Chapter 8

Community Relations and Outreach


Community relations and outreach activities have the capacity not only to educate victims, citizens, and various other service providers, but to garner the public support and assistance so desperately needed by community corrections agencies across the country. Victims should be viewed by the profession as a main constituent group or customers deserving of services. An agency's mission statement should rank victim services as a high priority. A work plan with measurable objectives and specifically assigned duties should map out the department's commitment to meeting the objectives.

This chapter provides an examination of key elements to a comprehensive community relations and outreach strategy. Chapter 8 will include a discussion of the following issues:

n Various formal and informal strategies for informing and educating victims and the public about probation and parole and its services.

n Two probation and parole agencies that have established advisory committees
on victim services and related issues.

n The value of developing partnerships with other agencies and advocating for victims' rights.

Key Elements for Community Relations and Outreach Activities

Traditional public relations methods involve using the media and developing written materials to inform victims and the public about the agency's mission, operations, and services. More innovative public relations strategies involve probation and parole personnel developing partnerships and volunteering for community projects and causes outside the direct scope of community corrections. Agencies must employ various strategies to reach wide-ranging segments of the community.

Key elements of a comprehensive community relations and outreach strategy include the following:

n Informing and educating victims, victim service providers, allied justice agencies, and the general public about the probation and parole process and services provided to victims.

n Establishing an advisory committee or internal task force to seek ways to address victim services and related issues within the department.

n Having an agency representative(s) serve on victim service organizations' advisory committees.

n Having membership in relevant city, county, State, and national coalitions.

n Forming partnerships for prevention.

n Having an awareness of State laws concerning victims and participating in legislative advocacy for victims' rights and services.

Informing and Educating Victims and the Public

Strategies probation and parole agencies can use to inform and educate victims and the public about the services they provide include the following:

n Developing and distributing written materials such as brochures, telephone rolodex cards, fact sheets, and handbooks describing departmental services.

n Producing audio tapes, videotapes, and slides for distribution and for use during presentations.

n Creating and distributing promotional items such as posters, pencils, pens, pins, bookmarks, buttons, and bumper stickers that display the agency's victim services program contact information.

n Using radio, television, and print media.

n Organizing open houses and public forums.

n Making presentations and providing training about departmental services.

n Participating in National Crime Victims' Rights Week activities during April each year.

Written Materials

Written materials should be clear, concise, and written at an appropriate reading level so readers will easily understand the message. Written materials also should be available in different languages for those who do not speak English. The California Youth Authority includes a statement in Spanish on the bottom of all forms and materials so that if a victim needs a form
in Spanish, s/he can request it.

Agencies may find that organizations such as private marketing companies and marketing departments of local universities are willing to donate their time and talent in helping to develop a brochure or other public relations materials. Also, if approached, local printing companies may be willing to donate the paper and printing services needed to mass produce the materials.

Creating an agency logo and slogan that can be displayed on the department's outreach materials may serve to remind the community of victims' rights and services. Private companies spend millions of dollars developing logos and slogans because they work in getting the message out.


Many victims, citizens, and even victim service providers don't fully understand correctional systems, how they work and integrate with other justice agencies, the differences between community and institutional corrections, and the differences between probation and parole. All victim service programs should have a brochure (see Appendix H for a sample brochure from the Victim Services Program within the California Department of Corrections) that provides the following information:

n Description of the agency.

n Victims' rights and services available from the agency, and how they are accessed, e.g., victim notification enrollment requirements, upon request only, by completing certain forms, etc.

n How (or if) the agency interacts with allied justice agencies.

n The most common questions victims ask about rights and services.

n Confidentiality provisions (if applicable).

n Contact information (address, telephone number (toll-free, if applicable), fax, e-mail address, and agency Web site address).

n Contact information for supporting victim services at the State and community level (e.g., victim compensation, statewide coalitions).

