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Victims Assistance and Counseling Program

Discuss about the Victims Assistance and Counseling Program.

Victim support programs provide confidential and free help to the people who are affected by crime in some way or the other. There are various programs which are initiated by the governments in relation the victims of crime. These programs come in different forms with the main motive of providing for a proper lifestyle for the people affected by crime. It is unfortunate that every day in the modern life crime is in the news and someone or the other is effected by crime. The life of victims affected by crime is never the same as it was before the crime had been committed. This it is important to provide support to these victims in order to ensure that they can lead a normal life to as much extent as possible  (Scott and Cover 2014).

The main aim of the paper is to critically evaluate the effectiveness of support services and agency for victims of crime. The paper explores in its body what are Victims Assistance and Counseling Program along with its advantages, disadvantages and extent of effectiveness. The paper then explores restorative justice conferencing along with its advantages, disadvantages and extent of effectiveness. The paper also provides Recommendations for improving victim’s assistance programs in Australia. The paper finally concludes by discussing the main ideas of the essay and a recommendation for Australia to implement that would better our responses to victims and the support programs

VACP are those programs which have the purpose of providing help and information to people who have been affected through a direct emotional, physical or monitory harm due to a commission of a criminal act. Advice, information and support for the victims of crime and their family is offered by the Victorian Government’s Victims. The help which is provided by such programs is in relation to information regarding crime reporting, legal process information which incused the post period of the offender being in jail, advice related to the financial assistance and compensation (Scott and Hahn-Cover 2014). The VACP also provides support in relation to the day to day needs of the victim, security for house in case of emergency, management of personal safety, facilitating communication with police and reporting, organization medical and transportation services, helps in getting ready for court, helps in the preparation of victims impact statement, helps in the application of financial assistance and obtaining information about the offender. The counseling programs ensure that the victims are provided proper mental counseling so that they can recover from the effect of a criminal activity. The assistance program furthermore helps the victims to obtain any kind of information regarding making their life normal and living peacefully.

Advantages of the Victims Assistance and Counseling Program

The VACP act as a savior for all person who have been affected by crime directly. When a person is affected by crime there life does not remain the same as it was before and it cannot come back on track without proper assistance and support. There are several strengths and advantages of the VACP. The program is only applicable on those who are directly affected by a criminal activity. the program provides financial assistance after proper verification of the needs of the victims so as to ensure that the funding is directed towards an appropriate purpose. This also helps to ensure that fake claims are made for financial assistance are discarded as there have been reportedly various fake claims made for the purpose of obtaining financial assistance (Strang and Sherman 2003). The programs provide proper information to the victims in relation to criminal activities as which have affected them along with the procedure which they may take in order to obtain any kind of relief.

On the other hand the program comes with a few limitations and weakness. The first and foremost weakness is that the program is only limited to victims who are affected by a criminal activity directly. However according to Strang and Sherman (2003) crime has various indirect effects which may be as bad as the direct effects of crime. Such indirect victims are ignored and thus it does not make the program fulfill its purpose. In addition as the financial assistance to be provided to the victims are verified, there are chances that the victims who are actually affected may not be provided assistance because of errors in investigation and corruption or discrimination.

It can however be said that the VACP are proving to be effecting in order to help the victims of the crime recover from the position they have been subjected to due to the criminal activity. although there are various scope for improvement the program acts as a lifeline for those who have been affected by crime. Several crime affected victims have till date benefited from the program.

The process of restorative justice involve the bringing of those who have been affected by crime and those who are responsible for causing the crime in a communication process, so that everyone who has been affected by the criminal activity can take a part towards repairing the damages and finding a way to move forward. Restorative justice is a part lf a wider scope which is known as restorative practices. The use of restorative practices can be done anywhere to address a situation of conflict , repair harm, build relationships through the facilitation of a communication process which is positive and effective. The practices are increasingly been applied to the criminal justice system (Henning & Klesges 2002).

Limitations and Weaknesses of the Victims Assistance and Counseling Program

Restorative justice conferencing programs are similar to mediation or reconciliation programs related to the offenders or victims. In these programs the offenders and victims are subjected to an extended conversation process which is related to the crime and the consequences it may have. In conferencing programs the participation of police, community support group, attorneys, social welfare groups and families are also included along with the offenders and victims (Wilson and Segrave 2011). Through the conferencing programs offenders and victims are made to know that there are various people who care for them and the offender can develop a sense of accountability towards the community, society and social circle to which they belong. The process of conferencing is only applicable when it has been admitted by the offender that they had been guilty and not for the purpose of determining whether a person is guilty or not.

