Office of Victim Assistance
The Division of Parole makes a special effort to ensure that victims of crimes do not become forgotten parties in the criminal justice process. Parole has worked with the New York State Crime Victims Board and local district attorneys to help ensure that victims are aware of their rights with regard to the parole process. Landmark legislation in 1994 allowed for victims to meet face to face with a member of the Board of Parole, or to submit a written victim impact statement to the Board. Procedures have been established allowing the Division to maintain contact with crime victims and, at their request, keep them apprised of parole interview dates and decisions, and the release dates of the offenders who victimized them. The following statutory and policy changes have enhanced victim access to the parole process:
Victims can have additional face to face meetings with a Parole Board member prior to an inmate's subsequent reappearances. A verbatim transcript is now generated from these interviews and made available to the reviewing Board panel;
Victims may submit video or audio taped victim impact statements if preferred;
A new toll-free telephone number makes access to the Victim Impact Unit easier for citizens (1-800-783-6059);
Jenna's Law (1998) provides all citizens an opportunity to call a toll-free number to receive information about inmates released to parole supervision after January 1, 1999. This is currently a joint process between the Division of Parole and DOCS through a state contract with VINE (Victim Information Notification Everyday, 1-888-VINE-4-NY); and
The Victim Impact Unit continues to use a simple to understand, pre-paid mailer to facilitate registering for victim notification. Submit a Request for Victim Notification.
The Victim Impact Unit is currently staffed with an executive assistant, two parole officers, an administrative assistant and three keyboard specialists. During FY 2008-2009, the Victim Impact Unit arranged and facilitated 340 face to face interviews between victims or their families and a Parole Board member. Currently, the Unit is tracking approximately 8,000 inmates for victim notification purposes. The Unit's parole officers attend Crime Victim Board advisory counsel meetings four times per year.
Apology letters from inmates may be mailed to the DOCCS Office of Victim Assistance. Upon receipt, the letter will be “deposited” in the confidential Apology Letterbank file until the victims or their families request information about the inmate. At that time, it will be explained that there is an apology letter on file. An offer will be made to read the letter to them or mail it to them for them to read at a time and place that is best for them. The inmate will not be told if the victim or their family ever comes forward and requests information about the inmate or if they have accessed the letter.