When developing a brochure, information that changes such as supervision guidelines, program staff names, and contact information for county or regional probation and parole offices can be listed on a separate "brochure insert" or pocket size card so the information can be updated quickly with minimal cost. Brochures should be developed in conjunction with the agency's communications or public information office, and can be designed to have a "family look." In addition, some States such as Kansas, Washington, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina have a brochure panel dedicated to victim notification requests that are detachable and can be mailed to the victim services program for enrollment for this service.

Telephone Rolodex Card

A rolodex card that includes contact information for the agency's victim service program, including address, telephone number, and e-mail information, is an excellent outreach tool for crime victims, service providers, and allied professionals. An example of a rolodex card from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is included in Appendix H.

Informational Bulletins and Fact Sheets

The Victims' Service Program of the California Department of Corrections periodically issues informational bulletins and memoranda to field staff and community-based victim service providers on issues concerning crime victims and the California Department of Corrections. The program also assists in the search for missing children by distributing posters and information to institutions and parole offices throughout the State.

In South Carolina, the Department of Juvenile Justice has created a series of one-page fact sheets describing various programs that are placed in a sleeve folder. These materials are distributed at public forums, criminal justice and victim service conferences, civic and volunteer meetings, and to targeted private organizations.

Handbooks for Crime Victims

The Tarrant County (Texas) Community Supervision and Corrections Department has created a Crime Victims Handbook. This 34-page Handbook includes the following information:

n Important phone numbers for crime victims.

n General information on probation services.

n Explanations of standard and supplemental conditions of probation.

n Information on how restitution orders are handled by the department.

n Information on victim services provided by the probation department.

n Information for contacting the probation department.

n Sample conditions of probation.

n A copy of the Texas Crime Victims' Bill of Rights.

The Handbook is easy to read and is written in terms that can be understood by persons unfamiliar with the criminal justice system. Victims can refer to the Handbook for information throughout the time their perpetrator is on probation, thus reducing the amount of time spent by the victim services staff of the department answering general questions.

The format used for this Handbook is available in diskette and photocopied formats through the American Probation and Parole Association. Agencies can follow the format provided and easily adapt the general information to fit their jurisdiction's specific practices.


Posters are a cost-effective and useful public relations and marketing tool. They can be displayed at various meetings, conferences and special events, as well as placed on community bulletin boards and in public areas such as libraries, grocery stores, gas stations, malls, shopping centers, and local offices. Some national victim service organizations (e.g., National Center for Victims of Crime, National Organization for Victim Assistance) have excellent display-ready materials that are generic enough to fit any agency's needs.

Audio and Video Educational Tapes and Slide Presentations

Audio tapes, videotapes, and slide presentations can be excellent training and educational tools. The California Department of Corrections (CDC) Victim Services Program has developed a "Helping Crime Victims" brochure and videotape to inform crime victims of their rights concerning offenders who are under the jurisdiction of CDC. Copies of the video and brochures also are sent to community-based victim service providers, institutions, and parole regions.

In South Carolina, the Office for Victim Services of the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services has used slide presentations as a cost-effective way to depict the program's services. In addition to pictures relevant to the program's services, graphs, charts, and bulleted statements can be easily converted to slides and incorporated into the presentation for variety. The Office for Victim Services has a script that goes along with the slides so that any representative from the department (e.g., line officer, administrator) can make a presentation on the program's services.

Promotional Items

Promotional items provided at conferences, meetings, and special events are useful marketing devices and serve as daily reminders to recipients of the programmatic efforts in which an agency is involved. The California Department of Corrections has created a comprehensive package of pencils, pens, pins, buttons, rulers, and bumper stickers that are distributed to internal staff, related external service providers, the general public, and victims to promote victim services within the department.

Television, Radio, and Print Media

Television, radio, and print media can be excellent vehicles for reaching a wide segment of the population. A monthly or quarterly newsletter can update staff, educate allied service providers and interested profit and non-profit organizations about the department's services and current issues. It also can profile specific articles that address victim services. Many probation and parole departments' victim service divisions (e.g., Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole's Office of the Victim Advocate) have created special issue newsletters that focus entirely on victim services. Submitting articles and information to be published in other organizations' publications (e.g., national, State, and local newsletters, professional association journals, and magazines) about departmental services and promising victim-related practices and programs of the agency is another way to "spread the word" about probation and parole-based victim service programs.

