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HELPING CRIME VICTIMS
Office of Victim Services & Restitution
What are Your Rights as a Victim?
The victim of crime, next of kin, parent or guardian of the minor victim, witness, or concerned citizen may request to be notified of the death, release, placement in a re-entry facility, or escape of their offender(s). Requests MUST be made in writing (CDC Form 1707 or letter) to CDC’s Victim Services Program (see address and phone number at the end of this article). If you move, you MUST notify CDC of your new address. Note: Information about victims (addresses, phone numbers, etc.) is kept confidential and will not be made available to the inmate unless consent is given by the victim.
Victim Input into Special Conditions of Parole
You may request input into the following special conditions of parole:
If you are interested in requesting special conditions of parole, contact the Victim Services Program. Please note that requests made for special conditions of parole will be considered by the Parole Division prior to the time of the inmate’s release.
Victim Notification of BPT Hearing
When requested, the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) will notify the victim/next of kin/immediate family member, of the parole consideration hearing conducted for life prisoners.
Requests MUST be made in writing or by calling the Victim Assistance Coordinator at the BPT. If you move, you MUST notify the BPT of your new address.
Upon receipt of the request, the BPT will send you a Declaration form to complete and return stating that you are a victim/next of kin/immediate family member of the victim. Once the declaration is returned, your request will be kept on file and you will be notified in writing once the inmate is scheduled for a parole consideration hearing.
A victim may request through the BPT to appear before the Board hearing panel and make a statement. If you cannot attend the hearing, but would like to make a statement, legal counsel may attend the hearing for you or you may submit a written statement, audiocassette, or videocassette tape recording to the BPT. Further information may be obtained by contacting the BPT (see address and phone number for BPT at the end of this brochure).
There are two types of restitution that a defendant can be ordered to pay by the sentencing court:
Restitution fines are paid to the State of Control (BOC) Victims Restitution Fund. The BOC, Victims of Crime Program, is the state agency responsible for administering the victims Restitution Fund. The restitution fund is for victims of violent crimes who suffer out-of-pocket losses and who may be eligible to apply for financial reimbursement. The fund reimburses eligible victims for lost wages or support, medical or psychological counseling expenses and other related costs. For further information, please contact the BOC (see address and phone number at the end of this article).
While incarcerated, inmates with court ordered restitution fines have a specified percentage deducted from their wages and other trust account deposits for these fines.
Direct Orders of Restitution
A defendant may also be ordered to pay restitution to the victim. This type of restitution is referred to as a direct order. Upon receipt of a signed request form from a victim with a direct order, CDC will collect from an inmate. Such collections will take precedence over fines.
Victims should contact the Victim Services Program for additional information.
What Happens to Someone Once Convicted of a Crime?
California’s Sentencing Law
Most offenders are sentenced to California state prison for a set amount of time under the Determinate Sentencing Law (DSL).
Once this time is served, the inmate is released and placed under parole supervision in the community. Those offenders convicted of the most serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder, and kidnapping for ransom can be sentenced to indeterminate (indefinite) terms of life with the possibility of parole. Offenders sentenced to a life term with the possibility of parole cannot be released on parole until the BPT determines that they are ready to be returned to society.
What Happens After Sentencing?
Once sentenced to CDC, the inmate is sent to a reception center for processing and transfers to an institution. Processing includes computing a classification score based on such factors as length of sentence, stability, education, employment, and behavior during a prior incarceration.
The classification score determines the type of facility in which the inmate will be housed. This score may change over time based on individual behavior and specific case factors. Because of this change, an inmate may be transferred to a different institution.
Note: Victims are not notified by CDC when a transfer takes place.
What happens to the inmate while in the Department of Corrections?
Once assigned to a prison, the inmate is assigned to a work program. All able-bodied inmates are required to work. Participation in this program may reduce the length of his/her incarceration.
Education and vocational programs are available to inmate. An inmate may obtain a GED or a certificate of completion. These programs also qualify an inmate for work time credits and continued participation is dependent on the offender’s good behavior.
What is Parole?
When an inmate has completed his/her sentence, he/she is released to parole supervision.
Current law requires that parolees be paroled to the county of last legal residence. If it is in the best interest of the public safety or the parolee, CDC may release a parolee to a county other than the county of last legal residence. Such decisions are made on an individual basis and are reviewed carefully.
Once on parole, all parolees are assigned a parole agent. Parole offices are located throughout California; all parolees are required to follow conditions of parole. Some offenders are also required to follow special conditions such as: no contact with the victim and/or his/her family; and/or not to reside within 35 miles of the victim’s actual residence if the crime was a violent felony. Such requests must be made in writing and will be considered by the Parole Division prior to the inmate’s release.
How does a parolee get off parole?
Inmates sentenced under the DSL serve up to a maximum of four years on parole. After being on parole for 12 months, the staff reviews the case. Based on the behavior of the parolee, the parole agent may recommend release from parole supervision.
All life sentences, except life without possibility of parole, have a minimum eligible parole date. Parole is not automatic for inmates with life terms, and the BPT determines if and when the offender is ready for parole.
If paroled, inmates with life terms who committed their crimes prior to November 11, 1978, must complete three years in a row of successful parole before the BPT will review their case for discharge. By law, these inmates with life terms serve no more than five years on parole. Those who committed their crime after November 11, 1978 will remain on parole for life unless the BPT grants a discharge after five years for second degree murder and seven years for first degree murder.
Parole may be revoked if a parolee is found to be in violation of the conditions of parole or if a new crime is committed. The parole agent can recommend that the offender be returned to custody. A revocation hearing will be conducted by the parole hearing authority to determine if a violation has occurred, whether the violator will be returned to custody, and if so, for how long. Violators can be returned to custody for up to 12 months at a time.
RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS
For additional information and assistance on material covered in this article:
California Department of Corrections
Office of Victim Services & Restitution
PO Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001
Toll free (888) 562-5874
For notification of parole hearing for lifers:
Board of Prison Terms
428 J Street, 6th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
For financial assistance to crime victims;
State Board of Control
Victims of Crime Program
PO Box 3036
Sacramento, CA 95812-3036
1 (800) VICTIMS
The phone number for your local Victim/Witness Assistance Center is listed under County Government offices of Victim/Witness in your phone book.