May-June 2017

New victim services resources from TDCAA

Diane ­Beckham

TDCAA Senior Staff Counsel in Austin

This month, TDCAA will unveil a few new resources to help prosecutor offices evaluate whether they are meeting the basic statutory duties required in providing victim services. The first, a 15-minute video called “Victim Service Essentials,” highlights the most important component of victims’ rights required by statute of prosecutor offices: notification of a variety of events and services.
    Narrated and produced by my voice actor son, Alex Beckham, this video describes the components of required notification to victims and gives tips for how to streamline the process. While the video is designed for victim assistance coordinators (VACs), prosecutors may also want to watch, because the statutory notification process includes information that a prosecutor is more likely to tell a victim (such as information about plea bargain offers required to be passed along to victims) and duties relating to the use of Victim Impact Statements.
    The idea for the video came from TDCAA Victim Services Director Jalayne Robinson, who noticed that her in-person visits to prosecutor offices to assist new VACs tend to be more helpful after VACs have been working for a month or two, rather than during their first week on the job. But a resource outlining the basics required for VACs still seemed to be necessary for those in their first few days working as a VAC.
    Jalayne and I wrote a PowerPoint, I wrote the script, Alex provided narration (and Jalayne recorded her voiceover introduction) from his home studio, and Alex then animated the information into an MP4 video. The video is included on the Victim Services page on the TDCAA website; click HERE to be redirected to it. It’s about 15 minutes long and well worth your time.
      To go along with the video, I drafted a checklist of prosecutor-office statutory duties to victims that sets out the requirements for an elected prosecutor, a VAC, and a trial prosecutor. While it contains the same basic information as is included in the video, the checklist is a one-page snapshot of victim-related duties designed for prosecutor offices to make sure their victim services programming covers all the requirements. You can find the checklist as a PDF below.
    Of course, a victim services program in a prosecutor office can go far beyond the minimum required—and many do. With funding and personnel, prosecutor offices can reach beyond notification and paperwork to do things like:
•    establish a Kids in Court program,
•    host a variety of activities for victims and the community during Crime Victims’ Rights Week each April,
•    set up a waiting room designated for child victims, and
•    collaborate with other local offices to plan and host training for criminal justice professionals and crime victim advocates.
    Whatever goal you set for your victim services program, TDCAA is here to assist. We can help ensure your office is meeting the required statutory duties, or we can give you pointers to set up a program that does more (and find the funding to help you achieve the “more”). Call our offices (512/474-2436) or send an email to Victim Services Director Jalayne Robinson ([email protected]) to ask questions, set up a telephone call, or schedule an in-person visit.
    Let us know what you think about the video and checklist. Our hope is to produce more videos on victim services in prosecutor offices, and we want to make sure to cover topics that would help you the most.