Policymakers can use this guide to improve their knowledge and perspectives of the rights and safety of persons who have been criminally victimized by a mentally ill offender.
The guide is divided into three main sections. The first section presents an overview of current policies and practices used in some jurisdictions in responding to victims of crimes committed by people with mental illnesses. The discussion focuses on two victims’ rights: notification and information concerning the location and case status of defendants and those convicted of the crimes at issue for victims; and participation in hearings and court proceedings related to the case. These rights are discussed in relation to how current policy and practice addresses issues unique to victims of crimes committed by people with mental illnesses. The second section outlines key challenges and barriers that impede efforts to uphold victims’ rights in cases that involve this subset of victims. In these cases, a variety of issues make it particularly difficult for victims to gain access to information about their cases and to participate in the proceedings. Issues discussed are roles and responsibilities of officials from criminal justice and mental health systems, clarity among criminal justice and mental health professionals about the legal rights of victims of crimes committed by people with mental illnesses, and confidentiality that restricts information sharing. The third section highlights actions communities may find useful in improving responses to these victims. These actions are in the areas of partnerships, cross-training and technical assistance, and victim outreach and services.