Remarks for Associate Attorney General
Third National Symposium on Victims of Federal Crime
January 8, 2001
Grand Hyatt Hotel — Washington, D.C.
Thank you Kathryn for your introduction and to the audience for your warm reception. On behalf of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this Third National Symposium on Victims of Federal Crime.
Looking around the room it is very impressive to see so many dedicated, hard working people coming together to learn how to better improve our treatment of crime victims in the Federal criminal justice system. You deserve our thanks and admiration for your commitment on the front lines every day to fair and compassionate treatment of persons victimized by crime.
Twenty years ago, this Symposium would not have been possible because there were no statutory victims' rights and services in the Federal system and there were no formal victim assistance programs in Federal criminal justice agencies. In the area of crime victim rights and assistance we in the Federal system lagged behind many state criminal justice systems who were themselves just instituting crime victim rights and assistance programs.
The Victims of Crime Act of 1982 gave us a Federal crime victims bill of rights and defined statutory services that Federal government officials are responsible for providing to victims in the Federal criminal justice system. The passage of this Act, and the Presidential Task Force Report that preceded it, were the spark that ignited recognition that the Federal criminal justice system needed to develop victim assistance programs. The military justice system likewise has recognized a need to give victims clear rights and assistance in their criminal processes. In June of 1996, President Bill Clinton recognized the importance of the government's responsibility to assist crime victims and directed Attorney General Reno to do everything possible to improve the treatment of crime victims in the Federal criminal justice system. In response, the Attorney General established a victims initiative within the Department of Justice which lead to new guidelines on the fair treatment of crime victims and outreach to other Federal law enforcement agencies to encourage their victim assistance efforts.
Today, we have a conference attended by 1000 persons whose job responsibilities include helping victims to exercise their rights and to receive assistance, information, and services. You are criminal investigators, agents, prosecutors, victim specialists, victim witness coordinators, victim service providers, corrections officials, and others whose jobs bring you into contact with Federal crime victims. The diversity of agencies is impressive. The U.S. Attorney's Offices have the most established Federal victim assistance program and are joined by more recent initiatives in the FBI, DEA, INS, and Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at Main Justice. Outside the Justice Department other agencies have recognized the need for victim assistance programs and have been working hard to provide assistance and services to crime victims they come into contact with. The Department of the Treasury, the Postal Inspection Service, the Department of State, and the Department of the Interior have all shown exceptional commitment to establishing and developing victim assistance programs. And of course the Department of Defense has been a strong supporter of victim assistance within the military criminal justice system.
This year, your ranks also include scholarship recipients from two important segments of the Federal community. There are 50 attendees who provide services to victims in Indian Country — a particular area of concern because of the high crime rate in Indian Country and the complicated jurisdictional scheme for criminal justice issues there. In addition, there are 20 attendees who work with victims of severe forms of international trafficking in persons and slavery. This country has recently affirmed its commitment to fighting this insidious crime and assisting its vulnerable victims in newly passed legislation – The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
What a great opportunity for you all to learn together from the outstanding faculty that has been gathered here. The wide variety of workshops provides training at both basic and advanced levels and covers victim issues confronted in Federal, military, and Indian Country criminal cases. Training together on these topics will enable the Federal system to provide consistent, seamless support to victims while they are involved in the criminal justice process.
The theme of this year's Symposium is “Putting Resources to Work for Victims”. You will find an abundance of information about resources available to victims and to you that will make your jobs easier and more rewarding. Some of the sessions will address specific categories of victims and their specialized needs such as elderly victims, rural victims, victims with disabilities, victims of abduction, stalking, trafficking and slavery, children exposed to family violence, and victims in federal international cases. Other workshops will explore unique resources available to crime victims such as corporations that assist identity theft victims, nonprofit organizations that assist victims like Concerns of Police Survivors and the American Red Cross, and State crime victim compensation and assistance programs. The wealth of information that is available to you at this conference is staggering and I hope you take advantage of all the opportunities to learn from and with your colleages.
Why is it so important that we learn these things and continue to improve our treatment of Federal crime victims?
Stop and think a moment about why you went into criminal justice work. For most of us I would venture to say that there is an intangible reward that comes from doing the right thing and making a difference. When we come into contact with a crime victim, there is nothing we can do to take away the experience of the crime. In fact, we may never catch the offender, the trial may end in an acquittal, or the offender may one day get out of prison and return to society. The support and assistance that we give the crime victim may be the most positive contribution we can make that will actually make a difference. Connecting victims with needed services, providing them with information about the investigation, prosecution and incarceration of offenders, and treating them with dignity and respect will make a difference to each and every victim. hether the victims are in need of physical healing, emotional healing, or financial recovery, we can make the referrals or give the information that helps them on the road to recovering from the crime. We can assist them in getting their voices heard in the criminal justice process. Federal statute, government policy, and human compassion make fair treatment of the crime victim our responsibility.
Throughout her tenure as Attorney General, Janet Reno has made compassionate, dignified and equitable treatment of crime victims a top priority. She routinely met with crime victims and personally directed the Federal government interaction with victims from the Oklahoma City bombing to the drunk driving homicide of a young woman on the streets of Washington, D.C. She set the tone for the Justice Department and has been a committed advocate for improvement of our victim assistance efforts. I understand that Ms. Reno is scheduled to address you at the conclusion of your conference and I'm sure she will encourage you continue the course begun in 1982, to ensure that victims of Federal crimes, including military and Indian country crimes, receive the assistance they need to recover from the crime.
Enjoy the instruction and interaction with your colleagues. I hope you take home ideas and inspiration to continue your important and challenging work.
I understand that you are a diverse group, coming from the three major sectors of the Federal system: (1) those of you investigating, prosecuting and incarcerating violators of the Federal criminal code; (2) those of you working in the military criminal justice system; and (3) those of you working in the Indian Country criminal justice systems.