Probation and parole agencies are in a unique position to provide services to victims. First, probation and parole agencies have access to both general and offender-specific information that could address victims’ need for information and concerns. A victim would profit from understanding how probation and parole works; knowing an offender’s custody status, and understanding that offenders will be held accountable for their actions either through payment of restitution or other supervisory conditions. The payment of restitution is therapeutic; it holds offenders accountable for the harm they caused and assists in helping the victim reconstruct his/her life through monetary compensation. Second, victim–offender mediation programs may be a helpful therapeutic agent in individual cases. Involvement in mediation programs may help both the victim and the offender realize things about each other that can change their perspectives and assumptions (i.e., the offender’s perception that no harm was caused, and the victims’ misconception of “offenders as demons”). Probation and parole agencies can provide the information that would lead victims and offenders to participate in restorative justice practices. These actions validate the trauma victims have suffered and contribute greatly to the healing process.
While the primary goal for achieving justice may be through the provision of supervision and services to offenders, probation and parole agencies also can provide valuable services to victims of crime. Some of the more common victim services include the following:
- Assessment of victim impact.
- Victim notification.
- Restitution collection.
- Referrals to services.
- Victim protection.
- Education about probation and parole.
More innovative services now include victim/offender mediation, circle sentencing, and victim impact panels. The need for training staff on the impact of crime on victims, related issues, and the need to identify ways to respond to probation and parole professionals who are victimized on- or off-the-job, are other areas that probation and parole agencies are beginning to address.
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