The victims of crime in Federal criminal cases are accorded specific rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which was effected on 30th October 2004. The rights ensure that the victims enjoy fairness during the entire proceedings. In addition, the rights allow the victims to legally participate in the criminal case proceedings (Cassell, Mitchel, & Edwards, 2014). This paper is a review of victim rights and how they relate to criminal cases.
Effectiveness of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act
The Crime Victims’ Rights Act has been formulated in a manner that it significantly protects and ensures the rights of the victims are accorded to them. The act is effective in fulfilling its purpose. For instance, the act has prescribed measures to ensure that the rights are accorded by requiring the employees and officers of the department of justice and other relevant departments and agencies to do their best to ensure that the victims are notified and accorded their rights (United States Attorneys [USAO], 2014). The act further requires that the prosecutor advise the victim that the victim can make use of an attorney’s advice regarding their rights (USAO, 2014).
The procedures to promote compliance require an administrative authority to be designated in the department of justice with the role of receiving and investigating complaints involving provision or violations of the victim’s rights. The contents also require those employees and officers of the department of justice showing noncompliance to the provisions of federal law regarding the treatment of victims of crime to be trained and assisted to respond more effectively to the victims’ needs. The act further provides for disciplinary action against employees who fail to comply with the federal law regarding treatment of victims either willingly or wantonly (USAO, 2014).
Value of Victims Statements during Sentencing and Parole Hearings
A Victim impact statement (VIS) is a written or oral submission by the crime victim stating how they have suffered from the crime. The statements add value to the sentencing and parole hearings as they provide information to the court or parole board regarding the damage suffered by the victim. Such information may be unavailable to the judges without the victim impact statement. Rosebury (2011) argues that VIS can serve as evidence when the utterances of the victim are meant to give information to the court about the actual harm caused to the victim or other related persons. In such cases, the statement is similar to non-expressive evidence like clinical assessments of injuries. Apart from providing evidence of the damage inflicted, VIS helps the victim give their opinion about the right penalty, express any intentions to forgive the defendant, comment on proposed bail or parole, express desire for reconciliation and dialogue, and complain about how the legal process has gone among other things (Rosebury, 2011).
The Importance of the Right to be notified of a Proceeding
The crime victim has the right to be notified of a proceeding and the right to participate in a proceeding (Bureau of Prisons [BOP], 2015). However, the right to be notified of the proceeding is more important than the right to participate. The victim has the option of participating in the proceedings or not but has no control over notification. Therefore, if the right to be notified of a proceeding is not protected, the authorities may fail to inform the victim and the proceedings would continue without their knowledge. (BOP, 2015) states that the major goal of the right to be notified is to ensure the agencies involved in enforcing the law advice the victims and witnesses about all critical stages in the process of criminal case.
Professionalism of Corrections Personnel
The statements “our job is not to punish”, “Legal liability issues”, and “Rules don’t apply” all relate to the professionalism of corrections personnel. “Our job is not to punish” addresses the officers who believe in punishing the inmates instead of correcting them. Such members need to adhere to the ethical responsibility to “manage and supervise inmates in an evenhanded and courteous manner” (Professionalism, 2009). Legal liability issues occur when personnel fail to meet their professional obligations. They fail to abide by the ethical responsibility that states: “members shall treat every professional situation with concern for the welfare of the individuals involved and with no intent to personal gain” (American Correctional Association-ACA, 1994). Finally, “the rules don’t apply” is used to describe correctional personnel who act in disregard of rules governing the corrections institution. Such officers should refrain from letting personal interest to impair their objectivity when performing their duty when in official capacity (ACA, 1994).
Strategies for Correctional Personnel to Adhere to ACA Code of Ethics
Among the measures to ensure that correctional employees remain committed to the code of ethics is to set specific repercussions for failure to follow the code. There should be prescribed punishments for gross violations of the code. Secondly, there should be an appreciation program for those who follow the codes faithfully. That should be in form of rewards at the end of a set review time. Putting the two measures in place should help to make the personnel more interested in the ACA code of ethics and adhere to it.
Victims should have a Voice during Legal Process
The victim’s voice is important during a legal process since the case affects them directly and the verdict means a lot to their sense of justice. Cassel et al (2014) state that the Crime Victims’ Rights Act allows the victims to take part in the criminal justice process and act in the capacity of independent participants. Giving the victims a voice is allowing them to feel part of the process and that will make them be more prepared to accept the verdict whichever side it may take.