This article reports on an evaluation of a legal assistance network demonstration project to serve crime victims implemented by the Office for Victims of Crime.
Federal law has recognized and responded to crime victim needs for nearly four decades. One persistent challenge, however, has been creation of legal service networks capable of coordinating delivery of legal services, and other kinds of support, for the crime victims who need it.
Toward that end, two U.S. Department of Justice entities, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), joined forces to install, then evaluate the effectiveness of, a legal assistance network demonstration project serving crime victims.
OVC designed a five-site “wraparound” demonstration to establish and activate networks of legal and social service providers addressing a full array of crime victim legal and other needs. The project, titled the Wraparound Victim Legal Assistance Network Demonstration (WVLAND), took a holistic approach to legal assistance, that is, one focused on the whole of an individual’s needs, rather than disconnected threads of those needs.
The evaluation, funded under a grant from NIJ, identified a number of successes of the new legal assistance demonstration serving crime victims, notably including:
- Fostering a sense of community among network partners.
- Breaking down silos between those partners to formalize case referral networks, build personal connections, and coordinate services.
The evaluators also identified a lack of service coordination and collaboration among network partner agencies at the five sites. Another significant shortcoming was uncertainty among network partners over the sustainability of the projects over time.
In total, the demonstration networks served over 4,900 crime victims, delivering more than 6,500 services.