Office of Victim Assistance

Office of Victim Assistance
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Overview

The Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) has replaced the former Board of Parole's Victim Impact Unit and is now under the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. OVA is the primary contact for victims with questions regarding DOCCS' policies and procedures. 

The OVA works in partnership with other criminal justice agencies and victim service providers to represent, protect, and advance the interests of crime victims. The services provided by OVA are victim driven and DOCCS makes a special effort to ensure victims of crimes do not become forgotten parties in the criminal justice process.

The OVA is responsible for:

  • registering crime victims with their office so they may keep victims apprised of information;
  • providing written notifications to victims of crime;
  • coordinating the automated information and notification service through Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE);
  • scheduling in-person and telephone Victim Impact Statements with members of the Board;
  • providing notification to the New York State Office of Victim Services regarding offender accounts and damage awards;
  • verifying restitution orders;
  • referring victims to service providers;
  • performing community outreach efforts to educate the community and victim service providers about DOCCS' notification programs; and
  • maintaining Apology Letters.

Victim Impact Statements

    Landmark 1994 legislation allows victims of crime to submit Victim Impact Statements. Certain crime victims can meet face-to-face or by phone with a Board of Parole (Board) member. Transcripts are generated from these meetings and made available to the Parole Board panel that will interview the individual.

    The Board recognizes that crime victims are an important part of the criminal justice process and have information that can assist the Board when it considers release. These rights can be exercised prior to each scheduled Board interview.

    Statements received during the same month the interview is scheduled are not guaranteed to be available to the Board.

    Personal victim impact meetings are generally scheduled one-to-two months before the incarcerated individual interviews with the Board. If you wish to have a personal meeting, you should submit a Victim Notification Form (English), Victim Notification Form (Spanish), or an Electronic Victim Notification Form as soon as possible.

    Any request to meet with a Board member received the month prior to or the same month as the incarcerated individual's scheduled interview will not allow sufficient time for a victim impact meeting to be scheduled.
    Registering with OVA is not the same a registering with VINE. A victim must register with DOCCS' OVA in order to provide a statement to the Board.
    SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS
    • Information that might not be in the case file.
    • What has been lost, such as trust, jobs, money.
    • Fear of or harassment by the offender or others.
    • The effect of the crime on children, other family members, friends, etc.
    • How your life has changed as a result of the crime.
    • The emotional and/or physical impact of the crime, including injuries, long-term medical care, counseling, substance abuse issues, etc.
    • Frustrations due to continuous involvement in the criminal justice process, sentencing, plea bargaining, etc.
    • Any other information you want the Board to know.

    Letters in Opposition or Support of Release

    Letters from friends or community members who oppose or support an incarcerated individual’s release should be sent directly to the Supervising Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator (SORC) at the incarcerated individual’s current facility or submitted online

    Statements received the same months as the incarcerated individual's scheduled interview are not guaranteed to be available for Board review.

     

    LETTERS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED AS FOLLOWS:

    Name of Correctional Facility
    Supervising Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator 
    Correctional Facility Mailing Address

    Notification of Custody Status Change

    You must register with DOCCS' OVA to receive notification regarding the Parole Board process. As the victim of a crime, you have the following rights regarding the Parole Board process:

    1. To be notified when an incarcerated individual is scheduled to see the Board.
    2. To send a written Victim Impact Statement to the Board.
    3. To submit an audio- or video-taped Victim Impact Statement to the Board.
    4. To meet with a member of the  Board to give your statement in person for certain violent crimes.
    5. To be notified of the Board's decision.
    6. To be notified of the incarcerated individual's scheduled release date and the name of the Parole Officer assigned, if applicable.

    To register to be notified, the OVA provides a simple to understand Request for Victim Notification Form.

    Registering with OVA is not the same a registering with VINE. A victim must register with DOCCS' OVA in order to provide a statement to the Board.

     

    Written Notifications

    Prosecutors should provide victims of violent felonies a Request for Victim Notification Form to be informed of the escape, abscondence, discharge, parole, conditional release, or release to post-release supervision of the incarcerated individual. Once the victim completes the form, the prosecutor submits it to OVA. Upon receipt, OVA sends an acknowledgment letter that the form has been received. It also provides information regarding their rights as crime victims, including the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) release notification service, the New York State Office of Victim Services Victim Compensation Program, and the Parole Board Victim Impact Statement process.

