An Oral History of the Crime Victim Assistance Field
Video and Audio Archive

Sharon English & Anne Seymour
Biography & Interview Summary

Picture from Sharon English & Anne Seymour
Interviewee:Anne Seymour and;
Sharon English
Date of Interview:February 25, 2003
Location:Sacramento, CA

Anne Seymour and Sharon English

Authors of, "Report and Recommendation for Victims of Juvenile Offenders."

"We spent the first 21 years trying to fix the criminal justice system, and in doing so, we tended to neglect the fact that there were a lot of victims of juvenile offenders, which was a completely different system."
--Anne Seymour

Victim Services in Juvenile Justice

At an American Correctional Association (ACA) convention at Opryland in 1994, Anne Seymour and Sharon English decided it was time to address victim services in juvenile corrections. Because the juvenile system had so many law and policies in place to protect young offenders, victims had fewer rights and services in the juvenile courts. Moreover, the terminology used to describe juvenile crime and the offenders who committed such crimes was vague and confusing.

"With adults it's very clear. People understand sentencing. They understand conviction. They understand prison. With the juvenile system, they really couch those in very soft terms. So you are really not convicted, they make a finding about your behavior. You don't really go to custody, you go to placement...They're protected by confidentiality and that's fine. And they are protected in terms of their record and looking forward. It really doesn't help crime victims to have this foreign language when they are trying to figure out what the heck happened in their case and what are their rights."
--Sharon English

Seymour and English worked together to write the landmark "Report and Recommendation for Victims of Juvenile Offenders. Some of the areas examined were notification, restitution, and the right to make victim impact statements in court and at parole hearings. "We could not think of one right that victims had over adult offenders that you wouldn't also want as a victim of a juvenile offender," explains English.

"What came out was the ACA Report and Recommendations on Victims of Juvenile Offenders... I think we convinced ourselves certainly and hopefully other people that victims of juvenile offenders had different needs and they were unique in a lot of ways."
--Anne Seymour

Seymour describes how the 22-page mimeographed report was passed around among colleagues for several months, until Susan Laurence at the Office for Victims of Crime read it and decided that it was time for the Justice Department to take it on as an issue. The goal would be to mirror the rights of victims in the juvenile justice system with those of victims in the criminal justice system.

Vision for Victims' Rights and Services in the Juvenile Justice System

The challenge to create equity for victims in the juvenile justice system is ongoing despite the tremendous progress made in the last ten years. English and Seymour cited several areas of importance. Victim/witness services in the courts operate within the adult criminal system, but very few counties have a victim/witness advocate in the juvenile courts. Furthermore, one of the largest groups who are victimized in the United Sates are teenagers, yet there are few resources in the juvenile system to address their needs--few resources for such populations as adolescent rape victims, acquaintance rape victims, and sibling violence victims. Seldom are adolescents allowed to make impact of crime statements in juvenile courts. All of these concerns point to continued vigilance in the promotion of victims' rights and services in juvenile justice system.