The media tends to focus their attention on negative aspects of community corrections. Consequently, it is incumbent upon probation and parole agencies to proactively seek out the media to help promote and educate the public about the positive things community corrections does for victims and the community. For example, press releases that describe services or new programs for victims can be developed and mailed to all radio, television, and print media sources on a regular basis. Also, department staff can offer to be on local radio and television programs to tout the benefits of their victim services program or prevention efforts in the community.

Billboard advertisements are another visual way to get the word out about probation- and parole-based victim services. In South Carolina, the Department of Corrections has received Federal funding to create billboards regarding crime prevention and victim services.

Open Houses and Public Forums

When a new program or service is offered that serves the interest of victims or the general public it should be profiled. For example, prior to a new prison accepting inmates, the South Carolina Department of Corrections sponsors a "spend the night in prison" program to educate those interested in learning what an inmate experiences in prison. In addition, the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services routinely holds "open house events" for their Restitution Centers, Community Control Centers, and community service work sites.

The American Probation and Parole Association's Victims Issues Committee periodically holds public hearings on victim issues during its annual training conferences. Victims are invited to come and speak about their experiences with the criminal justice system as a victim of crime. These powerful events offer an opportunity to sensitize criminal justice professionals to the plight of victims and also provide a chance for service providers, criminal justice practitioners, victims, and legislators to offer ideas and recommendations on how victim services in community corrections can be improved.

Recognizing that the holidays can be a difficult time for crime victims, in 1996, the Tarrant County Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD) in Texas held an impromptu holiday reception for local victims of crime. CSCD staff bought the food for the reception, the police and fire departments donated space for the party, and local businesses donated party decorations. Victims and staff from various criminal justice agencies (e.g., probation, juvenile corrections, State parole) attended the informal gathering.

Presentations and Training Opportunities

Educational information and training to victims, victim service providers, criminal justice professionals, and the general public can be provided through many different types of forums - both formal and informal. One way to provide cross-training and information to other professionals involved in victim services within a community is to establish a victim service provider training network. Participants in the network should include the following:

n Law enforcement.

n Prosecutors/court personnel.

n Community and institutional corrections.

n Private attorneys.

n Juvenile justice system representatives.

n Representatives from the faith community.

n Domestic violence, rape, and crisis victim service staff.

n Professionals who provide social service assistance.

n Medical and psychological professionals.

n Educators.

n News media.

n Volunteer professionals.

n Substance abuse professionals.

n Personal advocacy groups for offenders, children, and victims.

n Social and civic community organization members.

n State and local service providers (Beatty, Frank, Lurigio, Paparozzi, Seymour, and Macgargle, 1994).

Initially, the training network participants can provide formal presentations about their agency's services to victims at the network's periodic meetings. Presentations should allow time for questions and discussion of the agency's practices. Ideas for enhancements and modifications of an agency's services also can be discussed (Beatty et al., 1994).

The network does not have to limit itself to formal meetings. Informal methods of sustaining communication can include telephone conference calls, luncheon meetings, and networking during shared social events (Beatty et al., 1994).

Cross-training is another effective way to educate and provide information on victim issues and services across agencies, as well as promote coordination and collaboration. In South Carolina, the victim services staff in the Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services (DPPPS) provide training to every new victim services employee (i.e., paid staff and volunteers) hired by the prosecutor's Victim Advocacy Program in designated jurisdictions. In return, the DPPPS victim services paid volunteer staff who received training by the prosecutor's victim advocate (Beatty et al., 1994).

In addition, on a local level, social clubs, churches, corporations, and professional groups are always looking for presenters who have interesting ideas to share. All public relations materials should provide appropriate contact information and indicate the agency's ability to provide speakers on relevant issues. Presentations on victim services provided by the department at State and national victim or criminal justice organizations' conferences and training symposiums also offer an avenue for disseminating information to a wide audience.

Web Sites

Some departments, such as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, have developed Web sites on the Internet that inform victims of services available through the agency.

