, and to provide remedies if rights were found to be violated. According to state statute, crime victims in Wisconsin who believe their rights have been violated can seek informal mediation through the DOJ’s Victim Resource Center (1-800-446-6564). Upon completion of the DOJ review, victims may seek a formal review by the Wisconsin Crime Victims Rights Board (CVRB), the state body responsible for victims’ rights enforcement. The CVRB is a quasi-judicial body with statutory authority to review and investigate complaints, conduct fact-finding hearings and issue remedies to public officials for victims’ rights violations.
Victims’ rights help victims participate in the prosecution of offenders by ensuring victims are fully informed and able to attend and participate in court proceedings. They provide a roadmap for treating victims with dignity and respect and fundamental fairness throughout the process. The DOJ Office of Crime Victim Services works in partnership with victims and criminal justice professionals to promote the meaningful provision of rights and services because without these rights and services, justice cannot truly be achieved.
More information on the Wisconsin DOJ – Office of Crime Victim Services is available here.