Victims of crime have rights that are guaranteed by the Colorado State Constitution. Assisting victims in understanding and exercising these rights is a priority for Division of Youth Services (DYS) staff. In addition to feeling victimized as a result of criminal activity, individuals, their families and communities can also feel victimized by the legal system. For this reason, DYS works to ensure that victims of crimes perpetrated by youth in DYS custody are treated with fairness and compassion throughout the various stages of the criminal justice process.
Victim Services staff work to address the diverse needs of victims in an attempt to reduce the potential for re-victimization. In support of these goals, DYS staff:
- Uphold the rights of crime victims to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity
- Work to ensure that victims are heard, informed and present for critical stages in the criminal justice system
- Promote the safety and restoration of victims and communities to the degree possible
DYS staff provide a variety of services and information to victims of crime that include:
- Victim Notification (VNOT) program enrollment, Critical Stage notification
- Options for various restorative opportunities
- Restitution Inquiries
- Juvenile justice system and DYS inquiries
- Inquiries regarding the statutory rights of victims as outlined in the Colorado Victim Rights
- Amendment and enabling legislation
- Referrals for additional support services, or any other topics related to the victim's case
- Aid in applying for Crime Victim Compensation funds
- Aid in preparation of a Crime Victim Input Form
The Victim Services/Restorative Justice Coordinator also provides training for DYS staff regarding DYS responsibilities under the Victim Rights Act, the impact of crime on victims and Victim Empathy Class facilitator training.
Victim and Offender Dialogue Program
Victim offender dialogue (VOD) is a victim centered, confidential, face-to-face meeting between a victim/survivor and the juvenile offender of a severe or violent crime. The goal is for the victim/survivor to be heard and to get answers to questions only the juvenile can know. The experience of talking directly with the juvenile in a safe setting gives the victim/survivor full voice to the pain and trauma they have experienced. They are finally able to say what needs to be said.
When juvenile offenders are able to listen and understand the complexity of feelings about the harm they caused and take full responsibility, they can better understand the devastating effects of their actions. As a result, some will try to make a new and meaningful purpose in their lives. The process is not about forgiveness or reconciliation, although sometimes that occurs.
- Enrollment into the Victim Notification Program
Once enrolled in the Victim Notification (VNOT) Program, victims are provided information throughout the various critical stages of the juvenile offender's supervision. Effective April 2012, The DYSVNOT program actively enrolls victims of crimes that are identified in the Colorado Victim Rights Amendment (VRA) and enabling legislation. This means that DYS will enroll known crime victims in each of these cases, and they will provide critical stage notification as a standard practice. If you do not wish to be enrolled in the DYS victim notification program, you may disenroll from the VNOT program at any time.
DYS serves two types of youth: those who are being held in detention for short periods of time, and those offenders who have been committed to the custody of DYS.
- Detained youth- Crime victims of detained youth are enrolled as a result of information received from criminal justice agency victim advocates. These advocates are located in sheriff offices, police departments and District Attorney offices. Critical stage notification for crime victims take place through an automated system called the Victim Information Notification Everyday (VINE) Program. Crime victims may disenroll from the VINE program by following the guidelines provided at the end of each telephone contact made to them through the VINE automated system.
- Committed youth -Individuals who have been crime victims of VRA identified crimes are automatically enrolled in the VNOT program and receive critical stage notification throughout DYS youth supervision. Individuals who do not want to receive critical stage notification for committed youth must complete and submit a disenrollment form to DYS.
Crime victims will receive critical stage notification if they have provided and maintain accurate and current contact information with DYS staff.
Crime Victims are responsible for notifying DYS to initiate changes to their personal contact information by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you wish to re-enroll in the Victim Notification Program, having previously opted out of receiving critical stage notification, you may submit the enrollment form.
- Restorative Community Justice
Restorative Community Justice (RCJ) practices and principles involve, to the extent possible those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.
RCJ is an integral component of the DYS mission and vision. However, as a juvenile corrections agency, focused primarily on the rehabilitation of offenders, it can be very difficult to have all stakeholders come together to participate in an RCJ process. DYS seeks to provide every willing victim of crime, who is interested in such a process, safe and structured opportunities to do so.
Many times, individuals who are impacted by crime may choose other ways in which to work towards restoration. DYS is focused on developing opportunities for victims and community members to become involved in RCJ processes. These opportunities may include serving on impact panels, volunteer occasions, or working with youth and staff in community service projects.
In contrast to a punishment focused or "retributive" organizational setting, DYS seeks to establish a "Restorative Culture". Formal processes designed to teach youth new skills as well as imbuing daily routines with an RCJ focus characterize such an atmosphere. Restorative principles and strengths based practices are embedded throughout everyday processes within the detention and commitment process. Activities range from the highly structured and more intense to the less formal. Examples of RCJ practices that have been implemented over the past ten years are Victim Empathy groups, accountability circles, apology letters, conflict mediation, victim offender mediation, and family conferencing.
By embracing RCJ principles and practice, DYS provides youth, victims and communities the services and opportunities to address the harm experienced and become involved in processes and activities that aid individuals to become increasingly whole.
As youth experience these day-to-day restorative applications and services, they develop new skill sets that are used to repair the harm to victims and their communities.
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