TDCJ's Web site (http://www.TDCJ. provides an overview of the services to crime victims as well as descriptions of some of the specialized services such as the crime victim clearinghouse, victim offender mediation/dialogue, victim impact panels, and prison tours. The Web site also includes the bill of rights for Texas crime victims and contact information for State and national victim organizations.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's Web site ( has a victim services section that provides background information on the types of services available through its Office for Victim Services as well as who to contact at the Department for further information. The Web site also offers information on national victim service organizations, State coalitions, State of Ohio government agencies, and on-line victim resources.

National Crime Victims' Rights Week

One of the most important recognition events for crime victims is National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW), which is held in April each year. NCVRW provides an opportunity to reflect upon the rights and needs of crime victims, to commemorate the accomplishments of the victims' rights movement, and to reemphasize the need to ensure justice for victims of crime. Probation and parole agencies should be actively involved in NCVRW by hosting activities and providing a combination of informational and community participation events to increase public awareness and to educate the community about the rights and needs of crime victims. The Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice develops resources, such as standard posters and display materials for use during the week. The NCVRW Resource Guide is available free to criminal justice agencies, and departments can affix their agency's name, address, phone number, and other helpful information to the materials.

Tarrant County (Texas) Community Supervision and Corrections Department

In Texas, the Tarrant County Texas Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD) has hosted and participated in the following types of activities during National Crime Victims' Rights Week:

n CSCD held a department-wide clothing drive and donated the materials to local women's shelters.

n CSCD produced 3,000 book markers that contained victim assistance information and toll-free phone numbers and distributed them to all county employees.

n Staff volunteered their time to answer phone calls for the National Center for Victims of Crime in Ft. Worth, Texas.

n Staff adopted a local school and assisted them in a multitude of activities.

For these types of exemplary victim services, the CSCD was given an award during the Texas Governor's Annual Conference in 1994.

California Department of Corrections

The Victim Services Program of the California Department of Corrections celebrates National Crime Victims' Rights Week and Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is also held in April. The following activities were sponsored by the Victim Services Program:

n Distributing informational packets and posters to field staff.

n Hosting a training forum.

n Honoring staff and community-based victim service providers with awards.

Many of the institutions and parole regions also conduct training and hold fundraising activities to benefit crime victims during the month of April.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the first statewide exhibit of artwork produced by victims/survivors of violent crime was displayed at the State Capitol Building during National Crime Victims' Rights Week in 1996. The exhibit was sponsored by Institution Programs, Inc., State Arts Council of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Crime Victims Center in Shawnee, and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Establishing Advisory Committees

Many departments have solicited help in program, policy, and practice development and assessment by creating advisory committees comprised of departmental staff, victim service providers, and victims of crime. Agencies also may want to consider including loss prevention personnel on these types of committees.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has created a Victim Services Advisory Committee, directed by agency policy, which is established to advise and make recommendations to the DOC, and the Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP). In the policy, the Committee is directed to address the following issues:

n The development and implementation of the educational program entitled, "Impact of Crime Classes" for offenders.

n The Victim Input and Notification Program.

n DOC and PBPP policies and program initiatives which impact crime victims.

n Victimization within the department.

n Legislative and public policy issues affecting crime victims.

n Victim Offender Reconciliation and Mediation.

Efforts are made to ensure geographic and cultural representation on the Committee. In addition to the director of the Office for Victim Services and the victim advocates for the PA Board of Probation and Parole and the prosecutor's office, committee members are comprised of individuals from the following entities: PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence, PA Coalition Against Rape, PA Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Prosecutor's Victim Advocate, community-based victim service providers, and victims of crime.