Legislation in relation to the incorporation of conferencing in relation to crime has been introduced by all Australian jurisdictions other than the Australian capital territory and Victoria.  Conference models which are not run by the police are favored by mostly all statutory based schemes. Both New Zealand and Australia are the leaders in the worlds with respect to the use of restorative justice conferencing. Although variations in relation to jurisdictions are considerable there are many form which are taken by the conference. The discussion is based on compassion and understandings in order to ensure satisfaction of all parties. International popularity had been achieved by restorative justice in the year 1990. It had been ever since subjected to development for the purpose of diverting cases from the judicial system and identify enhanced constructive and meaningful ways to ensure a better response to crime.


There are various advantages which are provided by the restorative justice conferencing to the criminal justice system. Firstly the main purpose of criminal justice is to ensure the deterrence of crime and Restorative Justice Conferencing is particularly effective to achieve such purpose. one of the primary arguments which are provided in favor of restorative justice is that it leads to the abandonment of victims interest through the use of retribution of jurisprudence . the jurisprudence is based arguably on wrong assumptions related to facts along with limiting the assumption in relation to possibility. However according to Daly and Hayes (2001) evidence related to the benefits of the restorative justice system are accumulating widely.  The victims are also human beings and the needs of human beings are unlimited. They would perceive a situation from their understating and advantage so thus ignore the human rights of the offender along with failing to understand the position of the offender. Therefore it would be best that the public decides what the victims should get and an offender should be deprived off. Restorative justice helps in the achievement of such objectives through making the victims understand the position of the offender and make the offender realize his mistake and enhance accountability towards the society.

Restorative Justice Conferencing

It may however be argued that the conferencing system is very offender centered and does not protect the right of the victims and this can be taken as one of the major disadvantages of the process. Moreover the process is mostly best applicable in case of youth crime and not when it comes to adults. The process is also not very effective when the criminal activity is of a nature which cannot be accepted by the society at any cost. They system also does not provide a guaranteed outcome of satisfaction for all parties (Fattah 2016).

The advantages of the system raised major interest among the international researcher towards gaining knowledge that how does the system become effective in Australia and New Zealand.  Most of the findings which have been obtained out of such studies provide that there is satisfaction among the participants related to outcomes of the conferencing. However various questions are arising out of this form of justice such as the protection of rights, is the process offender centered, are a few models of conference between than others and dies the conferencing technique bring about a major change among people. It can also be provided through literatures that the main thing wanted by both offenders and victims to crime is the repair of damage created or faced and thus the conferencing system is effective to achieve the purpose (Wilson and Segrave 2011).

One of the most effective victims assistance program has been the one initiated by the Walterboro Police department, USA. The program is dedicated to providing services, referrals and advocacy, at the time when the crime occurs, through taking part in criminal justice system and during investigation. The program is based on the findings of the Supreme Court that the constitution provides the victims of the crime rights regardless of any form of discrimination. According to the program all the victims of crime have the right to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness and be kept free from any harm and intimidation throughout the process of criminal justice. The program is not only limited to letting the victims know about their rights but also the status that the offender has been arrested or not, released or escaped, confer with prosecution, being present at criminal proceedings along with various other detailed rights. The program acts as a bench mark for all other programs with respect to victims assistance. The few recommendations which can be derived from the program are initiating liaison between the victim and law enforcement so that accurate proving information is achieved. Staying in touch with the victim so that they can feel that they are being taken care of by someone also helps the victim.  Providing training or employing trained staff which can appropriately handle crisis intervention can also help the victim (Wolhuter, Olley and Denham 2008).

Conclusion

The paper can be concluded by stating that the victim assistance programs are major step which has been taken towards the betterment of the positions of victims in the society. The programs not only make the victims aware of the course of action they should take when they have been affected by a crime but also provide them with required financial and mental assistance so that they can properly take the course of action (Daly and Hayes 2001). The restorative justice conferencing is also a major step taken by Australia and New Zealand towards addressing the rights of the victims and raising awareness among the offender, however the process is only applicable with respect to youth crime. The victims assistance program can be enhanced to serve their purpose in a better way by working more closely with the victims and offenders.

References

Daly, K. and Hayes, H., 2001. Restorative justice and conferencing in Australia (pp. 1-6). Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Fattah, E.A. ed., 2016. Towards a critical victimology. Springer.Criminal Law

Henning, K. R., & Klesges, L. M. (2002). Utilization of counseling and supportive services by female victims of domestic abuse. Violence and victims, 17(5), 623-636.

Scott, S.D. and Hahn-Cover, K., 2014. Second Victim. In Patient Safety (pp. 355-366). Springer New York.

Strang, H. and Sherman, L.W., 2003. Repairing the harm: Victims and restorative justice. Utah L. Rev., p.15.

Wilson, D. and Segrave, M., 2011. Police-based victim services: Australian and international models. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 34(3), pp.479-496.

Wolhuter, L., Olley, N. and Denham, D., 2008. Victimology: Victimisation and victims' rights. Routledge.

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