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Memorandum on Crime Victims' Rights

June 27, 1996

Memorandum for the Attorney General

Subject: Renewing Our Commitment to Crime Victims

We have made tremendous progress over the last 3 years in reducing crime and making America safer. Nonetheless, crime continues to affect the lives of millions of Americans, greatly diminishing their sense of safety and security.

For too long, the rights and needs of crime victims and witnesses have been overlooked in the criminal justice system. Through the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, we have begun to address this problem. But those important measures are not enough.

As important as the protections those laws provide are, they do not—and cannot—give victims equal status with the accused. That's the next step we need to take.

I strongly believe that victims should be central participants in the criminal justice system, and that it will take a constitutional amendment to give the rights of victims the same status as the rights of the accused. In the interim, I want my Administration to do everything possible to ensure that victims' rights are respected and that victims' participation in the criminal justice process is encouraged and facilitated. Our Federal investigators and prosecutors should not simply comply with the letter of the law, they should also fulfill the spirit of the law.

That is why I am directing you to take a number of important steps that will improve the treatment of victims in the Federal, State, military, and juvenile criminal justice systems.

First, I am directing you to undertake a system-wide review and to take all necessary steps to provide for full victim participation in Federal criminal proceedings. I want you to hold the Federal system to a higher standard of victims' rights than ever before. In particular, I want you to adopt a nationwide automated victim information and notification system so that we can better inform and protect crime victims.

Second, I would like you to work with other Federal agencies whose missions involve them with crime victims in order to ensure that a common and comprehensive baseline of participation for victims can be achieved.

Third, I want you to review existing Federal statutes to see what further changes ought to be made. For example, I would like you to consider legislation that would prohibit employers from dismissing or disciplining employees who are victims of crime and whose participation as victims in criminal proceedings requires them to take time away from their employment.

Finally, I want you to work with State officials—governors, attorneys general, legislators, district attorneys, and judges—and victims' rights advocates to identify the needs, challenges, best practices, and resources necessary to help achieve a uniform national baseline of protections for victims. The Department of Justice should provide technical assistance to State and local law enforcement, as well as other Federal agencies, and serve as a national clearinghouse for information about the most effective approaches to realizing fully the rights of victims of violent crime.

To achieve these objectives, I expect you to identify funding needs where and as appropriate. Please report to me in writing as soon as possible on the specific steps you will take to achieve these goals.


William J. Clinton, Memorandum on Crime Victims' Rights Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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