Tarrant County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, Texas

The Tarrant County Community Supervision and Corrections Department's (CSCD's) Victim Advisory Committee was established in 1995 to provide a continual assessment of the Department's victim services, including their restitution procedure, use of victim impact panels, community service program, outreach activities, and staff training on victim issues. The committee holds quarterly meetings. In the past, the committee has included representation from victims of crime and CSCD staff. Recently, in an effort to broaden the range of victim input and promote communication and coordination between the adult and juvenile justice systems, CSCD has invited representatives from juvenile probation and parole and victims of juvenile offenders to be involved on the committee.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

To ensure that input from victims and victim services providers are accounted for when deciding what types of victim services are needed, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has instituted a Victim Advisory Council. The Council consists of approximately 30 representatives from victim advocate groups, State agencies, and local victim service providers. The group meets quarterly to assess needs that are not being addressed, approve and comment on various TDCJ Victim Service programs, and relay information back to statewide organizations represented. The members volunteer to serve 2-year terms.

Developing Partnerships with Other Agencies and Advocating for Victims' Rights and Services

Developing partnerships with other agencies that provide services for victims of crime is an ideal way to (1) share and receive information about services being provided to victims, and (2) create a powerful base for advocating for victims' rights and services.

Many States have Victim Assistance Networks that are designed to represent victims and all related victim service providers. These types of networks offer a means for accomplishing the following:

n Providing support in establishing a solid funding base for agencies and nonprofit organizations that serve victims.

n Lobbying for victim-specific legislation.

n Providing opportunities to cross-train various providers through workshops, conferences, and training institutes.

n Serving as the central-State collector of research and literature regarding victimization.

n Serving as a central communications link throughout the associated profession of victim services.

n Establishing a statewide talk-group through e-mail and Internet services where providers can share information.

n Collecting information and developing a statewide victim service resource directory.

Key staff from community corrections agencies should be actively involved in these networks. Ideally, staff should be on the network's board of directors and volunteer for key positions.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

In Ohio, the Office of Victim Services of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction collaborates with other State and local agencies to ensure the delivery of effective services to crime victims. For example, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, the Court of Claims of Ohio, and the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction work together to develop marketing strategies for all statewide victim services available within the agencies. In addition, the Office of Victim Services participates in following victim service coalitions:

n ACTION-OHIO (domestic violence network).

n CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children).

n MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

n OCOSA (Ohio Coalition on Sexual Assault).

n OCPA (Ohio Crime Prevention Association).

n ODVN (Ohio Domestic Violence Network).

n OPAA (Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association).

n OVWA (Ohio Victim Witness Association).

n POMC (Parents of Murdered Children).

California Department of Correction

The Victim Services Program staff of the California Department of Corrections are involved in a variety of activities to advocate for better services for crime victims. For example, the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency (YACA) in California, convened a Summit in 1993 for the purpose of reviewing the state of victim services in corrections and developing recommendations for addressing the unmet needs of victims. Approximately 75 representatives from victim/witness centers, victims of homicide support groups, law enforcement, the judiciary, and affected State agencies participated in the Summit. Their recommendations focused on five issues: restitution, allocution, notification, offender programming, and system improvements. YACA compiled the recommendations and sent a report to the Governor for review and consideration. Victim Service Program staff of the California Department of Corrections have been instrumental in developing legislation to implement several of the recommendations from that report.

South Carolina Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services

The South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services (SCDPPPS) understands that victims and victim groups can be powerful allies in helping them attain needed resources. Departmental staff have made a point of getting involved, and remaining involved, with various victim service organizations throughout the State. Over time, the increased understanding of victims and victim groups to the constraints SCDPPPS must contend with, along with their witness of the concerted efforts being made by the Department to provide more effective and efficient services to crime victims, has led these individuals and groups to lend their support to the Department. This support has even extended to victims and victim organizations speaking to legislative bodies on behalf of probation and parole. This type of support in front of the legislature has enabled the Office for Victim Services staff of SCDPPPS to grow from two grant-supported positions to its current level of eight State appropriated positions. The department plans to ask for an additional four positions in the 1997 legislative session.


To counteract the negative personae of probation and parole, community corrections agencies must take a proactive approach to educating and informing victims and the public of the mission of probation and parole work. The provision of services to victims of crime must be included within that mission. This chapter provided an overview of various elements and strategies that can be employed in community relations and outreach efforts. By implementing the types of approaches discussed, probation and parole can begin to transform and enhance its image within the community.