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Three States Adopt Constitutional Amendments

November 3, 1998 - The voters of Mississippi, Montana and Tennessee ratified victims' rights amendment in their state constitutions. There are now a total of 32 states with constitutional protections of victims' rights. The margin of approval in Mississippi was 93%, in Montana 71% and in Tennessee 89%.

Senate Judiciary Hearing Passes VRA!

July 7, 1998 - The Senate Judiciary voted 11-6 in support of Senate Joint Resolution 44. Supporters of constitutional rights for crime victims are now looking forward to a vote in the full Senate before the end of the current session.

Kyl-Feinstein Introduce New Amendment

April 1, 1998 - Senators Jon Kyl and Dianne Feinstein, the major sponsors of a federal Victims' Rights Amendment, today introduced a new version of the amendment. Joining in support of the new version, Senate Joint Resolution 44, were 39 co-sponsors, including Sen. Joseph Biden, the former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Statutes are Not Enough!

A broad coalition of national crime victim organizations repeated their support for "the one piece of legislation that will truly guarantee all victims their basic rights: the victims' rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

NVCAN members, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the National Organization of Victim Assistance, the National Victim Center, Parents of Murdered Children and many others, are concerned that recently introduced legislation purporting to enhance victims' rights may actually erode progress implementing victim participation and input in court proceedings.

Noting that the bill (S. 1081) only affects victims of federal offenses, NVCAN Co-Chair Roberta Roper, said that "the scope of the bill is so narrow that it would not substanitally enhance the rights of millions of America's crime victims. And even if this bill were to provide substantive rights to the remaining few, those rights would be largely unenforceable."

The lead attorney representing crime victims in the Oklahoma City bombing case has described S. 1081 as a retreat from recent congressional action intended to protect victims' right to attend proceedings. "In several important respects, the proposed legislation is actually weaker than existing federal legislation," noted Utah University Law Professor Paul Cassell. [Cassell Letter]
Additional problems with the bill include:
  • it's narrow definition of "crime victims" may exclude some victims of stalking, child molestation, sexual offenses and drunk driving. Even if this definition were broadened, it would still only apply to fewer than 1% of all crime victims in America; only victims of certain violent crimes that occur under federal jurisdiction.
  • provisions identified as "remedies for non-compliance" actually preclude victims from seeking any legal remedy against the system.
  • it shifts important decision-making authority from elected members of Congress to appointed federal judges. "While the rights of criminal defendants are protected by the U.S. Constituion, this bill would relegate to court rules any protections for victims of crime -- a result the leaders of the victims' movement cannot accept."
"We are particularly disappointed at the lack of meaningful enforcement mechanisms afforded by the bill. I'm afraid, at best, this measure will amount to nothing more than just another unenfoceable statute, like hundreds of other victims' rights statutes before it, " David Beatty, Director of Public Policy for the National Victim Center. "That's precisely why so many crime victim organizations are putting all their efforts toward securing a crime victims' rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

Deputy Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance John Stein added that, "Even statutes with much stronger language than what is being proposed are just not being enforced. And, while we appreciate and support the efforts of the drafters to include enhanced funding for victim-related programs, we feel sure that the provisions regarding victims' rights will prove inadequate."

"We will continue to welcome the opportunity to work with members of Congress to enhance rights and services for crime victim," Ms. Roper stated. "And we look forward to working with the sponsors of the Crime Victim Assistance Act to draft a measure we can all support."

"However, even as we try to craft a modest statute to improve rights for victims at the federal level, we urge Congress to support the one piece of legislation that will truly guarantee all victim their basic rights: the victims' rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution, she said."

Drycleaners recognize "Ironing Board Brigade" supporting VRA.
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