    All notification forms are confidential and are not held at the correctional facilities. Incarcerated individuals do not have access to them.
     
    Automated Telephone, Email and Text Notifications

    Individuals seeking information of an incarcerated individual's release can call VINE or visit the VINELink website to get the following notification:

    • Offender release
    • Offender escape
    • Offender death
    • Offender participation in a furlough
    • Offender participation in temporary/work release

    Notification will not be provided when individuals transfer from one state correctional facility to another state correctional facility or when the incarcerated individual is scheduled for a Board interview.

    The VINE automated telephone system is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian, Creole, Korean and Italian. A live operator can assist callers having difficulty using the system.

    To use the VINE system to register for telephone notification, dial 1-888-VINE-4-NY (1-888-846-3469). Choose Option 2 to register against an incarcerated individual in a state correctional facility and provide the individual's Department Identification Number (DIN), New York State Identification Number (NYSID), or name and date of birth. Register the phone number to be notified.

    You will need to select a four-digit personal identification number (PIN) that will be easy to remember. You will need to enter the PIN at the time you receive the call to confirm you have received notification. No name or address is collected on the VINE system. The telephone number registered to receive the notification call is confidential.

    The VINE telephone notification service provides information regarding release only. It does not provide information on upcoming Board interviews or of the results of Board interviews. Those notifications require victim(s) to register with the Department's Office of Victim Assistance using the Request for Victim Notification Form.

    Victims and other concerned citizens can register to be notified via email or text through VINELink to obtain timely and reliable information about the custody status of incarcerated individuals, 24 hours a day.

     

    For victims, survivors, and victim family members who would like additional information, contact: 
    Office of Victim Assistance
    New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
    The Harriman State Campus
    1220 Washington Avenue
    Albany, NY 12226-2050
    1-800-783-6059

    Apology Letters

    Apology letters written by incarcerated individuals may be mailed to OVA. Upon receipt, the letter will be "deposited" in the confidential Apology Letter Bank. Victims or victims' family members who are registered with OVA will be contacted to inform them that an Apology Letter is on file. An offer will be made to read or mail the letter at that time, which victims can decline.

    The incarcerated individual who wrote the letter will not be provided with information concerning whether the victim or the victim's family requests information or have accessed the letter.

    To register with OVA, submit a Request for Victim Notification Form.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How can I receive written notification of an incarcerated individual's release?

    Complete Victim Notification Form.

     
    How can I receive telephone, email or text notification of an incarcerated individual's release?

    Register with VINE at 1-888-846-3469 or register through the VINELink, the online version of VINE.

     
    Why wasn't I told the incarcerated individual was transferred to a different facility?

    Notifications are provided upon the release, escape, transfer to work release or death of an incarcerated individual. When transferred between state correctional facilities, they are in secure custody during the entire process and do not have unsupervised access to the community. The current locations of an incarcerated individual can be found by searching the Inmate Lookup.

     
    Can I give a Victim Impact Statement at the Board interview?

    No. Board interviews are closed in New York State. To provide a statement prior to the interview, contact OVA at 1-800-783-6059.

     
    When will the incarcerated individual be released?

    The earliest release date information is available on the Inmate Lookup.

     
    I know the incarcerated individual will be released soon and I am afraid. What can I do?

    Call the Department's Office of Victim Assistance, toll-free at 1-800-783-6059, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a referral to a support program in your home community.

     
    When will I receive the restitution the incarcerated individual was ordered to pay?

    If restitution was ordered at the offender's sentencing and the restitution order was forwarded to the Department, the offender's account will be encumbered toward payment of the restitution order.

    If the Department is able to collect the full restitution amount before the offender is released, the restitution will be forwarded to the County Probation Office for the Probation Department to disburse. (NOTE: In New York City, the restitution funds are forwarded to Safe Horizon for disbursement.) 

    If the offender is released before the full restitution amount is collected, the amount collected is forwarded to Probation (or Safe Horizon in New York City ) for them to disburse. To learn how much restitution has been collected, call the Department's Office of Victim Assistance at 1-800-783-6059.

    Contact

    New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
    Office of Victim Assistance 
    The Harriman State Campus
    1220 Washington Avenue
    Albany, New York 12226-2050
    Phone: 518-445-6161
             Toll-Free: 1-800-783-6059
    Email:  [email protected]