This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week – a week recognizing rights, access, and equitable treatment for all victims. Victims’ rights are about much more than accountability, safety, and punishment – they are about involvement and participation in the process.
When youth are committed to OYA, the courts and the community are placing their trust in us to hold youth accountable, provide education and rehabilitation services, and support the best outcomes for youth, victims, and their communities.
All of us work hard to ensure that the youth in our custody understand the impact of their actions on victims and make restitution, either monetarily or in other ways, such as contributing positively to their local communities. This is a critical part of holding youth accountable and building their capacity for empathy.
Victims often have concerns and questions about how youth are held accountable, and how OYA or law enforcement keeps victims and their communities safe. It is critical for us to share information with victims throughout the process, listen to them, acknowledge their perspective, and include their viewpoints in the decisions we make about youths’ case plans. Being heard is one of the most important ways we can show victims that they have a meaningful role.
Victims are best served when we can be trauma-informed and culturally specific in our outreach, case plans, and communications. People from marginalized communities are more likely to be victims of crime than other populations, according to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission’s Victimization Survey. People from marginalized communities are also less likely to have access to victim services and less likely to purposely engage with the criminal justice system, due to the long history of racism and disparities.
OYA continues to use research-based, individual-focused treatment to reduce future victimization by helping youth learn to lead productive, crime-free lives.
Senate Bill 1008 changed the way youth come into the system. OYA is continuing our efforts to provide inclusive, accessible, and trauma-informed communication with victims. Our agency also recently revised our parole standards and has implemented a higher level of parole review for the most serious cases.
OYA also sponsors and supports legislative bills that further support victims and restorative justice practices. Last session, Senate Bill 133 passed, which allowed OYA to share more information with victims at their request, or when we seek victim input to inform a case plan or consider parole.
We also work to ensure that victims know about the services available to them, including the VINE Notification System, county victim advocates, and more.
Information about resources for victims can be found on our website, here: www.oregon.gov/oya/Pages/victims.aspx.
Each case and each person we work with matters. Just as we try to do with each other and with our youth, we need to meet victims where they are, listen to learn, and show them that we hear them through our actions.