The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition released its findings on state victim services in the published report, Victim Services in Colorado Examined From an Equity Perspective. The report explains the new “research builds on CCJRC’s earlier report, Victims Speak, released in 2018 which aimed to better understand the experiences and needs of crime survivors in the Denver metro area, particularly survivors of color.”
Findings from Victims Speak indicated that “three out of four crime survivors believe the criminal legal system treats victims diﬀerently based on their race or ethnicity.” The 2018 report found that 90% of Black victims believed victims of color are treated differently by the criminal legal system. Victims Speak also found “Black survivors were the most interested, but the least able, to access services,” with only one in 10 victims receiving victims services. The 2018 research also uncovered that “Latinos were 38% more likely and African Americans were 34% more likely, relative to White people, to report having been a victim of a violent crime.”
After the 2018 Victims Speak report was released, the CCJRC worked with Colorado state representatives Leslie Herod and Pete Lee and senators Kevin Lundberg and Rhonda Fields to pass legislation creating the Community Crime Victim Services grant program in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The latest CCJRC report, Victim Services in Colorado Examined From an Equity Perspective, is based on findings from the 500 victims surveyed in the Victims Speak report. The new report found a “substantial under-representation” of leaders of color in victim services in the state.
The Colorado Department of Public Safety’s Office for Victims Program and the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Domestic Violence Program are listed in the report as state-run agencies with majority white leadership. The report indicates the CCVS grant program, however, responded that 100% of the executive and senior staff identify as people of color.
Underrepresentation in victims services organizations and agency leadership isn’t the only finding from the latest report. Nearly 20% of the victims served by OVP and DVP were not tracked or reported in fiscal year 2019. But of the victims who were tracked, more than half were white at 57%, 25% identiﬁed as Latin American or Hispanic, 8% identiﬁed as Black or African American, 4% Other, 3% as multiracial/ethnic, 2% as Native American and 1% as Asian.
“The Center for Victim Research analyzed data from 2010-2015 and found that the risk of experiencing serious violence varied greatly across race/ethnicity,” the report says. At the top of this disparity are multiracial victims who were found to be 4.1 times more likely to experience violence. Leaders of color in victims services noted the data confirmed their experiences in the field.
The report notes OVP and DVP both receive the most funding at 95% and 4% respectively, with CCVS at the lowest end for funding support at 1%. Funding for the programs come from a mixture of state and federal sources, according to the report. OVP served the most victims over the last year at just over 116,000, DVP served nearly 25,000 and CCVS served around 270.
Recommendations made in the report to address disparities include requiring state agencies to “implement an equitable community engagement process,” “create an independent Equity Oversight Committee responsible for reviewing and analyzing the victim service implementation eﬀorts,” require OVP and DVP to “develop and report on accountability metrics,” offer reimbursements to volunteers and increase state funding among other legislative actions.
The CCJRC also recommended that department leadership and program administrators “examine existing program rules with a racial equity lens and identify and remove rules that prohibit certain programs or populations from receiving funding and identify opportunities to increase program accessibility.” Other recommendations at the program level included funding “culturally speciﬁc healing models that reﬂect needs and expertise from communities of color and culture,” developing funding plans, provide funding only to community-based organizations that are independent of the criminal justice system and engaging, funding and building “relationships with leaders of color to increase access to culturally relevant trainings and capacity building opportunities.”
“We know that there are ways and models of service that can bridge the gap for underserved victims,” the latest CCJRC report says, “The question is whether the victim services ﬁeld will commit to serving communities disproportionately impacted by victimization through the development of community-led implementation plans, actions, and accountability for those new actions taken. And then, scale the eﬀort.”