Ward Legislation to Boost Representation on Victims’ Services Advisory Committee set for Enactment

Harrisburg – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-39) to provide broader representation of crime victims on the state Victims’ Services Advisory Committee received final legislative approval today and is headed to the Governor for enactment into law.

“Victims of crime deserve a say in polices and grant funding designed to prevent the creation of additional victims, and this legislation recognizes that crime victims come from a broad spectrum of experiences,” Ward said.

The Victims’ Services Advisory Committee (VSAC) is located within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and provides perspectives on behalf of all crime victims in the development of the Commission’s policies, funding priorities, legislation and outcomes. Specifically, the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee advises the Commission in the approval and disbursement of financial assistance, and reviews and comments on applications from crime victim assistance organizations seeking funding through PCCD.

Currently, the VSAC is comprised of the Secretaries of Aging, Corrections, and Health and Human Services, and the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, the Victim Advocate and a District Attorney appointed by the Governor. In addition to these members, the Governor appoints nine “general class” members who represent direct victims, the courts, or victims’ organizations. Senator Ward’s legislation, Senate Bill 260, increases the number of theses members to 19 and specifies the following representation among those members: 

  • A direct victim of crime who shall represent female victims
  • A direct victim of crime who shall represent male victims
  • An Area Agency on Aging
  • Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
  • Pennsylvania Chapter of Children’s Advocacy Centers and Multidisciplinary Teams
  • Pennsylvania Court Appointed Special Advocates Association
  • A county Children and Youth Agency
  • A prosecution-based victim/witness program
  • A victim service or advocacy organization
  • The courts
  • County government
  • The executive director of the Juvenile Court Judges Commission
  • A children’s advocacy center or victim services agency working directly with children
  • Local law enforcement
  • A mental health treatment provider or mental health advocate
  • A victim services agency working directly with victims of human trafficking
  • A comprehensive victim service agency
  • A disabilities treatment provider or disabilities advocate.

Several of these organizations are already represented on the committee and will remain so under Senate Bill 260.

The Victims’ Services Advisory Committee helps PCCD determine the funding priorities and grant awards made through various funding streams, including those received under the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). In 2016 alone, PCCD received $88 million in VOCA funding to support direct services, such as emergency shelter, crisis intervention, counseling and assistance in participating in the criminal justice system.

“These dollars Pennsylvania receives annually are a great opportunity for the Commission to reach underserved crime victim populations, in addition to continuing substantial support to current victim service providers. I believe we need to ensure the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee best reflects the needs of the demographics of crime victims we have in Pennsylvania,” Ward said.

CONTACT: Geri Lynn Sarfert gsarfert@pasen.gov  (717) 787-1640