The Division of Victim ServicesThe South Carolina Department of Corrections is serious about its commitment to crime victims.
What may distinguish the South Carolina Department of Corrections from other corrections-based victim notification programs is that the concept of victim services permeates the entire agency. The victim emphasis is pervasive in all agency decision making and program implementation activities. "Victims want more than just information about a release or an escape. They want information and inclusion in the criminal justice system," said Barbara Grissom, Director of Victim Services. She continued, "Victims want to know about and understand the programs of corrections; they expect corrections to listen when told about the impact of those programs on their lives." Several examples are provided next that illustrate how victims have been included in departmental decisions and activities.
Barbara Grissom, Director of Victim Services,
talks to a victim about registering for
The following highlights how the Division of Victim Services is committed to victims:
• The Agency implemented the South Carolina Automated Victim Notification System to provide automated telephone notification calls to registered victims and to provide a toll-free automated inquiry line that allows victims to check on an offender’s status at any time of the day or night.
• Face-to-face media interviews and photographs of inmates have been stopped so as not to glamorize the crimes of the offenders, and not to re-victimize the victims and their family members.
• Violent offenders have been removed from community-based programs such as work release.
• The Impact of Crime Program was implemented in 1998 to promote offender accountability. Sixteen institutions currently have this education-based program.
• Prior to offender placements in local detention facilities, each registered victim is contacted for input and concurrence.
• Home-visit furloughs have been stopped.
• A toll-free telephone number has been installed strictly for use by victims and their families.
• Inmate organizations are required to give 15 percent of their fundraising proceeds to victim service organizations or to a charity.
• Work-release inmates are assessed 20 percent of their gross wages. Those assessments are directed toward funding the Agency’s Division of Victim Services and toward the Victim Assistance Program that awards grants to victim-service organizations.
• Prison industries inmates are assessed 20 percent of their gross wages for the Victim Compensation Fund that awards financial assistance to crime victims, according to state law.
• The sale of confiscated inmate jewelry has raised more than $12,000, which was given to the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network (SCVAN) for victim scholarships and also to the South Carolina Coalition for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCADVASA) for transitional housing.
Other Points of Interest
With regard to executions, special briefings are held with the victim's families following the SC Supreme Court's order to carry out an execution. With the uniqueness of this event, special procedures are in place and thoughtful attention is given to execution witnesses. The South Carolina Code of Laws now allows three of the victim's family representatives to witness the execution. This change is a result of the efforts of the Department of Corrections working with the General Assembly.
Also important are services to employees assaulted on the job. The comprehensive program is an institution-based peer response with outside counseling services provided, where needed.
There are more than 19,000 active victims registered for notification. There are more than 25,000 inactive victim records that are automatically reactivated upon the return of the offender. The number of registered victims has grown by an average of 28 percent in each of the last five years. The Department of Corrections maintains the largest data bank of crime victims in the state and makes it available on a confidential basis to the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services and the SC Attorney General's Office.
The victims of both violent and nonviolent cases are registered. Of the total inmate population, 42 percent of all inmates have registered victims.
The South Carolina Department of Corrections has learned that including victims in its decision-making process is not problematic and has had a positive effect. The department also learned that having a Division of Victim Services provides wardens and institutional staff a referral resource so their time can be better spent on matters of security and operation of the institution. The victim services staff is trained to handle inquiry calls, letters, and special requests.
News Items Related to the Division of Victim Services:Division of Victim Services Receives Best Practices Award from the American Correctional Association.
For more information, contact:
Barbara Grissom, Director
Division of Victims Services
South Carolina Department of Corrections
P. O. Box 21787
Columbia, South Carolina 29221
(803) 896-1733 or 1-800-835-0304