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BJA Spotlight on Victim and Witness Intimidation: Growing the Knowledge Base for Criminal Justice Practitioners
By Alissa Huntoon, Senior Policy Advisor, Bureau of Justice Assistance
The intimidation of victims and witnesses may hinder investigation and prosecution of criminal cases by denying police and prosecutors access to critical evidence and therefore, undermining the function of the justice system. To address this challenge requires the involvement of professionals from across the justice system who may come into contact with victims or witnesses who may be vulnerable to intimidation. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is supporting multiple efforts to foster a collaborative approach to examining the issue of victim and witness intimidation, and providing a range of resources and strategies for both criminal justice practitioners and community members.
1.) BJA Victim and Witness Participation with the Justice System: Decreasing Intimidation, Ensuring Safety, and Improving Case Outcomes Roundtable:
On March 9, 2016, BJA convened a roundtable on victim and witness participation with the justice system and how to decrease intimidation and improve case outcomes. The meeting assembled a group of practitioners, community members, and thought leaders from around the country to discuss the challenge of successfully clearing homicide, non-fatal shootings, and other violent crime cases stemming from victim and witness intimidation. Many communities across the country experience low violent crime clearance rates, resulting in part from a reluctance by victims and/or witnesses to engage and cooperate with the justice system. Such reluctance is often due to the fear of intimidation, a lack of public trust and confidence in the criminal justice system, and/or close ties between the victims and witnesses and the crime’s perpetrators and their associates.
BJA sought to identify promising investigative and prosecution practices for successfully engaging victims and witnesses to close cases that would otherwise remain unsolved without the illuminating evidence from these victims and/or witnesses. Of equal importance was identifying strategies that ensure the safety of victims and witnesses, while simultaneously instilling their trust and confidence in the justice system.
A final meeting report from the roundtable is forthcoming; it will summarize the meeting discussions and share a blueprint of key strategies, practices, and tools. The report will also offer recommendations on moving forward.
2.) National Prosecutor's Consortium:
BJA is working with prosecutors to improve public trust and confidence in the justice system and encourage victims and witnesses to participate throughout all stages of the criminal justice process. Prosecutors can receive technical assistance to implement consortiums within their communities to tackle these issues.
For more information, visit the Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence at www.pceinc.org.
3.) BJA Funding Opportunities:
As part of its FY 2016 series of Competitive Grant solicitations, BJA released a training and technical assistance (TTA) award for the delivery of TTA nationwide in support of communities wishing to improve victim and witness cooperation and to combat victim intimidation at the local level. The goal was for the selected TTA provider to deliver TTA to three communities, create an online toolkit for improving investigations, and develop fact sheets and/or practitioner monographs related to the projects in the three selected communities. This solicitation closed on May 10, 2016. For a list of current BJA funding opportunities, please click here.
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Points of view or opinions on BJA NTTAC’s TTA Today blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, or BJA NTTAC.