SCOTT CAMPBELL, STEPHANIE ROPER, WENDY PRESTON, LOUARNA GILLIS, AND NILA LYNN CRIME VICTIMS' RIGHTS ACT
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I strongly support this bill to provide enforceable rights to victims of crime, and I urge the Senate to approve it.
For too long, our criminal justice system has neglected the hundreds of thousands of victims of crime whose lives are shattered by violence or other crime each year. Victims deserve better from our criminal justice system.
Too often, the current system does not provide adequate relief for victims of crime. They are not given basic information about their case-such as notice of a defendant's arrest and bail status, the schedule of various court proceedings, and the terms of imprisonment. Victims deserve to know about their case. They deserve to know when their assailants are being considered for bail or parole or adjustments of their sentences. They certainly deserve to know when offenders are released from prison.
Since 1997, Senator LEAHY and I have sponsored legislation to provide enhanced protections for victims of violent or non-violent crimes and establish an effective way to implement and enforce these protections. Our legislation is designed to give victims a greater voice in the prosecution of the criminals who injured them and their families, fill existing gaps in Federal criminal law, guarantee that victims of crime receive fair treatment and the respect they deserve, and achieve these goals in a way that respects the efforts of the States to protect victims in ways appropriate to each State's unique needs.
I am pleased to join Senator KYLE and Senator FEINSTEIN, who are the lead sponsors of the proposed Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendment, in moving forward on victims' rights legislation now. Our bill is called the "Scott Campbell, Stephanie Roper, Wendy Preston, Lourana Gillis and Nila Lynn Crime Victims' Rights Act," and is named in honor of five persons who were victims of crime. Our bill provides victims with a number of important rights, including the right to receive notice of public proceedings; to receive notice of the release or escape of the accused; to attend and be heard at proceedings involving release, plea, or sentencing; to confer with the government's attorney; and to receive full and timely restitution as provided by law. The bill also provides for the enforcement of these rights, by directing government officials to notify victims of their rights, requiring courts to grant these rights to victims, and giving standing to both prosecutors and victims or their legal representatives to assert the rights at trial and on appeal.
The legislation will protect all victims of crime, including victims of identity theft, personal property theft, fraud, embezzlement, vandalism, and other non-violent offenses. The National Center for Victims of Crime has emphasized the great importance of including protections for victims of non-violent crime. Our legislation does so, and I commend the Center for its leadership on this important aspect of the issue.
Our Victims' Rights Act also directs the Attorney General to act within a year to issue regulations to enforce the rights of crime victims and ensure compliance by all relevant officials. The bill strengthens victims' rights at the Federal, State, and local levels by authorizing the use of Federal funds to establish programs to promote compliance and develop state-of-the-art systems for notifying victims of important dates and developments in their cases.
Once this bill is enacted into law, we intend to monitor its implementation by the Justice Department, other law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, and the courts, so that we can take appropriate action, if necessary, to ensure that the victims' rights are protected, and also ensure that the effective functioning of the law enforcement and criminal justice system is not impaired. I commend my colleagues for their leadership in making this legislation possible, and I urge the Senate approve it. We know that victims of crime have been waiting too long for our action, and hopefully this long-needed measure is finally on the fast track for enactment into law.