A guide aimed at helping crime victims of mentally ill persons was issued today by the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The guide, funded by the U.S. Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), explains steps policymakers, advocates, mental health professionals, and others can take to understand and protect the rights and safety of victims. When defendants are found “not guilty by reason of insanity” or are court-ordered to receive treatment in a mental health facility, their victims may not receive the same rights to notification and participation as other victims in the criminal justice system.
Said State Rep. Pat Colloton (R-KS), a Justice Center board member: “Though states don't always know how many victims are affected by a defendant's transfer to a mental health facility, we do know that the impact of denying them access to information during release and other proceedings can be tremendous.” The new guide reflects the views of forensic directors, prosecutors, victim advocates, and victims of crimes committed by people with mental illnesses. It describes current policies and practices used in some jurisdictions to respond to this group of victims, outlines barriers to upholding victims' rights, and lists action items for communities to consider. The center also issued a guide on the role of crime victims in mental health courts.