photo - lady justice in profileGuiding Principles for Victim Impact Panels

Determine Whether A Victim Impact Panel Program Exists
Determine whether a victim impact panel program exists in your community. If such a program does not exist, consider establishing one by working with local community groups. For courts interested in setting up victim impact panels, NHTSA publishes a detailed “how-to” guide.79

Build Your Team

  • To create a victim impact panel, build a team to design the program and evaluate and refine it as experiences demonstrate problems and successes.

  • Contact other jurisdictions to find out more about how to develop and implement victim impact panels for your court.

Develop Guidelines
Establish guidelines for the program. Seek input from your court staff and other community volunteers, as well as from your probation and/or parole departments

Track Attendance
The court should design a system to track those assigned to attend victim impact panels and verify their attendance. Those who have a verifiable and valid reason for not attending a session can be re-assigned. However, promptly sanction those who miss sessions or fail to participate appropriately. The judge may choose to use administrative sanctions, such as community service or road crew and avoid involving the court. Another possibility is to refer all violators to the court or file a petition to revoke probation.

Set A Location
Determine where to hold the victim impact panels. Some courts use their courtrooms or courthouse facilities and some use community or public facilities to conduct the panels. If the staffing and accommodations can be provided or donated, it may avoid the necessity of charging a user fee for participants, which greatly simplifies the program’s operation.

79 See Lord, Janice Harris, “A How to Guide for Victim Impact Panels: A Creative Sentencing Opportunity,” DOT HS 809 289 (July 2001).